Last friday, we took a day off and treated ourselves to a tasting menu at No. 9 park for lunch. It was our first time there and we thought that a tasting menu would be a good way to try the best No. 9 park has to offer. I must say that we were a bit underwhelmed, but then again none of the courses included pasta, which I heard is their strength (that's just kind of annoying -- if it's your strength, shouldn't it be part of your tasting menu)?
The highlights of the meal were a corn and lobster bisque and seared striped bass. The lobster bisque was creamy but not heavy and very "lobstery". Sweet corn was so wonderful with it. It was like the essense of New England in a very refined sort of way. Paired with sparkling white from Loire is was just magnificent. Striped bass was perfectly crisp on the skin side and juicy inside. It came with some couscous, marinaded cherry tomatoes and (the best part) deep-fried zucchini blossom. What a lovely dish. A pinot noir rose from Sancere was a very pleasant match.
The rest of the dishes were just ok. The crepe with mussels did not do much for me. For one thing, I like hot crepes more than room temperature ones (I guess they were trying to make a summery dish). The mussels didn't really form a cohesive filling. In other words, if they just gave you a little crepe and put mussels on the side it would taste the same as when the mussels were wrapped insides a crepe. Poached chicken stuffed with fennel and wrapped in savoy cabbage was as good as poached chicken gets -- tender, juicy, but something was missing for me. I guess I like my meats grilled and roasted. I like that crispy skin and caramelized fat that is just not there when chicken is poached. The beet puree that came with the chicken went nicely with it, but the chateauneuf-du-pape style californian red that they served with it somehow didn't work for us. It went well with the beets, but didn't make that final leap to the chicken. I find that restaurants do that a lot for some strange reason. They put a couple teaspoons of some sauce on your plate and try to match the wine to that sauce instead of the main ingredient.
Out of desserts, my favorite was the appricot sorbet pallet cleanser. It was the creamiest sorbet I've ever had. The nectarine shake with a donut was ok. The shake was very similar to shorbet (but not as good) and the donut was a donut. Donuts in upscale restaurants are like the new creme brulee or panna cotta -- all of a sudden everyone wants to do donuts. The only time I ever enjoyed one in an upscale restaurant was when Rob Evans of Hugo's in Portland stuffed it with foie gras. Now THAT was worth eating. Sorry, I digress... The final dessert was a chocolate cannolli with chocolate filling and respberry sauce. The raspberry sauce was nice, but as far as cannolli went, the shell tasted a bit over caramelized. Actually, it was more like a chocolate florentine with chocolate mousse, but they called it a cannolli. I guess, I just like normal cannolli better.
The food was 48/person. And we shared one wine pairing for 26. The wine was quite good and well priced and mostly well paired with the food. The food left me a bit disappointed. In a 6 course menu, I'd like more than 2 great dishes.