I took my wife to L'Espalier on Satruday night. It was our first time dining at this restaurant and I have very mixed feelings about the evening.
We were seated in the Library, on the second floor. It was a smallish room with dark wood and warm colors. We had an early reservation, 6PM, so it was very quiet when we were seated. The lack of music was of no concern but I could see how this would be a problem for some.
We were greeted and seated promptly. And our waiter, Jesse, came over moments later with Menu's. It only took us only a moment to decided that we would both have the 7 course Summer Degustation ($99) with the 5 glass Grand Vinter's Wine pairing ($62). Jesse said he would later bring out a dessert menu after the meal.
Service- The Service severely suffered due to a few mistakes but over all was quite good. Not snooty, not stuffy, just attentive enought for a high class restaurant.
After taking our order, we were served two Amuse Bouche's: a Salmon and cream cheese Napoleon- very good- and a simple heirloom tomato slice and olive oil with grilled bread-also very good.
Wine- I would say that the wine was average at best. You could probably pick something more enjoyable from their 15lbs. wine catelog. But we like things to be easy so the pairing was ideal for us. Of the five- a sparkler, white, red, port, and a sparkling rose- only the Rose and the white were anything to take note of.
First- We both started with the butter poached lobster, served with a creamed corn and a bit of mint. The lobster and mint was a great combination. The corn was a bit too heavy and overpowered the lobster somewhat.
Second- Seared Yellowfin Tuna with a sweet and sour pepper sauce and spicy foam with the french take, i guess, on a Japanese a crab roll. My Tuna was picture perfect and the taste was fantastic. The crab roll left something to be desired and was a bit bland. My DC's Tuna was overcooked with very little pink actually left in the fish.
Third- Oh, wait, there was no third course. what happened here? I'm as perplexed as you are. My DC and I were so wrapped up in converstaion that we didn't realize we missed this until we were discussing the dinner on our ride home and were trying to recount the "4 Savory Courses" courses.
Fourth- I had the Almond Crusted Lamb with Chickpea Panisse. The lamb was ordered medium rare but came out with nary a hint of pink and was closer to medium-well. And there was a severe lack of Almond crust. In fact, there was no Almond crust. There was no chickpea panisse either. In its place was an eggplant caviar. The failure to mention that there was a departure from the menu was a major faux paux in my opinion. If it were a lesser restaruant, I'd send it back. But it was edible and my DC and I were having an enjoyable time, so why throw a wrentch in it? I simply took note and am now mentioning it on chowhound, for better or worse. My DC had the port poached tenderloin with Bone Marrow Ravioli. The Ravioli was terrific, the meat less so.
Cheese- highlight of the meal but in reality there were only two cheeses that I have not readily seen in various cheese shops. The unknown cheeses (a goat cheese, similar to Humbolt fog, produced in Vermont and a softer cheese from France or Italy with the texture of Tellagio but with a strong flavor of Garlic) were fantatic. As I said, I was very familiar with three of the five though. So the ones I remember were a Roncal-Spain, 5yr. Gouda- Holland, and Cashel blue- Ireland. All very good if not very exotic.
Sorbet- a Cantaloupe sobet in a Plum Consomme. It was ok.
Dessert- we were not given a dessert menu as Jesse had promised. Instead we were each brought out a plate with a few different items on it, none of them any better than mediocre. There was an Apricot "ravioli" and I though this was a terrible gelatinous mess. From there we moved on to a green Japanese flavored ice cream that had a flavor closer to dirt than it did to ice cream. The last component was a salty, dense, peanut dough that rested underneath an eaqually dense chocolate truffle-like cake. The chocolate was fantastic, the peanut stuff was over the top salty. I understand they were trying to do the old play on salty sweet but the salt over powered everything.
The check came with Petite fours. These were very good and I only wish that I could have had larger versions of these for dessert.
My DC noticed a problem with the check though- after I had already paid. We were charged $150 ($75pp) for the Grand Vinter's Wine pairings, rather than the $124 ($62pp) stated on the menu. On the way out of the restaurant I asked to see a menu and confirmed that this was incorrect and brought it to the attention of the Manager. He appologized for the mistake and shaved $20 off each pairing to account for the error, so we ended up paying $42pp. This was handled as it should have been so I give the restaurant props for that, it's just unfortunate that it happened at all.
I generally don't like to judge a restaurant based on one dining expierence but I was so underwhelmed with the food and the mistakes that I'll save my money and take it back to No.9 Park for, what I think, is a meal worthy of the price tag.
I offer no explaination as to why any of these things happend. I'll leave it for you to mull over and come to a conclusion on your own.