Last Friday was my boyfriend's birthday (which I'd asked y'all to vote on a few days ago) -- a day of gluttony. The menu:
12:00 midnight: oysters from The Lobster Place
Pre-dinner, at home: Krug, scottish smoked salmon
The bar: Angel's Share
12:00 The oysters sucked! A surprise, since the fish at The Lobster Place (chelsea markt) is uniformely fantastic. AND they give me free lobster shells for stock. Go them!
Lunch at Montrachet, which has that great $20 Friday prix-fixe. The $20 menu was actually better than we'd expected (gnocchi with morels, cod, terrine), but nevertheless we eschewed it, the boyfriend ordering the pricier $28 prix fixe and me ordering a la carte:
($20) Seared Foie Gras with butternut squash sauce and other stuff: excellent, but really, for $20 we should have gotten more foie gras. I mean, I sear my own foie gras and this was like $4 worth retail. For shame.
(prix fixe) Endive, roquefort, pear, walnut salad: why do they always use too much roquefort? What's so hard about limiting the roquefort? Sometimes you get those frisee aux lardons for brunch and it's ALL roquefort. WTF?
(prix fixe) Chilean Sea Bass en brodo with veggies. Superb albeit naughty (since CSB is endangered, isn't it?). Best artichoke hearts I've had in a long time.
($14) Fried veal brains: too much breading.
(prix fix) overdone creme brulee. Yes, you have to make a leap of faith and remove the CB from the oven while it still jiggles and looks underdone. But Montrachet should have done better.
(free) a divine yogurt panna cotta. The 2nd dessert was free thanks to a very savvy waiter who saw the card on the table, guessed that a birthday might be involved, leaned over my boyfriend's shoulder when he opened the card to see whether it said "birthday", and, upon seeing that it did, quickly arranged a second dessert with candle and "Happy Birthday" scrawled in gorgeous caramel calligraphy round the rim.
After narrowly avoiding a fight (not worth going into) we popped the Krug. Much as when I recently tasted a 1990 Chateau d'Yquem at La Caravelle, we faced with awe a wine more complex and subtle than our meager palates could sense. Still, it went excellently with the scotch smoked salmon, or, I should say, vice versa.
Into a cab and off! The bartenders at Angels Share know how to make a drink! Our table was right by a HUGE window looking over Stuyvesant St. and 3rd Ave. I got a sidecar and the bf got a cosmo that certainly redefined what a cosmo should be. Not too pink, not too sweet. Per-fect. For the sheer excess of it all, I ordered a plate of sashimi, which was a steal at $12 for top-notch fish: 3 pcs hamachi, 3 tuna, 3 salmon.
Into a cab and off! Unfortunately, we were running late, which thwarted out plans of appetizers at 71 Clinton. Well, that and the realization that the "bar" there is essentially an extension of their dining room: every person seated at the bar was having a full 3-course meal! Good grief. This disappointed the bf, who loves the atmosphere there: the mix of unseriously hip people, grungily highbrow room, and unassumingly intelligent food matches his personality to a T.
All of which didn't help our discovery that the atmosphere of WD-50 sucks. The bar is an unbelievable waste of space, designed so there is nowhere comfortable to stand, no chairs to sit on, and a stupid airy space connecting the bar, dining room, front door, and bathroom stairs where no one wants to stand but which makes the other spaces seem empty even when they're full. The dining room resembles a hip cafe in Albuquerque with that hideous mixture of brown, orange and purple that looks good in canyons but bad on walls and worse on banquettes. The bf threw a little fit and almost made us leave. Fortunately, I had to finish my drink, and by then the hostess had seated us.
What a menu! We always share everything, and the one problem with this is that you always rush to finish the first half of whatever you're eating so it doesn't get cold before you switch, or so that the other person isn't left waiting to swap. So this time we asked whether, since we'd be sharing everything, we could have the dishes served one at a time so we could focus on each plate individually. No, we didn't want a [more expensive] tasting menu; the regular menu looked too darn good. The staff thought this a fabulous idea. We had 3 (!) appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. A bottle of Savenniers somehow went well with everything.
1. Foie gras pate topped with white anchovies, coffee granules (i think_, and a tarragon sauce. Unbelievable consonance of flavors.
2. Thick octopus tentacles over minty sauce, eaten alternatively with an oniony plum salad. Most tender octopus I've ever eaten. Again, the flavors balanced so naturally you didn't even think about it.
3. Lemony butternut squash soup with cous cous (hand rolled?) and lemon "paper" on top. Egg-cellent.
4. Monkfish with an orange dashi broth and seared monkfish liver. The liver kicked ass. The preparation was great (oyster mushrooms and dashi sing together) but the monkfish wasn't high quality and tasted stringy.
5. Fat-on lamb loin over cous cous with smears of two sauces: date hibiscus and thick green grassy arugula. This was the transcendental moment of the evening. Ignored the date hibiscus. The grassy arugula, inedibly strong on its own, when mixed up with some cous cous and eaten with the lamb, schooled us in flavor principles.
6. Okay, there was a second transcendental moment: caramelized banana tart with a full-length banana chip, chocolate ice cream (almost a semi-freddo), banana panna cotta, and liquorice sauce, ordered with a glass of California roussane dessert wine. Another exctasy of flavor.
7. The mango-tomato ravioli with yogurt ice cream, crunchy honey and tomato gelee was like a deconstruction of a tomato salad.
At last, totally sated, we drank away the evening at Galapagos in Williamsburg. Thank goodness for taxi cabs!