The short of it is quite simply the single finest dining experience the lovely Denise and I have shared in our 10+ years together.
The long of it starts with our arrival where we were promptly greeted and escorted to a back booth directly across from the open kitchen, an unofficial chef's table as it were. The room is stunning...rich woods, beautiful upholstery, some fine glass objets d'art and a glass mirrored ribbon suspended from the ceiling and curving throughout the restaurant like a river floating above the proceedings.
Our server arrived promptly and took our martini orders. Then Brian, the restaurant manager came and introduced himself, knowing exactly who we were thanks to our email correspondence. He would spend a few minutes with us on several occasions, discussing everything from the food to the cosmetics biz to punk rock and the music biz...a gracious, knowledgable host.
Our server brought out a basket of breads, baked in-house, along with a plate holding a perfect half-sphere of butter and a ramekin of intensely green olive oil. The butter was to die for...hand-churned by a farmer located 8 hours north of town, it was almost as rich as a cheese. The olive oil was organic with a wonderful flavor. Off to a good start!
The menu is a stunner...be sure to check it out on their website. We spent several minutes perusing and negotiating. I initially wanted to do the West tasting menu, the missus lobbying successfully for the Harvest tasting menu, with wine pairings of course.
We enjoyed the amuse, a spoonful of a delicious marinated bean and corn ragout, then our server returned to let us know about the specials, including a steak tartare which we ordered with another round of martinis as a prelude to our tasting menu.
Before the tartare arrived, Brian presented us with a complimentary serving (full size I might point out) of their foie gras and chicken liver paté, on the menu from the day they opened. KILLER! The pate had the silkiest texture imaginable, the 1/2-inch thick slice edged in butter instead of the usual caul fat. Served with very thin slices of toasted egg bread containing raisins and dried apricots, the plate included a small mound of pear saffron chutney. The crisp yet chewy bread slathered with the fat-infused paté and topped with a bit of chutney made for a marvelous combination of flavors and textures.
Then our tartare arrived with another tee martoonies and it was every bit as good as the pate. It had a nicely chunky texture, studded with a healthy dose of garlic and graced with truffle oil. Absolutely deelish.
And now the tasting menu/wine pairings:
1st course - GOAT CHEESE
A multi-colored beetroot salad with warm Marcella goat cheese, candied walnuts and sherry vinaigrette. If we weren't yet convinced of the fineness of the ingredients and the cooking, this dish sealed the deal early on. Gorgeous deep red and golden beet nuggets were lovely both in color and flavor, the stalk-like roots adding a slightly bitter counterpoint to the beet sweetness. Chef David Hawksworth leans towards the subtle side in his preparations, and both the walnuts and the vinaigrette were perfectly understated complements to the dish.
The star was the goat cheese though, the salad was studded with nuggets of the densest, smoothest and possibly tangiest I have yet to enjoy. Slightly warmed, the cheese provided just the right contrast with the greens, beets and beetroot. The wine was Laurent-Perrier Brut champagne which proved to be the first of a list of perfectly selected pairings.
2nd course - SCALLOP
A north pacific Weathervane scallop, with duck confit ravioli and porcini consomme. Another winner, the plump scallop was nicely caramelized on top and succulent throughout. Perched on top of a delicious ravioli, the pasta al dente and the confit rich and unctious. Bringing sea and fowl to earth was the lovely porcini consomme, poured at the table from a sauce boat into the serving bowls. Exquisite, as was the Yalumba Viognier "Y Series" '04, one of our favorite whites.
3rd course - RABBIT
This was the highlight for us. A loin, wrapped in prosciutto with a sage leaf running through the center, sliced into coins about a 1/4-inch thick. Topped with some intensely flavored Concord grapes and sided with squash risotto, we loved every bite. The rabbit was succulent, with the prosciutto and sage adding some nice salt and earth to the bunny flesh. The grapes were unbelievable...pure concentrated grape flavor that seemed to explode on the tongue. My only complaint with the entire evening is that they could have made the risotto portion larger. It was soooooo good I wanted more, but it was probably a good thing...given the amount of food we went through I would have been miserable instead of perfectly sated at the end of the evening. Wine was a Cantina Beato Pinot Nero "Savardo" '03. Gorgeous ruby red color, with a bit of duskiness to the taste, it paired well with the richness of the rabbit and risotto.
4th course - BRIE
Described as pecan raisin crackers with brie and honey, warm concord grape blueberry compote and grape nivole sorbet. We expected a sizable cheese plate with crackers and the fruit accompaniment. What we got was a delicate little sandwich composed of impossibly thin, crisp crackers holding a thin slice of cheese and a spot of honey. Combined with the intensely flavored compote and sorbet (now up to three assaults by the killer grapes), this dish was a marvel of multiple textures and flavors. Wine was the Michele Chiarlo Moscato d'Asti "Nivole" '02. Rich and sweet, a bit buttery, it left a nice round feel on the palate, with a touch of tartness helping to offset the intense fruitiness of the grape accompaniments.
5th course - RASPBERRY
Fresh local berries, layered with lemon wafers, cream cheese ice cream and nobo tea syrup. This dessert was a faboo finale to an amazing meal. It arrived looking like a tiny 3-dimensional artwork, a napoleon only a couple of inches square. Each layer was composed of 2 rows of 3 berries, separated by a row of similarly sized balls of the cream cheese ice cream. The wafers were thin and crisp, with a subtle lemon undercurrent to add a bit of brightness. The nobo tea syrup was both sweet and earthy and help bring all the ingredients together for a wonderful layering of flavors. Wine was a De Botorli Botrytis Semillon "Noble One" '01. Totally different than the dessert wine from the previous course, this was yet another masterful pairing.
And finally the petit fours arrived with our bill. A couple of pineapple/cherry gels and couple of ginger cream chocolate truffles, all made in-house, and perfectly delicious. We sat back with some excellent coffee, reveling in the glow of an astounding meal served up in a city that we look forward to visiting many more times in the future. And you can be sure that West will be a part of each of our return trips. If nothing else we want to experience the 3 other seasons, both in the city and on the menu.