Finally, after many years, we decided to go back to that of yore loathsome place controlled by the Mafia, with a chlorine-smelling patio and obnoxious service.
We said, let's try and see what the new eastern winds brought about.
On time we made our 7:30 PM arrival, warmly greeted by a multitude of hosts (more on that later).
Intrigued by the white little things nailed to the walls high above, I inquire. Host # 1 says people have different opinions. Asks about mine. I say "fungus?". He says, majority believes those are ceramic belly buttons. Wife -lapidary- says just one word re.decor: "depressing". I -condescendingly- claim minimalism of some sort. She ignores, of course, my remark, staring at the vast expanses of brown wall-covering stuff.
Place three quarters full, nice ambience. On to the table.
The two of us are seated in a table for four. I look at Host # 2. Host # 3 says we should have gotten a table for 2, but that's OK. I offer to move, saying I hate the restaurant wasting two seats. Host # 4 says it's all right. Weird, I think.
Bernardaud, Riedels (right size, not huge), nice shiny silverware (looks Italian to wife, that means it probably is). I'd have added damascene table cloths, but what the heck, this is California, not Italy, so it's OK. All very elegant. And we seat. And wait.
Host # 4 asks if we would like something to drink, cocktails perhaps?. I say "Pellegrino", and the wine list please. And we wait.
Host # 5 asks if we would like something to drink, cocktails perhaps?. I mumble something with the word "already" in it.
All hosts/hostesses very gracious and warm, trying to do their respective bests, so no offense.
So far, no menus. No bread. More on that -obviously- later.
And along comes the wine list.
My brain's pleasure centers fire up when I read the name Nicolas Joly on the list. Any restaurant (and I mean ANY) offering on their list a 2001 Nicolas Joly Savennières Becherelle (retail value $20 to $30, VERY hard to find) for 50 bucks will win my eternal love, gratitude, infinite appreciation and unrestrained, entirely biased favorable opinions, for as long as inventory lasts.Bottle shows up at perfect temperature, hostess # 6 uncorks, I'm in heaven. Even wife likes it, which means a LOT.
Did I mention menus? Yeah, a few lines above. And bread. Well, nothing new on that department. I make eye contact with host # 7. He immediately reports himself to duty. I suggest bringing us the menus, which then promptly materialize. See, you just need to ask.
As with the bread: if you chase the guys around, you get it. Otherwise, forget it. Nice bread. Didn't ask where it came from.
Menu's left side lists tasting on top (if I remember correctly, $135) and a "market menu" at the bottom. Wife says nay to the left, yeah to the right. So right we go, entirely ignorant of the fact that we were about to engage along the lines of a long talmudic discussion about sizes, measures, sins and purity.
My animal instinct tells me to order 3 dishes. Kampachi($17), Squid($19) & Big eye tuna($38). She orders Tuna salad($19) & muscovy duck($38).
Amuse bouche: 3 tiny wonderful little cheese rolls with tuna-based salad on a ceramic spoon. Divine.
Kampachi: thin slices of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth raw fish, beautifully spiced, can't think of a better appetizer. Don't ask how it matched the Becherelle, my eyes will roll back and I'll go ecstatic.
Tuna salad: or rather, tuna AND salad. Seared tuna, exquisitely prepared salad appetizer.
On to my second: squid. According to menu, comes with a jalapeño gelée.
What I got was a plate with 3 quarter-size dollops containing a mini-tiny squid piece and some micro vegetables, within same said dollops. Nice, sublime taste. And I look around for the jalapeño gelée. Suddenly, I notice a reddish gellyish particle the size of a small pomegranate grain inside each dollop. I carefully lift one with the knife, put it on my tongue, and voilà: a world of taste explodes on top of the single taste bud it covered. And here came my first talmudic issue. You see: there are sizes and sizes.
In Mishnayos Pesachim the sages discuss how much sacrificial meat you can have in your hands when you leave the temple in Jerusalem (since it was all was supposed to be consumed in the temple). Rabbi Meir says: the equivalent of an egg. Rabbi Yehudah says: the equivalent of an olive. Now, evidently, none of the sages cared to account for the size of a pomegranate grain; that's below significance. Would the sages consider valid to write in the menu "jalapeño gelée" and offer a size of less than an olive? Clearly, no.
On to the duck. Here, size is not an issue. Ultra-rich dish, great texture & moisture & taste. Actually, over-powering richness, not a single green / potato / side of any kind to go along. Definitely, a low-carb item.
Big eye tuna: no complains in this department, really enjoyed. I didn't get the eye, though.
Cheese tray ($15 pp): nice selection. California, Italy, France. I'll never ever remember cheese names. Reasonable variety to choose from, all excellent.
Weakest part was desserts. Another talmudic low, and it gets even worst. Please bear with me. I read "White peach w/sauternes sabbaione $11". Now, I would go for miles on my bare knees on chickpeas to wherever there happens to be great sabbaione. Rich, creamy, savory, fragile rare nectar almost impossible to get. When I read the above I went nuts. Sure, bring me the stuff! What I got was:
a) one 15" circular dish with a 2" central cup-like cavity.
b) one eight (1/8) of a white peach diced in cavity mentioned in a) above.
c) a dollop of (peachy?) gelatin filling the empty half of said cavity, since item b) above wasn't enough to fill it.
At this juncture, you might be asking what happened with the sabbaione?
Well, it turns out: the chef used most probably a Japanese calligraphy brush to draw a small enigmatic character on the vast empty piece of real estate mentioned in a) above, comprised between the external edge of the 2" cavity and the internal edge of the 20" plate. The "ink", so to speak, being that mythical sabbaione mentioned in the menu. And I say "probably", since even though I tried my best, I couldn't manage to put enough of it into a spoon to let my tongue get a sense of texture required to properly evaluate "sauternes sabbaione". Would Rabbi Meir and/or Rabbi Yehudah consider this mention of sabbaione in the menu as legal? No, not by any means.
Wife chose for dessert the "Tropical Tasting" ($11). Menu mentions, among other stuff: pineapple and mango.
What she got:
a) one eighth (1/8) of a thin slice of pineapple.
b) one (1) caramelized cherry.
c) same calligraphy brush above exercised this time on a mango-ish fluid.
Don't get me wrong, it looked beautiful, and probably even tasted great. Who knows? I got the cherry, and really loved it.
Best part, and now I'm serious, folks, was the petit-fours. In particular, the dark chocolate truffle. To die for.
My healthy advice: skip dessert, go straight to the (complimentary) petit fours.
And last, but not least: they have like 4 different coffees to choose from. I chose the "Panama midnight jazz $5".
What can I say? The quintessential coffee. Delicious. Only in Venezuela I've been able to taste stuff like that.
Final bill, including aforementioned Pellegrino and a glass of Calvados Coeur de Lion VSOP, including tax, not including tip: $300.
Will we be back, definitely, but not right now. There guys are on the right path, service is discombobulated right now, kitchen needs some feed back.
That's the secret hope of this posting; hey, after all, the Beverly Hills Cheese Store now charges you by the scal