whenever a friend comes into town a weekend of gastronomy is surely to ensue. reservations were made for approximately 6 to 8 people on thursday afternoon and everyone was able to fit us in fairly well near our desired time.
:: czehoski :: friday 7pm. part of the intention of coming to this place was to go to the apparently "it" bar, but i'm sad to report that by the time we had finished our meal, 10pm we found the bar level full and the second level reserved for a party.
anyhow, onto the dinner! service was fairly apt but we found out that on friday/saturday they will not offer you tasting menu unless you call ahead with fair warning. so we picked out a wine, shiraz viognier by metier (on consignment to the restaurant and i thought a perfect balance between the two grapes) and ordered the goat's cheese, beef tartare, 20 leaf salad and quail for starters. i didn't try the cheese or the salad but was told that it was good. the beef tartare was quite fantastic with it's boiled quail egg and yam crisps. i did find it highly peculiar that it didn't come with any toast points. the quail was good although as i'm trying to recall it i realize that it wasn't particularily memorable.
mains were the sweetbreads, squash agnolotti, pot au feu, and cornish hen. the general concensus with the table seemed to be that the food was good, definitely competent, but somewhat missed the mark in pizzazz. i had eaten the sweetbreads which were perfectly crisped on the outside and beautifully tender and smooth on the inside. it came with a 3 rice risotto that was a great compliment. the pot au feu combination contained a long list of game meats that i can't recall but arrived as a light stew with a large braised duck thigh on top. the stew was well done but the duck thigh had lost a little too much fat and was slightly dry and peeled into strips far too easily.
dessert was the 20 hour apples with dolce de leche, marscapone cheesecake and a cru with chocolate mousse. the 20 hour apples were rather void of flavour without ensuring that some dolce de leche was involved. the marscapone cheesecake was wondefully smooth and delightful considering how not fond i am of cheesecake because of chalkiness. i was told the chocolate dessert was good.
service was attentive enough, very helpful in altering and suggesting wine choices and coat check makes life incredibly handy. the setting is nice but considering the general impression that this restaurant is "innovative" i think has slightly missed the mark. incrdibly competent food, but nothing truly wowed me. before tip our total was $320 for 6.
:: hiro sushi :: saturday 7pm. a couple of us diners arrived late for our reservation to find out from our waiting companions that we were to be ushered out at 9:30pm. not really an issue but definitely a warning i'd like to hear over the phone especially when you call me to confirm the reservation the day of. the room is in full swing and there are diners scattered everywhere and hiro working rather silently at the bar. the atmosphere is fairly mellow and the noise level low. the decor feels a bit lacking compared to our usual trendy digs, but something about the old world japanese kitsch just works.
three of us order the omakase and for two of us it's an entirely new experience. the other three order a hamachi teriyaki, sushi plate, deluxe sushi plate, seared beef and california rolls. everyone enjoys these dishes with few words except that their tolerance to wasabi seems to be significantly lower than mine. a couple people are convinced that the in-house soy sauce (asking for more is an extra charge) has wasabi mixed in. i can say without a doubt that it's not, but their streaming tears say otherwise.
omakase begins with a shared plate of smoked mackeral dressed with scallions, ginger, a light soy mixture and it is fantastic. light smoked flavour just enough to enhance but not overpower the fish and leave it moist and tender. then arrives soup, mackeral soup with tofu. light wonderful broth, but nothing particularly spectacular. third dish, cooked mackeral in a miso sauce and a fried yam with taro chip. we seem to notice a particular theme in our dinner at this point... not particularily impressed but not distressed. i had the yam and taro and it was definitely delicious and a nice break from fish. cow tongues and teriyaki hamachi, as from before we know the hamachi is excellent with a milky rice on top. the cow tongue has a nice silky texture to it although slightly difficult to pull apart. the okra is a great accompaniament and the spiced preserved kumquat much better to clear the palate at the end. we each received individual sushi plates mimicking the deluxe sushi served to our other dining partner. all very fresh and quite delicious (seared salmon, salmon, ebi, toro, cooked shrimp, unagi, etc.) but to some the wasabi amounts were highly overpowering. at this point we're absolutely stuffed and trying to push the last bits of sushi onto our friends.
to be honest, i was fairly disappointed. but this is mostly because i was expecting something highly irregular, very inventive.. and not just items on the menu put in front of us in the order of their choosing. we also didn't receive a dessert for the omakase which i know others have. don't get me wrong, the quality of the dishes was great, but i was much more surprised with my experience at japango. dinner with sake and a beer was approx. $360 before tip. additionally, i personally felt slightly rushed out the door because of our time limit though we were done in just the right time. i wonder if that's what stopped them from serving us dessert.....
:: thuet :: brunch 12pm. if you arrive much later in the afternoon i suggest calling ahead and asking the hostess to reserve you a basket of pastries, you won't regret it. the setting is beautiful when you arrive, the scent of freshly baked goods invades the entrance way as the bakery storefront is just to your right. it's upscale bistro and it oozes a kind of relaxed luxery to it. we are seated quickly at a round table, very nice for 8 people as we can easily converse between all of us. the staff seem friendly enough and very helpful in tea choices and our orders are quickly taken and menus whisked away. the menu reflects a 3 course meal and everything on it sounds fantastic. fresh orange juice and tea arrives well enough but the coffee is apparently brewing this moment. it takes a while, is delicious but not quite worth the wait. a bakset of pastries is ordered and shared between us, 1 pain au chocolate, 1 almond croissant, 1 raisin brioche, 1 cinnamon danish and possibly another item. everything is shared but the general concensus here is that the croissants rule the roost. incredibly flaky, but so beautifully moist and buttery on the inside, we all make plans to take some home with us from the bakery.
mains arrive in due time, steak kobe hache with a poached egg, eggs benedict (minus the perfunctory ham), poached eggs with 3 types of sausage, 9 grain waffle, and buttermilk pancakes. all very well done and the waffles come in a ridiculous portion. she's in fact dishing them out to anyone who will take some and still has to leave some on the plate. the poached eggs come in a variety of doneness. the ones with the eggs benedict in particular seem to all come rather well done. the sauce is devine and holds up really well. the frites with the kobe hache are lovely and sprinkled with shavings of some cheese, not particularily identifiable in it's trace amounts. the 3 sausage types are incredibly variable with a lovely version of a blood sausage, pork and one that we concur must be an intenstine mixture.
after all this, two of us still have the urge to order a dessert. the tarte tatin it is! a poached apple in a maple syrup mixture with a caramel ice cream. it far from disappoints and while personally for me the apple is a touch on the crunchy side, still very well done.
we notice at this point that although 4 people came to clear our plates away... not one has offered another cup of coffee or suggestions for a bill. we're nearing up on hour 2.5 and flag our waitress down to tell her we're done. the bill comes to a total of $203 before tax for the 8 of us. turns out that we waited too long and at 2:30pm they have completely run out of croissants and have only 2 danishes left and a variety of bread loaves.