I'm really lovin' restaurant week :-))
Tonight Chilepm and I met for dinner at Tapenade in La Jolla. Based on posts here and word of mouth we both had high expecations for our meal, and I am please to report that neither one of us was disappointed.
Eating back-to-back meals in well respected, well run places, both essentially French, has provided a great opportunity to compare and contrast. Where the Marine Room pretty much pulled out the stops, Tapenade was more low-key and less showy, yet still an excellent meal in elegant surroundings. Where the Marine Room was upscale beachy casual, the interior of Tapenade is sleek, stylish and sophisticated. The room was done in shades of mustard with canvas baffles draping the high ceiling to aid the acoustics, and assorted wine and/or wine related photos adorned the walls.
We were seated immediately and had a chance to look over the normal menu in addition to the Restaurant Week one. Their standard menu was way more interesting than the RW menu, including such things as a special tasting menu of black truffles, wild boar, and suckling pig. Things that aren't the standard bill of fare in San Diego. I'll go back just to try those!!
The first thing to arrive on our table was the bread basket and a small ramekin of tapenade that was completely addicting.
I knew going into this meal that the appetizer course would be weak for me. 2 salads and another Lobster Bisque. I seriously almost ordered the Lobster Bisque, but I really didn't want to keep repeating the same note over and over, so I opted for the Mesculin Salad with Olive Oil Vinaigrette. The greens were plain, impeccably fresh and the vinaigrette a good balance of oil and acid. But, it was a little over dressed and there was a LOT of salad. I could have done the salad as well at home, and it was the only low note of the meal.
Chilepm had the Beet Salad with Warm Artisinal Goat Cheese. This is what I *should* have ordered, it was great. A huge round of chopped roasted beets was topped with a tangle of dressed mesculin. Nestled into the salad weeds were 4 or 5 small chunks of lightly crusted, still warm, but very mellow goat cheese. Both salads were larger than we expected, but we both managed to polish them off.
Chilepm had the Wild Mushroom Raviolis, which were completely divine. Tender pasta sheets had been wrapped around an intensely earthy filling of wild mushrooms to create raviolis that left a rich and haunting taste on the palate. This dish is not for the faint of heart, you've got to like mushrooms because that flavor is clear and present to the nth degree. The dish would have been too overpowering for me, but it definitely wasn't for Chilepm, she was in fungi heaven and savoring every minute of it.
I had the Wild Salmon with chickpeas, corn and English peas in a wild mushroom emulsion, and I was quite content with my choice. I know searing salmon on the outside and leaving it raw on the inside is the trendy way to cook and serve it these days, but I like my salmon cooked through so that it is just done in the center, which is how I got it, and without asking. It was moist, tender and not an overwhelmingly large piece of fish. I wasn't exactly sure how the chickpeas and salmon would work together, but the emulsion with the chickpeas and spring vegetables really played up the freshness and sweetness of the fish.
Chilepm had the Butternut Squash Roulade which was an interesting way to use a vegetable normally served as soup or a side. But it was exquisite. I had what was listed on the menu as Chocolate Fondant, which turned out to be a chocolate volcano cake. And it was well done, in fact, it's one of the best renditions that I've had locally. The roulade was accompanied by a butter pecan ice cream and some caramel sauce. The chocolate fondant by coconut ice cream and a passion fruit caramel sauce. I would be hard pressed to say which one was best because they were both right on the mark.
From the warm greeting when we stepped through the door to the parting good night, the service was attentive, efficient and knowledgeable.
I guess the only question now is, how soon am I going back, and am I going back for the black truffle menu or one of the other intriguing menu options. So far, Chilepm and I are batting .1000 for Restaurant Week. We've eaten well and been treated well; like I said, I'm lovin' it.