Friday, March 24, 2006

Pan? Nice.

For my thirtieth birthday, Ei-Nyung took my mom and me to Chez Panisse. I'd heard about it for a long time, and even being someone who really enjoys good food, I'd never been. The dinner was excellent. Not the life-changing experience that was our dinner at Morimoto, but a spectacular meal overall.

1.) Halibut - this was a raw cut of halibut pounded flat. On top of the halibut was a mix of herbs, and the whole thing had some sort of lemony butter or oil drizzled on top. The lemon was really punchy, and really nicely complemented the delicate flavor of the halibut. Hands down the favorite course of the night, it was light, bright, delicate, and perfectly balanced. I could have eaten this one dish, and paid the full price of the meal, and been satisfied to some degree. It'd have been expensive, but still worth it on some level. That it was just the first course... well, that's quite a treat.

2.) Ravioli - this was some sort of game hen ravioli in a consomme of some sort. Oh yeah! There's some accurate describin'. Three ravioli, basically stuffed with a smoky, slightly herby mix of dark meat, in a thin, very delicate consomme. Again, the thing that I find most appealing about really "good" food is the balance of flavors - this is what sets Angelfish apart from other Sushi restaurants, or the quality that made the dishes at Morimoto extraordinary. The ravioli & the consomme worked beautifully together - the texture of the ravioli was meaty - the filling was still chunky, not smoothly pureed. Each bite had a slightly different consistency and flavor, depending on how much of the consomme, or the pasta you'd managed to get with the filling.

3.) The main cours - honestly, this is the only part of the meal that was even a marginal disappointment. It was a fire-roasted quail, with a salad, artichokes, and some potatoes. The basic issue I had with the dish wasn't really the flavor, just that everything felt greasy - the quail, the dressing on the salad, the potatoes - it all had a bit of a sheen to it. It tasted great, but some contrast would have been good - if the salad had a bit of the punchiness of the starter, in addition to the smooth, smoky flavor of the quail, I think I would have been a bit more able to appreciate it. As it was, it was like hitting a note, and just hollding it for a while. Not bad, but not my favorite dish of the night.

4.) Dessert - maple profiteroles, with a chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was like getting hit in the face with a chocolate bar. Really dark and rich. The ice cream and the pastry were very delicate - the pastry remained crispy, and the ice cream had a mild, subtle flavor that let each part of the dessert bring its own flavor to the party. The caramel-like drizzle over the top was crunchy and sweet, the chocolate brought a slight bitterness, the pastry had an almost wheaty earthiness, and the ice cream was ... er... creamy, and again, sort of earthy in its maple flavor. There were some glazed nuts that added to the variety of textures and flavors. Everything worked like a charm. Ei-Nyung had mentioned it was my birthday, so mine had a small candle, and a paper cutout of a banner that said, "Happy Birthday".

All in all, an excellent meal, and for what it was, even reasonably priced. I'd definitely go back for a special occasion.


Blogger ei-nyung said...

The printed menus we got to take home say we had:

* Northern halibut marinated with lime, fennel and herb mélange

* Guinea hen ravioli in consummé with olio nuovo

* Grilled Wolfe Ranch quail with asparagus, spring onions and artichoke salad and foie gras toast

* Maple-pecan ice cream profiteroles with bourbon caramel.

The café menu (and my memory) seems to suggest that the artisan cheeses we had were Ossau Irati, Clisson, and Comté.

5:08 PM  
Blogger ei-nyung said...

I wish I could eat that halibut all day.

5:12 PM  
Blogger casacaudill said...

So glad to hear you guys had a great meal! Dining at Chez Panisse for our 10 year dativersary was truly one of the dining highlights of my life. Next time I go, I want to make sure they're not serving quail though. I'm not hip to the quail.

- Becky

10:50 AM  

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