Oh my, oh my, oh my. That's about the best way to sum it up. My partner and I had dinner this past Friday at Vivanda. I wasn't expecting too much, as I usually don't, and was unexpectedly treated to a wonderful meal. Admittedly, my partner and I are pretty tough customers when it comes to food and it takes a pretty good performance to get high marks from us. It's not that everywhere we eat has to have top quality food. It's that when a restaurant presents itself at a certain level, then they really must follow through on the delivery. This way we can eat at the $3.99 Pho place and really enjoy it, because they deliver on the expectations that they set. There are just too many restaurants that strive to be more than what they really are. Vivanda, at least for this one meal that we enjoyed, definitely delivered.
We started out with a salad. She had the Caesar salad, which was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Sometimes you just want an ordinary Caesar salad. I had their Peasant salad, which is made with toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, white beans, capers, various herbs, topped with radicchio and watercress, and surrounded by a swirl of balsamic reduction. It was a lot of flavors to pack into one dish, but the chef pulled it off. It was very bright and flavorful. I think this dish would make a great amuse bouche. It was a little bit larger of a portion than what I would have liked.
My main course was the decadent and the extremely GOOD lobster macaroni and cheese. The dish was actually made with penne instead of macaroni, but I'm not complaining. There was an extremely generous portion of lobster (I believe it was a claw and half a tail), lots of penny-size slices of black truffle, all surrounded by some kind of bound cheese sauce. The sauce! What flavor! I know those are not complete sentences, but they seem appropriate. It was so creamy and luxurious and full of lobster and truffle flavor. My partner and I have been craving that dish ever since we left the restaurant.
Now I don't want to overshadow my partner's main course, because her dish was wonderful too. She ordered the seared sea scallops, which were served over a black truffle risotto. Too many cooks don't know how to properly treat our dear little friend, the scallop. Too often they end up overcooked and rubbery tough. These little beauties were perfectly seared (not only on the top and bottom, but the sides too!) and were still deliciously soft and moist on the inside. The truffles were again decadently portioned in the creamy risotto. This dish was a special, so it might not be available when you go. Which you must do. Go.
With dinner, we had a bottle of 2002 Cotes-du-Rhone. Unfortunately, I can't remember the vintner. One small complaint is that the restaurant didn't have a wine captain. However, our waiter did suggest either a Pinot Noir or a Chianti to go with our food selections. My initial thought was to a Pinot Noir, but I wanted something with a little bit more body (it *was* a chilly evening) and I asked his opinion of the Cotes-du-Rhone. He said that he thought it would pair well with our food. He was half right. It paired well with the scallops, but not with the lobster. Oh well, you can't win them all.
We were rather satiated after that glorious main course but decided to push ahead and order dessert. We were treated to a tower of chocolate. The bottom was supported by a flourless chocolate cake, followed by a chocolate mousse, topped with a very interesting goat cheese Bavarian creme, and crowned with shards of tempered dark chocolate. Mmmmmmmm chocolate! It was as delicious as it was visually appealing.
Okay, I guess that's enough about the food. To wrap up, I should say that the service was friendly, yet professional. The atmosphere was casual, yet refined. I know that all sounds a little cliched, but Vivanda seems to be a cliche that works.
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