Monday, November 07, 2005

Cru Birthday

The best thing about my birthday in recent years is the food. Granted, I don't particularly like birthdays, but they are, at the very least, the excuse for a nice meal out. This year, at my insistence (it only took five birthdays!), Adam made the reservation. Actually, he made a number of reservations, but we settled on Cru.

Cru does four amuses, but one (a variation on a monte cristo) contained meat, which rarely happens to us. The other three were all solidly good: a delicate cone filled with goat cheese, a fried risotto ball, and a small, soft cheese tartlet.

After looking over the menu and talking to the waitress, we decided on two tasting menus, the regular one and a three course white truffle menu. Disappointingly, she was very inflexible about substitutions and said that any changes would require that we be charged the a la carte price for any dish we subbed in. We've never had a non-vegetarian tasting menu that doesn't require at least one substitution, and I've never been told that I would have to pay an additional item cost. The service throughout the meal wasn't bad in any specific way, but didn't feel particularly good either. Since the regular tasting menu was four courses and only three courses of the white truffle tasting menu did not contain meat, we decided to add an additional trio of crudos to even out the flighting.

The first course of the regular tasting menu was "Gently cooked Cobia, Tart Pear Puree, Cauliflower and Yogurt Dressing," though it was announced as hamachi when set down on the table. I wasn't a huge fan, thought the flavors were too mellow, but Adam liked it pretty well. For the crudos, we got "White Tuna, Olive Praline, Caper-Espresso and Frisee," "Langoustine, Green Papaya-Truffle Salad, Gooseberry and Gin Sauce," and "Kinme Dai, Micro Shiso, Red Salt, and Laudemio Olive Oil." The menu descriptions made the preparations seem very complex with all these ingredients, but actually the garnishes were very tiny and only added a hint of flavor. As the fish was all excellent quality, that is not necessarily a bad thing, though I would have preferred a bit more intensity. The tuna was excellent and much more subtle than I would have expected from the strong flavors of olive, caper, and espresso. The langoustine was my favorite, and the kinme dai, which was the most bland tasting, was my least.

The second course gave us our first truffle course, which was absolutely amazing. It was the "Truffled Mozzarella: Toasted Almond & White Polenta Soup, Braised Fennel and Quince Puree." Imagine a savory pool of slightly melting, fresh mozzarella in a pool of buttery, truffly deliciousness. I'm not sure that this is so much a testament to the innovation of the chef as to his ability to combine wonderfully luxurious ingredients, but I did not complain. The other dish was diver scallops with mushrooms and some sort of cooked greens (can't remember exactly). The greens tasted vaguely like creamed spinach, and this one wasn't amazing.

Third course was "Pullet Egg: Parmesan Broth, Cracked Irish Oats with Guanciale, Olive-truffle Sauce." Like the previous truffle dish, this one was dominated by the taste of creamy decadence rather than any particularly subtle flavors. Again, delicious. The "Carnaroli Risotto, West Coast Sea Urchin, Basinga Tomato, Capers and Tarragon" was very good, well cooked, one of the better dishes of the meal.

Fourth course on the truffle menu was "European Turbot: Green asparagus and Lentils Passatina, A Sea Urchin Sabayon." This was the most disappointing of the truffle dishes by far. The fish was pretty plain, despite it's coating of white truffles. The regular tasting dish, however, was the best of its menu. The "Main Lobster, Lobster-Squash Bisque, Shiitake and Apple Hubbard Squash Tatin" was rich and delicious. We savored every last bite of it.

The regular tasting came with a pre-dessert of "Plum-Sake Consomme, Yogurt Sorbet and Yuzu Cloud." Nothing amazing, but a nice, light taste before dessert. We selected the "Sweet Potato Beignet, Huckleberry Compote, Vanilla-Pernod Ice Cream & Boylans Root Beer." This was absolutely delicious. Like Hearth's doughnuts, this was a well-done, dressed up version of a sweet comfort food. The "Passion Brulee, Coconut Tapioca, Strawberry Mouse and Basil Ice Cream," was also good, though not as good. The strawberry mouse just tasted like sorbet, though the basil was interesting and refreshing. Tapioca is always fun. The petit fours were excellent. There was a warn, soft chocolate truffle, a pineapple gelee (I've become a big fan of gelees) , and a molasses candy that tasted like gingerbread.

We also had a number of good to interesting glasses of wine, which sadly I don't remember. I'd love to go back with a true oenophile. In the meantime, I will enjoy a newfound appreciation for the potential of white truffles.
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