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Fifth Floor report- long

Absonot | Sep 20, 2004 02:02 PM

I noticed no one has written about FF since about a year ago, so I thought I'd share my experience last Saturday night:

My galpal (GP) kept it a suprise, but thankfully advised me to “dress formal”, so I was prepared when the cab pulled up to Hotel Palomar. From the moment we stepped out the cab, we were treated like queens…everyone from the door man to the people behind the counter in the lobby to the hostesses at the entrance were incredibly warm, respectful, and plain ol’ friendly.

We were a bit early for our reservation, so we sat at the bar and soaked in the atmosphere, enjoying martinis perfectly prepared by Hector, a dear and charming man.

We were then seated at a banquette (plushy throw pillows to lounge against as the meal progressed-a nice touch) and presented the relatively small menu (which I consider a good thing) and incredibly huge wine list with some extremely impressive producers, vintages.

My GP and I ordered:
Foie gras to share (prepared with fig-rhubarb compote of sorts)
Spring composition
Green pea soup with shellfish
For the entrée, we both ordered the skate, prepared with a fennel puree and bordelaise sauce with artichoke hearts.

Wine-wise, Emily the sommelier was exceptionally helpful. We had a relatively tight budget ($100) and she managed to pair two half bottles and a glass of wine for the foie gras for less than that. And it was all superb.

The generous portion of foie gras was a bit over-cooked for my taste (I like a bit of squish), but the fig-rhubarb compote was wonderful and the pairing of the tokaji was inspired and breathtaking. Forget Sauternes- tokaji with foie gras is incredible.

The spring composition is a ring of pistachios and goat cheese around a selection of various spring vegetables (it is September, but never mind). I believe they were lightly braised, but don’t quote me on that. Surprisingly earthy dish. Very creative.

My green pea soup was the perfect pool of celadon and cream. Then the server scooped shellfish ceviche into it, adding lovely pink to the picture. Miniscule shavings of lime zest created a hypnotic perfume that aroused my appetite further. Very very lovely dish—my favorite of the night.

The skate entrée is a bit stark on the plate, the fan-shaped piece of fish obscuring the fennel puree beneath it. When the bordelaise sauce with artichoke hearts is spooned over, the picture perks up a bit. The waiter told us this was his favorite dish and that the Chef makes his bordelaise sauce with white wine instead of red. I thought that made some sense, since red wine might overpower the mildness of the skate. But unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. The skate was prepared perfectly, but the sauce lacked depth and richness, probably due to the absence of red wine, and the fennel puree was so bland I had to ask for salt. The waiter unceremoniously plopped down two small salt and pepper shakers. Ooops.

The cheese course was ok- it included some honeycomb, which I love. The walnut bread was the perfectly thickness and toasted perfectly. Almonds were plentiful. I don’t recall the cheeses themselves, but I do remember being surprised that they were all so similar and mild.

Dessert was an interesting Tapioca with mango sorbet, roasted mango slices, vanilla, and lemon gelee. Very challenging and creative.

To sum it up, the place knows how to greet you and get you in the mood. But once you’re seated, things take a turn for the serious and it can feel a bit stuffy. My GP and I were very talkative and friendly to the servers and while they all seemed surprised by it, they were very receptive. The food was not the highest caliber I’ve enjoyed, in that it is not consistent and some gambles don’t pay off. But the dishes are creative and some are very beautiful.

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