My husband and I had a stunningly delicious dinner last night at 2941, our first meal since the arrival of the permanent new chef, Bertrand Chemel. Technically, I shouldn't say we experienced the new chef at work since we learned he was out of town for the day. Late in the evening, the chef de cuisine, Sam Takafuji (sp?) made his way through the dining room chatting with diners, including us. We profusely complimented him both on the food and the training of the kitchen staff if they could turn out such excellent food in the chef's absence.
We ordered the tasting menu. It included:
Peekytoe crab salad topped by fennel, radish, and surrounded by a pineapple gelee
House-made spaghetti with squid, littleneck clams, lobster, and tasso ham in a clam broth
Bluenose bass with pancetta crust over a bed of tiny diced vegetables and a lovely sauce
Squab with foie gras, spinach, fiddlehead ferns, and grapes with a grape demi-glace
Mini rack of lamb with braised lamb leg and eggplant slice with Romesco sauce
Slices of soft, icy citrus fruit in a pool of citrus fruit studded juice
Amuse of one oyster on the half shell, one sliver of tuna tataki, one sliver of hamachi tataki. (The tuna and hamachi each came with a different accompaniment. That of the tuna was savory and that of the hamaci was fruity and slightly sweet.)
Courtesy dessert of banana-flavored marshmallow, tiny cookie stack thingee, and tiny sliver of cake.
We did not order the paired wines. At the sommelier's recommendation, we ordered a glass of Vermentino white wine to take us through the first three courses and a half-bottle of barolo to take us through the last two courses. Stephano, is a charming and knowledgeable replacement for our personal favorite sommelier, Kathy Morgan.
Apparently, wine preferences are stored in customer notes. Even before we chose the tasting menu which drove our wish to have a white and a red, Stephano was over at the table with some recommendations. I was struck with the nice range of prices in his recommendations. We could have spent anywhere from $50 to $165 for a full bottle based on his recommendations. I didn't even have to give him a price range.
Stephano's choices were excellent and he gave the barolo the proper amount of time in a decanter so that it was optimal by the time the squab arrived.
I'd describe the chef's food as innovative yet never bizarre. I've never eaten any of the specific combinations I described above. Yet, each combination went together so well and the execution of each dish was so flawless that I was never shocked by the chef's unique take on each dish. For example, the bright sweetness of the pineapple gelee was an inspired addition to the flavor of the crab yet a clear departure from the more common combinations of lemon or mayonnaise-based sauces. Quite simply, the Romesco sauce was the best version of that classic sauce I've ever eaten. Each fish or meat was cooked perfectly.
Perhaps the biggest change in the restaurant is the warmth of every single person associated with the operation. Everyone seemed friendlier and warmer than the mood under either Krim and Bryan.
Bottom line: The food is fantastic. The service is polished, but be prepared to be teased by your waiter if you eat every bit of deliciousness on your plate. Obviously, others agree. On a Tuesday night, the restaurant was essentially full most of the evening. There were still plenty of diners enjoying their meal when we left close to 10:00 p.m.