When Red Bird first opened, we ate there a number of times, and we were big fans. Then we hit a not-so-successful-dinner, so we lapsed for a long stretch because we kept waiting for the menu to change.
We had an early Thurs night dinner there today, and really enjoyed ourselves. Sometimes one server can make all the difference, and that was the case tonight with Catherine, as warm, professional efficient and thoughtful a waitperson as you would want. She managed everything so the food flowed seamlessly and we were pleased with our choices.
We were both having our first meal of the day, so we started with 2 apps and a pasta and for me, they were the highlight of the evening. Red Bird continues its wise tradition of playing its dependable cards; the Short Rib (in this case,simply braised, served with a fantastic farro and roasted celery root .
I am copping this for home ) and the Potato Gnocchi (with House-Made Sausage, chevre, parm, tomatoes, garlic .) If a hidden camera were recording us,
it would have been pretty funny because we were supposed to share these dishes, but we each kept eating 'one more bite' before handing our plate over
to the other. The pasta with shrimp and tasso- needed punch; once I added a lot of lemon juice and some chili flakes, it was delicious.
Our entrees were a very satisfying Swordfish w/ Sicilian Tomato Orzo, raisins, pine nuts, olives; a side of beautifully sauteed kale; and a Cioppino that had abundant and lovingly cooked seafood, but in a base that was overpowered by tomato and was strangely sweet (uncooked Pernod ?)and lackluster. Fortunately I could fall back on the shrimp pasta, and bring home the cioppino for doctoring.
The dessert program has really upped its game since we were last there; it's nice to see the talented Pastry Chef confident and excited about her creations (she stopped by our table.) I think I had a version of this dish on a previous visit, but I was very happy with the Valrhona Chocolate Souffle with Chocolate Cocoa Nib Ice Cream and Orange Crème Anglaise. I wanted like crazy to get the 'Dr.Seuss-like' Chocolate Peppermint Vacherin, AND the Bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce.... but that will be for next time. Speaking of which, our server said they will likely change the menu in the next few weeks, so before they do, we hope to get back for a repeat of those amazing apps.
The thing that was really pronounced to us tonight was that this kitchen has an unusual strength- while delivering proteins that are beautifully cooked and flavorful, the side starches and vegetables are often the highlight of the dish. I left there tonight inspired to go home and cook that way as well.