By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
The service at the Restaurant is beyond courtly. It's in fact so pitch-perfect that it made me glow with pleasure. Every server, from the bread man to the wine steward, uses your name (your last name, that is, as in: "Welcome to Restaurant, Ms. Shepherd." Or "May I pour you more water, Ms. Shepherd?" Or "Pardon my reach, Ms. Shepherd."). I was offered newspapers and magazines (the solo diner's first resort, which I refused). My napkin was placed in my lap. My chair adjusted just so. I was visited by a headwaiter, a waiter, a wine steward, a food runner, a bread server, and a table busser, all of whom cared deeply. My flatware and service plates were changed and updated with great precision. It was a terrific performance.
As for my five courses, one was ho-hum; the rest were stellar. The tomato soup was mysterious and smoky, topped with a petite, warm morel dumpling and mined with emerald-green herbal infusions. It was flecked here and there with the most delicate little basil and oregano sprouts, dusky, peppery, and sweet. A 2002 Echelon chardonnay was served with it. But the second course, mahi mahi, fell completely flat. The fish had purportedly been basted in annatto, a subtle flavor that I certainly couldn't detect, and the fillets were perched on mealy, dry yucca fries. The wine, a sauvignon blanc from Robert Pecota, was the one pairing I didn't find convincing. Even so, when the mahi was followed by rare duck breast with a grilled peach, all was forgiven. Here was a dish I'll remember forever: the duck breast pink and moist and fatty, set against a perfumed, warm peach flecked with lots of cracked pepper and coriander seeds, topped with a tiny sprig of flowering mint and surrounded by a moat of red curry vinaigrette. It was the perfect iteration of summertime. The Alderbrook pinot noir served with the duck had unfortunately gone off, but when I pointed this out, a new bottle was opened with great bustle and profuse apologies. And the new pour was delicious with what I had left of the bird light-bodied and exuding warm cherry and spices.
The most tender, dreamy, and luscious tenderloin of bison was brought out next, on a bed of tiny dark "caviar" lentils alongside melting roasted figs in a bottomless, velvety truffle jus. What a superb bite this was the textures of the meaty bison and sweet figs set against the fragrantly earthy lentils. Along with it came my favorite wine of the evening, a smooth, rich, round and very drinkable 2002 Italian Campofiorin Masi that made an ideal accompaniment for this aromatic dish.
Dessert was lovely to look at, better to dig into an expensive-looking square of rich chocolate that seemed to emanate light, perched on a buttery nougat and festooned with tall, dark chocolate squiggles like a lady's hat. A strip of orange marmalade flecked with fresh mint separated dark from light: a tiny round of refreshing coconut ice cream to take the edge off the chocolate. The Quady Essencia orange muscat served with it ("Orange and chocolate always compliment each other so well," the steward confided as he poured) was delightful.
By the time the tropical fruit gum drop, the butter cookie, and the chocolate candy arrived, I'd lost any trace of self-consciousness. I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment. Clearly, I belonged here, sipping my cup of bitter espresso, savoring the deep and luxurious easiness of my own company. I was someone I could do this with again, sometime.