An eleventh hour invitation to the final test dinner of a major new restaurant has its own allure and it certainly wasn't lost on me when two friends called late this afternoon asking me to join them at Ortalon tonight. I had, afterall, just completed my dizzying, last minute pre Super Bowl Costco run and was kind of thinking this was my reward. I've only had chef Christophe Eme's cooking on one other occasion, a charity event where he prepared a perfectly luscious tomato tart that realized both the lightest pastry with the richest tomato taste. Tonight I had the Panerone de bouef (?), served in a small individual stock pot that certainly explains our obsession with short ribs: tender, rich intense flavor with the bite of fresh vegetables.
The room combines both classicism and irreverance as if Baz Lurhmann were directing Alice in Wonderland with lush drapes set against ornate chandeliers and oversized booths. It's all great fun and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves sitting at the largest community table I've ever seen. It just took me a few seconds to realize that the fork I was trying to pick up was actually embedded in the tabletop.
Service was on the mark (as much as you can tell in these situations) with my water glass never dropping below one third (and I drink a lot of water) and a dropped napkin instantly replaced. The lovely celebrity co-owner greeted everyone warmly, watching and responding to every detail. (I really wanted to tell her that I was an original Trekkie.)
We can't wait to go back and order off the regular menu. If tonight is any indication, that won't be too easy once the doors open for real on Tuesday.