Saturday, March 10, 2007


So... we've posted about Cuvae before. We've always liked it, but we went there tonight for a nice, quiet dinner for our 9th anniversary. It's a little different - they've rearranged the menu to be more of an Asian fusion tapas style place. Rather than appetizers/entrees/desserts, the proteins and starches are basically split up, so that you can order all sorts of crazy combinations.

Tonight, we got:

* Dry-fried garlic pork ribs
* Shiitake mushrooms
* Chayote squash
* Maple duck breast
* "Poki bites"

as well as a "Crab with a green tea vinaigrette" amuse bouche.

Everything was really good, as it always is, and there were a couple other people in the restaurant, which was nice. The food's never been a problem, but the location's troublesome for the restaurant.

The ribs were great - not really "tender," but had a nice, meaty texture. The sauce appeared to be honey, soy sauce, garlic, and maybe something spicy, like sriracha. The sauce was good enough that once the ribs were gone, we got some rice to mop it up.

The mushrooms were incredibly 'meaty' - which I tend to mean that you could eat them all by themselves, and feel like you've had a complete meal. Heck, you could probably use a vegetable side dish to go with the mushrooms.

The perfect accompaniment to the mushrooms would be the Chayote squash, which used to be one of their vegetable sides for the entrees. I have absolutely no idea how it's prepared, or what they're using to give it the flavor that they do. It's rich - it almost tastes smoky, but the texture is absolutely perfect - tender, but not mushy. It's a combination of the rich smokiness and a very delicate flavor that gives it a great balance.

The duck was delicious - tender meat, crispy skin (it's no Great China Peking Duck, natch), and a nice sauce. I wish I could describe it better, but Cuvae does seem to use a lot of flavors I'm not really familiar with enough to 'deconstruct.' Still, the duck was done perfectly.

The "Poki Bites" are clearly their old ahi poki appetizer, served in a slightly smaller form factor. My guess is that people often wanted more, numerically, to split between larger groups, and that by making them smaller, they're able to maintain a reasonable cost to the dish, while making it accessible to lots of people. Six little bites is a good number, divisible easily by two or three, and enough for (obviously) up to six for larger parties. The only thing that disappointed me was that the ratio of fish to crispy "cup" thing was slightly different, and it just didn't feel as luxurious.

We finished off the meal with a really tasty ginger creme brulee, which tastes more or less like you'd imagine if it were very well done.

It's strange - every meal I've had at Cuvae has been satisfying, but it's clear that the restaurant is never going to be a destination spot. In part, it's the location - I think it's just not a great neighborhood for a restaurant like that, and in part, it's the overall presentation. While I don't mind it, because I *know* about it, I think that just walking by, the restaurant sadly has almost zero curb appeal. The main dining room is in the back of the restaurant, and the kitchen's up front. There's a large patio space to eat outdoors, but that's essentially useless for 1/2 the year.

I'd really like them to succeed (at least enough where I can get in regularly without too much trouble), but at the same time, every time we choose to go, I worry that when we get there, we'll find they've gone out of business.


Blogger ei-nyung said...

The flavor of the ginger creme brulee was so reminiscent of a specific ginger candy (made with honey and malt syrup, I think) that I used to have as a kid that, quite embarrassingly and completely involuntarily, I actually got tears in my eyes.

It's the taste of my youth.

A guy used to come around, pushing a big-assed cart, clacking his giant snips, calling to the neighborhood kids, much like how the ice cream man might call to the kids here, with a giant slab of candy. He'd use his plane to shave off curls of the ginger candy, wrapping the curls around little popsicle sticks.

He'd sell us a little blob for about 50 won, which is about 5 cents. Or you could bring him scrap metal, and he'd decide how much candy you could get for it.

8:51 PM  
Blogger h said...

What a fantastic story, Ei-Nyung.

10:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home