Had my first dinner at this 3-month new "french-fusion" place a few nights ago and I came away quite impressed with the quality of the food and the talent of the chef. While waiting for the restaurant to open, René and I talked with a couple of "regulars" who rated the place highly. One of them compared the quality of the food to Marinus, (one of the area's best resturants), but at half the price. That got our attention.
The menu offers several small plates, a few main courses and a tasting menu. The good wine list offers selected wines in either 2 oz. pours, glass, 1/2 botttle, full bottle and a few flights at very reasonable prices, so there's lots of opportunity to experiment. Very good quality linens, cutlery and stemware are used here, including Riedel Vinum Extreme wine glasses, my fave.
The chef sent out an amusé of softly caramelized onion and goat cheese on a puff pastry round drizzled with an herbed olive oil.
We decided to try the following small plates:
Lobster Hand Roll: a delicate crepe filled with large, tender chunks of lobster, the intact red claw meat and a few microgreens extending out of the top. It was served with an exquisite cognac cream sauce--we both resisted the urge to lick the plate clean! With the lobster, we had a 1/2 bottle of Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc.
Portobello Ravioli in duck broth: tasty mushroom stuffing in a very flavorful reduced broth with subtle asian touches of sesame oil, etc. The chef had paired this with a glass of local Jouillian Carmel Valley Zinfandel on his tasting menu, so we went along with it, and were glad we did--an exceptionally beautiful zin.
Salad of red & yellow beets, goat cheese and arugula: Nice presentation with colorful mounds of dressed diced beets and a yin/yang design in the center--very refreshing.
Melange a Trois: small chunks of crisp sweetbreads, melt-in-the-mouth fois gras, one very large seared scallop, also perfectly undercooked and soft, served with a slightly sweet sherry demi-glace. SO good, and a bargain at about $15. With this, we had a glass of inexpensive, but good burgundy, Hugues et Yves de Suremain Mercurey 1er Cru, Les Crets.
For dessert, the Pear Empanadas with house-made vanilla ice cream and mango sorbet in a pool of creme anglais (custard sauce) was even better than it sounded -- a nice combination of crisp, creamy and refreshingly tart flavors and textures, which we enjoyed with cups of their good, strong coffee.
Service could not have been better. Both our young servers were informed, professional, friendly and gave us excellent suggestions. Melange adds much to the downtown dining scene and we put it at the top of our list along with our other favorites, The White House and Passionfish.
542 Lighthouse Avenue (in the Holman's Bldg.)