Friend and I met in Baltimore last night for dinner at Soigne (midpoint between geographically challenged daters) and it is definitely worth checking out. vaguely pan asian, mostly v. creative and delicious.
we started with a glass each of Argyle sparkling wine (champagne to you and me) -- getting things off on the right foot. Tasted of pears. lovely crisp way to begin.
By dint of an earlier conversation it was a given that we would be having -- and splitting -- whatever foie gras appetizer they offered. We also agreed that we needed some tuna (the top two offering were ahi).
We ordered truffled ahi tartare, on a bed of pommes frites (here upscale version of a cross between canned potato sticks and durkee onions) with a little red caviar on top...not salmon roe. I didn't pay close enough attention to that part. very fresh and the tuna had a good bite, not mushy and over old. The truffle was very subtle, if present at all.
The foie gras was very good -- sauteed, with small bits of mango and a surprising and we both think unannounced (he says sneaky) diver scallop that pretended to be diced potato but was lovely nonetheless. Rumor of truffle but none really to speak of. This sat on a sticky black sauce that tasted of figs (figs heavily features across entire menu: no problem, all delicious), bitter carmel and espresso. Am hoping he did not notice me running finger gauchely through sauce and eating it that way once we had dispatched the foie gras. Am terribly gauche.
in first indication this might be fine personal match, we switched plates halfway through appetizer.
Dinner was for me a crispy duck breast, sliced and served with a fig reduction (told you). The side was a miso "risotto" though tasted more like very good fried rice and there was none of the creaminess of a risotto. was good; duck was fantastic. served medium rare.
Date, who is probably reading this so will allow him to identify self if he chooses, had rack of lamb on a white cheddar potato gratin with spinach. also excellent. the potato gratin was very good, almost bland, bitter -- an excellent accompaniement to the tender lamb which also had some roasted figs around it somewhere.
We ordered an extra side dish which was excellent -- a black truffled polenta cake. This was the only dish where we really tasted the truffle, and is served actually with the steak (described as hanger steak or something, which I couldn't abide given recent exposure to Iraqi butcher shops where hanging steak -- buzzing with flies -- temporarily turned me off any meat product described with any permutation of the word "hang.") The waitress was nice about bringing us the extra side, although temporarily flummoxed because no one has ever ordered a side separately. I do not understand this, as it is the side dishes that almost always determine what main dish I will order and are usually the most interesting. To prevent me from ordering multiple entrees at a single dinner I make a habit of asking for the more interesting sides...
We drank Wild Horse Pinot Noir, possibly 2000, maybe 2001. A very nice plummy cherry wine, perfect with everything but especially nice with the polenta.
Dessert was the only miss: we passed up a maple cheesecvake (too many "maples" in the description), a warm chocolate cake (tempting but restaurant cliche, as astute date noted), cheese plate (so much richness at dinner) and a few other offerings for pistachio-pistachio ice cream sandwich on raspberry coulis, much enthused about by waitress.
This was basically freezer-burned pistachio ice cream, too long familiar with a pistachio cookie so that the two were indistinguishable, and raspberry coulis was too sweet and too overwhelming to the ice cream. now if I were making it, I'd put pistachio ice cream (but a better version...best I've had actually was in Baghdad at the Milky Way ice cream parlor) into a sandwich of either pistachio shortbread or a pistachio brittle and serve with a little bitter carmel sauce...maybe just scrape it off the foie gras plate.
Dinner came to $160 -- before tip. Was very good and worth a repeat visit, but of course there is black olive and charleston and apparently bicycle and and and. Soigne is very nice inside -- white and modern, though not harsh Starkian, candlelit -- small. A good recommendation. Not busy at all.
They do a wednesday night 5 course pre-fixe that reads on the menu like an Iron chef competition -- one featured ingredient, 4 courses up to the chef's "mood" (hope it is a good one)...worth checking out.
thanks for suggestions!