On Friday, after saving money for about 2 months, my girlfriend and I went to No. 9 Park for dinner. It was such a rewarding experience that I thought Id share a review with the rest of the hounds.
First of all, the place is beautiful and much less gussied-up than I expected. Given that its prices put it in the LEspalier range, I went in expecting a lot of formality. The bar area is small, sleek and sexy in fact, the whole place has a very cozy feel. We were seated in the back dining room (the front dining room clearly has a much superior view, as it is facing the Common). We were placed at a great corner table, giving us prime people watching position. There was an odd current of air-conditioned air shooting across our table, but we decided to tough it out, rather than give up the corner table.
We each ordered the 7-course tasting menu ($85). This is a blind menu, unlike many other restaurant tasting menus you have no real idea what you are going to get. We figured, if you cant trust Barbara Lynch
We asked for the companion Vintners menu (a 2 oz pour of wine for each course for an additional $50 each) but were told by our very eager and honest server that we could do a lot better for a lot less money if we let him make some suggestions of half-bottles off the regular wine list. He spent a few minutes going through our wine likes and dislikes (we have a lot) and then recommended two half-bottles, totaling $80 and saving us $20. While $20 in the scope of No. 9 is nothing, it was very nice to see the attention given to our enjoyment of the wine and, in the end I think we ended up with much better wines (a Riesling and a Burgundy, for those who are interested). Our wine came very quickly and we settled in for a marathon of eating.
First off, the bread rolls were fantastic. I would pay good money to get unlimited access to those rolls.
Then came the tasting:
Course 1: Cold cucumber soup with a single oyster. Basil/chive oil was drizzled across the top of the dish. Very refreshing. While not overly dynamic in taste, this was a strong way to start a long meal light, cool and palate cleansing (is that a verb?).
Course 2: Seared foie gras on brioche, with a layer of Concord grapes in the middle. This was dizzyingly good. Probably my favorite or second favorite course of the night. It tasted like butter and maple syrup, it was rich and creamy and just pure fat heaven. Sooooooo good.
Course 3: Monkfish over a puree of peas. Good, but not great. The texture contrast to the previous course was its strength. This was much lighter, which was needed after foie gras. The fish was very nice, just not amazing.
Course 4: Lobster risotto with fava beans. Another big winner. The risotto was very buttery and cooked longer than I usually cook risotto. The effect was quite remarkable, as the texture of the rice blended in well with the butter and lobster, rather than being hard and chewy.
Course 5: Lamb encrusted in an olive paste and served over a bed of finely diced root veggies. This could battle the foie gras as my favorite course. The lamb was very rare and delightfully soft. The strength of the dish was its balance: the combination of olive coating on the lamb, natural lamb flavor and veggies provided for a well rounded set of flavors and textures.
[Note: at this point I had to loosen my belt]
Course 6: Cheese. 3 cheeses with a few slices of toasted bread. One cheese was a Parmigiano-Reggiano and I forget what kinds the other two were one was goat and one cow. All were good. None were earth moving. It was a nice after-dinner course that worked well with the overall meal.
Interlude: Lemon-Thyme sorbet. My girlfriend claimed you could really taste the Thyme. All I got was lemon, which was fine with me. Sorbet after all this heavy food was a perfect choice.
Course 7: Raspberry shortcake with ginger ice cream. Im not a huge shortcake fan, so I may not be the best one to judge this dish. It was fine. I loved the ice cream. I ate the whole thing and enjoyed it. I just dont love shortcake.
As I think you can tell, this was a fantastic meal. We spent a leisurely 2 1/2 hours at No.9. It was a Friday night and there was nobody breathing down our necks, hurrying us along. The only other restaurant in this price range that Ive been to is LEspalier and I preferred No. 9 it had a more casual feel that I appreciated. And, all in all, I think I liked the food a bit more.
I strongly recommend No. 9 Park, particularly the tasting menu, but be prepared for the sticker shock it aint cheap. For me, itll be a once-a-year sort of experience.