Gentle curves and lines, soft colours against stark darks, an elegant, stylish blend of textures, plush carpets, frosted glass panels, elegant fabrics, shiny touches here and there. A comfortable dining room with modern designs, well suited to the restaurant of a boutique hotel.
The white slice of brioche is fine but ordinary, none of the characteristic swirling wisps in the microtexture. Another slice, a dark and sweet blueberry bread, is a step away from cake; there's a comforting coarse crumb, and it's lovely with decadent knobs of butter.
Was delighted with an exquisite and seamless '01 Pinot Noir (Sonoma, forgot winery, sorry) with sleek, beautiful dark fruit. What a pleasure to feel it glide down. Very grateful to the waitress over recommended it over a '01 Argyle Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, OR) that I was curious about.
Pleasantly surprised to receive an amuse bouche, which is uncommon here even in restaurants of this price range (main dishes centering in the high 20s). A broad Chinese spoon of chilled soft mussels with diced vegetables (I thought I caught cucumber among other things) and a chillingly crisp broth that the waiter mentioned as containing a dash of vodka.
The carrot soup was a disappointing appetizer. The soup itslef was very good : rich, thick concentrated carrotness that struck a good match with woodsy toasted and crunchy hazelnuts. A somewhat workable combination with a well sized portion of lobster that was just a tad overcooked, soft and without any vestige of that delightful and subtle crustacean resilence that I was hoping for. A few overpowering tart cranberries made the dish a precarious composition, the sweetness of the soup insufficient to keep up with the acidity, the nut butter of the hazelnuts mild compared to the excessive tartness that might have cut the toasty nut richness nicely if applied sparingly.
Then a very successful main course. Duck breast, with the last traces of pink in the middle, firm yet tender, good flavour, rimmed with skin, most of the white fat rendered away to leave a golden and brilliantly crispy edge. The three thoughtful accompaniements made for a fairly labour-intensive plate; the first two were more classical: a soft and gently tangy stewed red cabbage focuses on the homey aspect of duck, it's hearty with an almost sticky texture that makes me guess a generous hand with duck fat was at work; an airy puff of extremely flaky, delicate pastry filled with creamy pureed parsnips, a wintry sweetness that also matched duck well. The third side, a subtle, clever flavour combination: a finely diced mirepoix with carrots aplenty and the bright sheen of a citrus dressing that channels carnard a l'orange when tasted with the duck on one hand, but also adds a another layer of spicey complexity with cumin and/or coriander and cracked black pepper. Orange and duck and spice spiral deliciously.
Pear assiette offers five dessert variations on the theme of my favourite fruit. Among these I had the highest regard for the pear granita (or was it sorbet? it was so soft) with the flavour, perfume and even texture of a soft luxuriant pear.
A milder pear-ness in the acceptable pear charlotte, a frozen cream centre with faint pear and nice vanilla surrounded with. fingers of crumbly ladyfinger and topped little red cubes of what I thought were wine poached pear.
Then an exceptional creme caramel, dense but not pasty, very very smooth, that right amount of gelatiny stiffness. Topped with soft pears of pear and drizzles of a honey-like caramel.
A pretty good dark moist pear cake, decorated with a brittle parchement-thin pear chip.
Lastly, roasted pears on chocolate tart with dark velvety chocolate, a slow decadent ganache made with extremely good chocolate, not too fruitty and with the right amount of earthiness to contrast the pear.
Petit fours with the check: a good meringue (finely crumbed but not powdery or chalky), a grape stuffed with gentle goat cheese, a little standing square confection of peanut butter and chocolate. Another nice touch.
Expensive, refined cooking with both flaws and promise. While I'm not too forgiving at these prices, I was glad to see an earnest effort to please -- no one would have complained if amuse bouches and petit fours weren't offered; but they included them as standards. The kitchen appears to have an eagerness to incorporate seasonal ingredients, a sense of elan that seems classically grounded and not overwrought, a keeness for multifaceted presentations that aren't over indulgent. Not perfect right now and needs occasional editing, but might bear watching. The chef is new, according to the recent (latest?) Stuff@Nite. Wouldn't mind checking them out again in a few months.