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The Studio at The Montage Resort

kc girl | Aug 16, 2003 12:12 PM

Can't say enough about the "tasting" menu at The Studio. Maybe it was the company I was with, but the total experience was great. One designer even asked what color the walls were and within 1/2 hour, the server had a personalized Montage card with the exact brand and blend of the paint written on it.

First, she told us we could mix menu items in place of some of the tasting menu items, which I chose to do because I can't stand blue cheese or fois gras. Then she told us that each plate is just a few bites and not to worry, we will get our fill (did we look like eating "hicks").

An amuse bouche brought a giggle from one of the guest because he said it looked like a hush puppy. It was about the size of a horsepill, a crab cake mixture coated in a fine grained batter and lightly fried, and set in 1/4 tsp of creamy corn sauce.

Each item was served with a new and different set of silverware - an Italian maker, and the plates themselves were all very unique. Frette linens.

Next was one scallop, cooked perfectly with no hint of rawness inside, yet very soft throughout even with a slight crispy butter fried finish and tidbits of cauliflower in a creamy sauce. The sea bass had the same cooked quality and was faling apart without being at all dry flaky. The plate with one piece of short rib (that had already fallen off the bone before served) and one piece of ribeye steak (medium rare - they didn't ask) with another "hush puppy" - this time a round one with a mushroom filling - was served on a long, oblong platter with formed ceramic handles on each side with two sauces, a thick bourguignon and a red wine reduction sauce (that had a hint of bbq) stretched across the plate in ribbons. The sauces were always plated first, not drizzled over the item and most dishes had a fine sauce, some with hints of bacon, some with hints of lobster, some with creamy butter.

The blue cheese was well-aged and imported from Tasmania - I asked for a switch on that to a Winchester Gouda. It was served with the tiniest bit of green chutney that had a touch of jalapeno in it - not evident to some, and one half of a walnut, and water crackers or thinly sliced double baked bread with slight garlic enhancement.

The description of one dish, crab with cilantro aoili and grapefruit seemed like a fav dish of mine from Bayside, but when presented, was nothing like it. It was topped with what I call "tickle lettuce" and a crescent of candied grapefruit sliced paper thin on a mandoline. The small, whole crabclaw meat seemed to have been steamed in slightly savory liquid.

Most flavors were subtle and took some quiet moments to taste every ingredient. We had just sparkling water then one swithced to Fiji water which were always replenished as we sipped it low. We didn't opt for wine, but that's just another dimension.

We did add along with the tasting menu another dish of very plump prawns wrapped in procuitto that was swimming in a lobster sauce.

Desert was an ice cream sandwich, but none I've ever seen before. Two chocolate cookies were like brownies with a great fudgy softness and slightly crisp outer edge. Ice cream was black cherry, again with no overpowering flavor. A very thin mandoline slice of banana, dried to cracker quality was placed crescent inward through the ice cream and the teaspoon of hand whipped cream. I ate little more than a few bites of cookie. Then, after that, they brought a small plate of assorted one-bite cookies and a one-bite tart.

The dinner was truly labor intensive as each course was served with a new place setting. We had about four servers. The one that brought two rolls on a plate to us, returned to ask if I wanted another potatoe bread roll or if Robert wanted another cinnamon raisin roll, even though we hadn't eaten the other on the plate. Then, he returned after the fourth dish to rid our tables of crumbs with a silver sweep. Yet, the service never seemed intrusive. We wanted to have an abundance of 20s and hand one to each server as they brought our dish or replenish, but alas, the Prince was not at our table to do that - it just felt like it.

For $95 each, the tasting menu was a wonderful experience. And, the view was spectacular. I heard no table in The Studio is without an ocean view, but ours was just inside the open patio with view of the luscios lawn, simple garden, and sea cliffs harboring the flood light illuminated waves. We were surprised it was 3 hours before we emerged back to reality. (and, then I felt a little guilty about leaving only a 20% tip.)

While I've heard mixed reviews on the menu and service there, I can only wonder if we weren't just "set up" by an angel. One of our diners was quoted to be "under the influence" of the chef (James Boyce).

I want to do it again, simple elegance, comfortable eccentricity.

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