Made first ever visit to L'Espalier Tuesday night, with two friends who make several visits a year. Despite the absence of the regular maitre d', who knows my friends well, the evening was absolutely wonderful. Usually I'm tired of sitting after two hours at dinner, but this one took three and felt just right.
We had the tasting menu, six courses plus a mini-course of sorbets. Cheese course was best, followed by a lamb chop dish with mushroom gnocchi and a couple of other things on the side. First bite of lamb was truly one to die for. This wasn't on the tasting menu, but they're perfectly happy to let you substitute something from the larger menu, and my friend made a good choice in getting this in place of the listed beef course. Flavors were bold all through the night. This place is obviously not catering to the corporate crowd, and don't care if they offend someone with a palate inclined to blandness.
More about the cheese course. Seven cheeses, all excellent, some better than that, and no problem with getting seconds on the three we liked most, which were the most pungent of the bunch. Raw milk Camembert was a new experience. Most of their cheeses comes from Formaggio Kitchen, and they were happy to say so.
Wine list is very good, and most things go for about twice retail. However, most things are younger than they might be, or there is a second list of older things of which I was unaware.
Pacing of dinner and quality of service were both excellent. All of our questions about the food were answered well and graciously. Very expensive, but not out of line with other top places, and I felt I got my money's worth. Can't wait to go back.
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