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Report-out: DAT at XYZ

Jaina S | Jan 14, 2004 08:58 PM

We decided to try XYZ last weekend, DAT at dinner. We'd been curious about this place, but for some reason had rather low expectations -- so we thought it would be better to try it at the slightly reduced price of DAT. In short, it exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it, for good quality, well-executed if not highly imaginative cuisine.

First of all, DAT choices & 'overall value' -- you get a choice of hominy cakes or butter lettuce salad for a first course, and for main course, a choice of salmon, pork shoulder, or pasta. Dessert is an apple tart. The waiter informed us they were also offering soup of the day (lentil with applewood smoked bacon) for a first course, and sorbet as an option on the dessert. As for value -- comparing the $29.95 to the regular menu, you're essentially getting a buck or two off the normal prices (the choices offered were among the lower-priced items on the menu), plus a free dessert.

Interestingly enough, these guys offered a wine pairing (one wine for each course) for $14.95 extra. We took this option. The wines were well-chosen -- the pours were slightly smaller than the usual "roughly 1/4 bottle pour," but very adequate.

OK, food & wine review!
First course: I took the soup. I personally believe that quality of soups is directly correlated to quality of the restaurant. XYZ's lentil soup with applewood smoked bacon was perfectly good although not "stellar" or "remarkable." It was garnished with a squeeze-bottle squiggle of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of greenery (parsley I think). The soup had either been pureed, or put through a coarse strainer (not a chinois) -- I would have liked more obvious bacon, maybe as crumbles even, but the naturally smoky flavor of the lentils was definitely enhanced. perhaps more bacon would have been too much.

My husband had the hominy cakes -- these were quite good. Kind of like little round tamales with no filling, in a thick, golden-crusty disk (like a crab cake). Not greasy at all -- garnished with a boldly spicy jalapeno and cilantro -- and creme fraiche. (you will note a creme fraiche pattern emerging here!!) I don't remember details of the butter lettuce salad -- seemed pretty standard.

Wine pairing: only one choice, was a 2002 (I think) Albarino -- don't recall the producer -- but it was VERY nice, paired especially well with the hominy cake.

Second course: I had potato-crusted salmon, served with winter vegetable melange. I really liked the vegetables -- brussels sprouts, broccoli, baby turnips, and baby carrots (the real deal, not cut-up big carrots) -- perfectly cooked, in a very light but savory sauce. The salmon was well executed -- not too rare and nowhere near overcooked, and they had removed that icky brownish blood stripe that runs down the side of the filet, even though it was crusted with potato so you couldn't see it. I appreciated that touch. Salmon was garnished with a giant dollop of creme fraiche, supposedly horseradish but tasted quite lemony -- I scraped most of it off, seemed kind of superfluous, or too rich. The portion was generous -- I ate about half, and there was plenty leftover for my salad at lunch the next day.

My husband had the pork shoulder -- on this day they substituted a pork 'porterhouse' -- it was grilled, with a nice smoky flavor, not sure if that was a marinade -- and tender & juicy. Pork was served with a big dollop of creamy polenta (which no doubt incorporated yet another dose of creme fraiche). His vegetables were actually different from mine, carrots & cauliflower, which I thought was a good sign (so did he since he dislikes brussels sprouts).

i have no report on the pasta (except it sounded kind of rich, gorgonzola and the at-XYZ-ubiquitous creme fraiche) but nice to see they offer a vegetarian alternative.

Wine pairing: we both had a remarkably decent Cotes de Rhone, I think 2001 -- they also offered a French chardonnay, I believe, but I like Rhones, and I like red wine with salmon (although I usually choose pinot), so I ordered it. I was not disappointed. bright fruit but a good backbone of earthiness too.

Dessert: husband had the apple tart -- had a hint of marzipan, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and, you guessed it, creme fraiche -- but was served warm and was easy to eat. I had the sorbets -- there was mango, pear champagne, and something else -- I often order sorbet for dessert, and these were fine -- a nice texture, not 'icy' at all, but they didn't have particularly intense fruit flavors. The dessert wine paired well with the apple tart ... I think it was a Spanish wine, it was similar to a late harvest riesling or a sauternes, but unfortunately i forgot the particulars.

Wine list & service:
The wine list was extensive and well-chosen, lots from Europe as well as California. Some of the more commonly available wines seemed priced a bit high, but certainly not the worst I've seen. I don't often order the wines at the very high end (e.g. over $200 per bottle) but oddly enough, I got the impression that the REALLY expensive wines were LESS expensive at XYZ than they are at other places. But there were definitely wines to choose from under $40 per bottle. Before our meal, we ordered a glass of Gruner Veltliner for $7 per glass (these were a generous 1/4 bottle pour) -- this wine was very good, crisp with a very nice minerality on the finish.
Our server was great, very professional. He won giant brownie points when he came by our table with a decanter of 1995 Brunello di Montalcino that they had been tasting earlier -- offered us very generous tastes, on the house. Apparently our server is studying for a master sommelier course and is the wine buyer for the hotel ... he was excellent.

OVERALL ... I thought this dinner was definitely a good value at $110 ($29.95 dinners plus $14.95 wine pairings, plus our aperitif $7 glasses of wine, plus tax). The food was not astonishingly creative (other than the vast array of uses they found for creme fraiche) but it was high quality and well-executed, had generous portions, with good wine pairings. The service was professional and cordial. I also liked the atmosphere -- kind of modern decor with bold colors. I would definitely consider XYZ if I were entertaining someone who is not a particularly adventurous eater. If I'd had snotty service, OR if the bill had come out closer to $200 than $100, I might feel differently -- but I have to say that XYZ exceeded my expectations, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

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