A few weeks ago I posted a message looking for help in deciding between Laboratorio, 2941, and Maestro. Following your almost unanimous endorsement of Maestro we enjoyed quite the dinner experience there last night. I will try to recount our meal and experience but wont come close to the literary verve of some of the more regular posters. It has ended up being quite long so I hope I dont bore people.
Our reservation was for 8pm and we arrived maybe 10 minutes early and were seated immediately and wished a happy anniversary. The dining room itself it handsome, lots of reds and creams and a part of it overlooks the open kitchen. We had requested a table near the kitchen and were fascinated throughout the evening at the almost Zen-like atmosphere that prevailed. About 10 chefs beavered away in the background while two put the finishing touches on dishes at the front.
Service was good, professional, but a little detached, although he did warm up a little later in the evening as things got quieter. If I am being ultra-picky I thought he reacted a little strangely to my wifes request for any meats to be well done -- while I consider it to be sacrilege, a waiter should adopt more of a customer is always right approach. This was compounded by the fact that when her Lamb came out it was medium. We toyed with sending it back but by that stage my wife was so full, we decided not to. This may be being a little picky but when youre dropping $400 on a meal I think youre entitled to be picky. In general service was by committee as dishes came out, whoever was free at that particular time would deliver the dish and provide a little explanation. The sommelier was great, the wine list is amazing, but a little intimidating with lots of very expensive wines. We told him we wanted an Italian red with a price ceiling of $80 and he immediately suggested a $66 bottle of a 1999 Terrabianca Campaccio which was splendid. I noticed at least one other table with this bottle as well.
Now for the main event, THE FOOD. It was really spectacular and one thing that surprised me was the intensity of some of the flavors, in particular, we had a few dishes that were significantly spicier than other high-end restaurants wed been to.
We ordered the 7 course tasting menu, which in actuality morphed into a 12-course menu if you count the various amuse bouches and gifts from the chef (13 if you count tea and coffee as a course which Ive seen some unscrupulous restaurants do in various touristy areas around the world). I had noticed in some earlier Chowhound reviews that people were able to get different courses as a part of the tasting menu we did not have that option.
We first had a tiny cone of salmon tartare with an olive tapenade which was fine. Then we had a proscuitto wrapped bread stick perched atop a tiny bowl of fontina cheese fondue. This was AMAZING the fondue was so good I wiped the inside of the bowl out with bread and the proscuitto was simply the best Ive ever tasted. Moving on to the first of the seven courses on the tasting menu, we had buffalo mozzarella with a tomato gazpacho, and pesto. Very tasty. Then came some anchovies on a bed of greens, with roasted red peppers. I was a little worried when they told us it was anchovy but to my surprise it tasted great. Following that we had a spectacular scallop dish and one of our favorites of the night. A small tower with a scallop at the bottom, topped with salsa verde, and a chanterelle mushroom mouse, on a bed of chanterelle mushrooms. This is one of the dishes that surprised me with its kick, but we loved it. Next came a pasta dish, spaghetti with eel and sea urchin. Our fish dish was grilled John Dory with cuttlefish this is the one dish I cant remember too many details about, not because it wasnt good but more because our senses were becoming overwhelmed. I mentioned at the top my wifes slight disappointment with her lamb, but luckily for me all that meant was I got to have two splendidly prepared helpings of my favorite meat. We had three pieces of lamb on each plate (a chop, and a loin or fillet) paired with a garlic gelatin and some kind of root vegetable, and a great gravy that I think had rosemary in it but cant remember.
Were both big cheese fans and decided to forego dessert in favor of cheese the cheese cart was impressive and we made a conscious decision to stay away from cheese that we knew such as Manchego and Stilton and try some new ones. We ended up with a great Spanish blue, some nice pecorino, and three other ones that I cant remember. I think I need to start taking a little tasting journal with me to restaurants.
With that we thought we were finished and ordered tea and coffee. Speaking as a tea snob, the tea choice was very good and prepared just as it should be and clearly the waiters knew how to make and serve tea, right down to telling me to leave it for a minute or two after they brought it to the table. But then a waiter came over with a lychee (sp?) fruit flan which he proceeded to top with grappa, followed a few minutes later by a white and milk chocolate mousse cake in celebration of our anniversary, and FINALLY a painters palette with two white chocolate truffle-type things and two tiny what seemed to be chocolate soufflés or molten chocolate cakes. As the waiter was bringing it to our table he saw the shocked look on our faces and promised that this was definitely the last dish!
All in all, a great way to mark our fifth anniversary and we are already trying to come up with excuses to go back. It really was a splendid evening from start (8pm) to finish (11pm). The only remaining ultra-picky complaint I would have it that when we switched to tap water towards the end of the meal, it had a taste to it. But for anyone willing to splurge, Maestro really is the place to go right now.
Finally, if you actually got all the way down here you are a dedicated Chowhound and although this really belongs on the International board I wanted to share with you all that weve been lucky enough to have two outstanding meals in the last month because we were in Ireland in August and dined at the MacNean Bistro which has a brilliant young chef by the name of Neven Maguire. If you are ever in Ireland I highly recommend it.
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