I don't know if e.d. was within the proper confines or not of Chowhound policy and procedure when he posted the info regarding the special dinner that was to be offered at Parallel 33 this past Monday, August 29th. But I am sincerely glad and grateful that he did because, you see, I attended the special dinner.
Parallel 33 has long been a board favorite and for good reason. The cooking is steady, secure, creative, trendy (in a good way) and wonderfully flavorful. Almost all the dishes work almost all the time and any misses are truly few and far between. My only complaint about Parallel 33 has been that it's main dining room tends to get a bit noisy when full. There is a small alcove leading into the main dining room in which there is seating which I've always thought seemed a little isolated, like being on the outside looking in. This is exactly where Chilepm and I found ourselves seated this past Monday, and my opinion of the alcove has changed. It is quieter than the main dining room, more intimate although still somehwat impersonal, but allows for normal conversation which I always appreciate. Now, if they'd only fix the wobbly table, I'd be more than willing to have another meal in that little alcove.
The dinner was to be a 5 course meal with 2 choices per course. You know you're in for a treat when the Amuse is spectacular. We started us off with Hamachi - Shiso and Fresh Yuzu and Kaffir Scented Tomato Tapico with American Sturgeon Caviar. The Hamachi was incredibly smooth and buttery and could not have been paired any better than it was by the shiso and yuzu. Absolutely fabulous combination and one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The tomato tapioca came in a flat Asian soup spoon and was remarkably soft and delicate while still managing to burst with distinct tomato flavor. It was enhanced beautifully by the saltiness from the impossibly tiny sturgeon caviar. Chilepm and I looked at each other in utter amazement, neither one of us could pick a favorite out of the two. We'd take a bite of one and swoon, thinking it was the best thing we'd ever eaten only to take a bite of the other and think that was the best. Nirvana, and it was only the Amuse........
On to the Appetizers. Chilepm received the Haogen Melon Gazpacho - Smoked Suzuki. I'll admit to not knowing exactly what a Haogen melon is, but I can tell you it is very, very good. The pool of pale, pale green melon gazpacho with a texture and mouthfeel that can only be described as like cashmere was lightly topped with something like Mexican crema, a few shaved radishes, sprouts and the smoked suzuki. The Suzuki in this case was not a cheap SUV or motorcycle, but a thin slice of smoked fish. What was so amazing about this particular dish was that the ethereal quality of the melon gazpacho was not lost or overpowered by the smokiness of the fish, which was somewhat pungent. It worked. How I'm not sure, but whatever the chefs did they got delicate and smoky to work in tandem.
I had the Tandoori Marinated Shrimp - House Made Saag Paneer. Another winner. Where the gazpacho dish was beguiling and suave, the shrimp dish was bold and assertive. One single, succlent, butterflied and marinated shrimp arrived on top of a molded bed of sauteed greens (spinach?) and surrounded by small cubes of saag paneer. The pungency of the sauce matched well with the greens and creaminess of the cheese. The shrimp was almost an afterthought. Tons of different flavors in this dish, and like it's companion appetizer dish, they all seemed to work together to create a whole dish that was better than any of it's parts separately.
So far we were batting 1000. 4 dishes 4 clear winners. On to the Fish course.
I received the White Seabass Wrapped in Grape Leaves - Oven Dried Tomato Tabbouleh, Fried Capers. Wonderful. I love tabbouleh and this version was herby, grainy and a good foil for the seabass. The plate was accented with a sauce that tasted suspiciously like the tandoori sauce, but it worked. The seabass was perfectly cooked and the fried capers a treat.
Chilepm had the Monkfish "Chorizo" - Brown Butter Gnocchi, Purslane, Raisin Vinaigrette. The first thing you need to know is that Monkfish is probably Chilepm's favorite fish, she regularly searches it out in San Diego. Pieces of monkfish had been cut into a "sausage" size and shape and rubbed with spices (smoked paprika included I'm pretty sure) to resemble chorizo. Since the texture of monkfish can imitate meat it made an interesting choice. Gnocchi can often turn out like little lead balls, but these were anything but that. Feather light and well accented by the browned butter. I'm guessing that the raisin vinaigrette was supposed to add a sweet hit to counter the smokiness and spiciness of the monkfish chorizo and perhaps cut the richness of the brown butter, but I think it was a bit lost, just a minor observation.
What a roll, we were still batting 1000 and were now 6 for 6 in hit dishes. No missteps so far, not one.
As an entree Chilepm was served Asian Cured Duck Breast - Gingered Savoy Cabbage, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, Tamarind-Plum Sauce. WOW. Duck and cabbage, who knew. What an inspired pairing. I am not a big fan of rare duck and this was done just about medium rare and just about perfect for my taste. I'd never had Hon Shimeji mushrooms before and discovered I really liked them. Not exactly sure how to describe the taste other than soft, buttery, and earthy.
My entree was the Roasted Veal Tenderloin - Ragout of Sweetbreads, Lop Cheong and Pineapple. Another very interesting combination. The sweetbreads were ever so tender and melted in the mouth. The veal equally tender and highlighted surprisingly well by the sweetness in the pineapple. Frankly, my appetite was flagging by this time and I was beginning to glaze over.
8 for 8 and only dessert to go.
Rolled Pistachio Baklava - Warm Apricots in Cardamom Syrup was set down in front of me and Calamansi Citrus Curd Pavlova - Blackberry Compote and Green Tea Syrup was placed in front of Chilepm. We kind of looked at each other and wondered where we were going to put it. The baklava was good, the pavlova better. Both desserts were very sweet and thoroughly satisfying. And as if that weren't enough a final try of sweets was brought to the table to complete the meal. It contained 2 Date Madelines, 2 very dense, very chocolatety Truffles and 2 delightful Mochi Balls. The truffles were overkill, the date flavor in the madelines not pronounced enough, but the mochi were great.
Along with a very small handful of meals I've had over the last 4 years, this would have to rank up there as possible the best meal I've had since I returned to San Diego. Everything worked, the flavor combinations were dynamic ranging from impossibly light and delicate to strong, brassy and bold, with service that was low-key and attentive.
So to e.d. - thanks, and I owe you one :-)