OK, so I'm the one who lives 4 blocks from Tilth who asked recently if anyone had been there yet--I promised to post when I finally made it. Went last night and it was great! Here's the rundown:
Decided spur of the moment to go, around 6:30-ish. The place was packed, and the empty tables all were reserved--but they have a little bar fronting the kitchen (felt almost like a chef's table) and we were happy to sit there. (Definitely would want reservations if you have more than 2 people, though.)
Everything on the menu comes in appetizer or entree portions. The waiter suggested that if we were going to share (which we were) he would suggest about 5 small dishes total. We ended up with 5, so he was right on.
Those of you who went to Cafe Mandalay won't recognize this incarnation--new paint, redone bar area, new art. Very clean, light and friendly.
The waitstaff were all friendly, and when they realized they were getting slammed they pulled together as a team and really helped each other out. It seems they are still getting their bearings a bit, but it was good to see the teamwork and willingness to jump in.
As far as we could tell everything on the menu is certified organic except the things that are "wild"--mushrooms, for example, don't get certified. However, this is a place where vegetarians are going to have to be careful. There were 2 salads and one vegetable course--I think everything else had meat or fish.
They first brought us an amuse bouche of creme fraiche with a tomato coulis which was very tasty. Our waiter did forget to bring us bread until about 1/2 way through the meal, but that's a small error. The bread was good, though (maybe Essential Bakery?) and came with an herbed butter.
Decent wine list, including about 2 doz. half-bottles. Started with a 1/2 bottle of decent french white (Saint Pulay?), with the soup of the day (split pea with brown butter carrots [julianned] and a lovely piece of crisp pork belly) and a full circle farm lettuce salad with green goddess dressing, parmesan & hazelnuts. The soup was perhaps the best split pea I've ever had--very thick and creamy, and the juxtoposition of the carrots (tender) and the pork belly (crisp) with the soup was great. The salad was one of those things where, when you taste it you say "oh yeah, this is what a good, simple salad is supposed to taste like." Lettuce was fresh, dressing was creamy but not overpowering, and the parmesan was both liberally spread and of high quality.
Went then to a 1/2 bottle of Van Drezen Pinot Noir (from the Willamette Valley--anyone heard of them?) and two more dishes: the steak tartare and pork belly. The wine was fantastic--very earthy and definitely big enough for the dishes. The steak was served with 2 slices of toast (probably could have used 3-4), and was mixed with capers & mustard. Very tasty, although not necessarily much different/better than other versions (except for the fact that it's made with grass-fed beef, which, for those of you who've read The Omnivore's Dilemma is the way to go). The crisp pork belly was served with cranberry beans & 2 sauces--a bacon vinegrette and a scallion pesto. The pork belly was about 2-in. square, crisp on top, soft in the middle, and with bits of pork still on the bottom. Thought the top could have been a little crisper, but I'm the one who likes the bacon crunchy, so that may just be me. The flavor, however, was outstanding--pork-y, great mouthfeel, and good with the sauces, although I thought the scallion pesto was the best match.
Last, we couldn't resist the mini-duck-burgers with heirloom catsup and fingerling potato chips (these were coming out of the kitchen all night, so they're clearly a favorite.) Outstanding flavor and mouthfeel--tasted like a housemade bun, and the duck was fatty and a bit salty and perfectly cooked--almost rare. I swear, this almost felt like eating dessert. I will say, though, I wouldn't want to be the prep cook making the fingerling chips--those things were sliced thinner than I think my mandoline even goes!
We didn't try dessert, as we were full, but with the bill the waiter brought us 2 small squares of apple-cinnamon something (like a little panna cotta, I forget what he said), which were a nice touch.
Anyway, we were very pleased with this restaurant, and loved sitting at the bar--always fun to watch the interplay of chef and sous chef and waiters. We will definitely be back as there are more things to try . . . smoked sablefish . . . chicken leg confit . . . yum!
Hope you try and enjoy!
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