We were happy to have an excuse to visit the Cracked Pepper Bistro last night as the intrepid Dimsumgirl from Sacramento was in town. Polar Bear and Lady Polar Bear were in attendance as was Dimsumgirl (obviously), my hubby, Alanstotle, and yours truly. PB and Lady PB had been before, but it was the first time for everyone else. We had a great night of food, laughing, and visiting. It was a truly enjoyable way to spend a weekday night!
Hubby and I brought a couple of bottles of red wine and so did Polar Bear. We ended up drinking the Robert Hall Grenache (2004 I think), a Beckman Syrah (forgot the year), and an Andrew Murray Syrah. I didn’t drink last night for medical reasons, so others will have to chime in with the wine notes. I will say that our server, Heather, kept the wine flowing liberally and refilled our water glasses before we needed them filled.
We were visiting so much that we had a hard time deciding what to order to start, but we finally settled on these options: Dimsumgirl ordered the salad special for the day which consisted of organic baby greens, fried chickpeas, Applewood smoked bacon, Kalamata olives, and finished with a Kalamata olive and crimini mushroom dressing. It was a delicious and balanced salad and an excellent way to start the meal. Polar Bear ordered the escargot served out of their shells on toast points and finished with a lemon ginger beurre blanc. It wasn’t the traditional preparation I had before, which was the escargot in their shells and served with butter and garlic. However, they are much easier to eat when out of their shells and I really enjoyed the ginger with them. Lady PB ordered the appetizer special which was prawns in a saffron ginger (I think) broth served over rice noodles with leeks on top. It was delicate, light and very delicious. My hubby and I split the Mala-Insana Napoleon which consisted of pumpkin seed encrusted eggplant arranged into a tower with layers of goat cheese, roasted tomatoes and pesto and finished with aged balsamic. All I can say is, wow! This is a great appetizer and I have never had eggplant like this before. Vatche (the chef) came out and explained how they got the eggplant to become so crunchy. They salt the eggplant and drain it and they bread the eggplant in the pumpkin seed and panko and let it sit overnight. Then they fry it up the next day. All I can say, is it is delicious!
It was then time to order our next round. Dimsumgirl went for the flat iron steak and ordered it rare. She was pleased when it arrived as ordered, perfectly rare. The outside was nicely seared and the steak was a generous portion. It came with roasted potatoes and French green beans, I think. Hubby ordered the glazed pork tenderloin which came with the French green beans, and a type of rice pilaf. Hubby said it was the tenderest pork he had ever eaten. The veggies were cooked perfectly and the rice was flavorful. He had no problem finishing the pork and sharing it with others at the table. Everyone agreed the pork was beyond tender and cooked perfectly. Lady PB ordered the special for the day, which was a meatloaf ground in house from brisket and served with a mushroom-truffle gravy. I am not sure if it included any veggies, but it did come with garlic mashed potatoes. It was definitely upscale comfort food. PB and I, unbeknownst to each other, ordered the exact same thing. We both decided that no single entrée was what we were in the mood for. So we ordered the special soup, Spanish seafood chowder and one of the starters, the sage butter gnocchi (house-made). The special soup was creamy, rich, and intense with a spicy chorizo kick. I scraped the bowl clean! I especially enjoyed the gnocchi as it is so hard to find a good one. This one was creamy and light and finished to perfection with the sage butter. It was kind of like eating a cloud. On another appearance to our table, Vatche revealed that he uses two different types of potatoes; Yukon Golds and Russets in order to achieve the creamy consistency.
We were having a great time by now and knew we needed dessert. There were several choices, but we decided on splitting the chocolate lava cake and the gala apple napoleon. Both were excellent, but being the chocoholic that I am, the chocolate lava cake was my favorite. It was a deep, dark chocolate cake with a rich molten chocolate syrup at its core. It was served with a generous helping of whipped cream and a finish of chocolate sauce. Only politeness kept us from licking the plate with our fingers. The gala apple napoleon was stacked in between layers of puff pastry and ice cream. It was finished with a pink apple sauce and a lacy sugar design. Even though the chocolate was my favorite, I had no problem eating my fair share (or maybe more of it) of this great dish.
It was an excellent evening and made even more enjoyable because of the company. The service was excellent and Vatche was a great host who personally went to every table to make sure everyone was happy. He told us that they are trying to start doing lunch again, with a completely different lunch menu that won’t compete with the dinner menu. He is also thinking of taking over the spot next door once the lease runs out on the lingerie store. He is thinking of turning it into a wine lounge with wines available by the glass. Once established, the lunch service would move over there. It was fun hearing him talk about his future plans and we wish him the best.
I can’t wait for another visit by Dimsumgirl so we will have another excuse to eat this well again!