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Rahul took me out to the most fantastic dinner at L’Etoile tonight for my birthday. I was wearing this strapless dress from Target that I need to get rid of post-haste–whoever invented strapless dresses was not as flat-chested as me, because by about 10 minutes into the meal I was squirming around trying to prevent a wardrobe malfunction–and was kind of uncomfortably shifting around when he said, “Look at the menu!” And I looked down and saw this:

So awesome. Here’s what we ended up eating:

  • 2 amuse-bouches: Wild ramp and watercress soup with crispy La Quercia prosciutto and toasted pine nuts; and a Sarvecchio cracker with cream cheese and caramelized onion jam. RPK said he liked the Trader Joe’s cheese sandwich crackers better, but I thought everything was delicious. The prosciutto was especially wonderful, crisp, tiny, salty slivers in the warm creamy soup (which Rahul said tasted like Lipton cream of chicken soup from the packet, but I disagree.)
  • Fried Sweet Water Organics perch, Asian slaw (this seemed to be a sweet and sour red cabbage with lots of sesame oil), nuoc cham, and smoked chilis cut into filaments. The chilis were mysterious and beautiful–an auburn tangle of threads, almost like really long, coarse saffron strands, but I couldn’t figure out what they were until I asked the waitress. They looked a bit like the dyed straw they put in nests on Pottery Barn coffee tables. The battered fish was crisp and delicious, and the nuoc cham tasted sparkling and fresh. With the high-quality ingredients and layers and layers of flavor in harmony, I didn’t feel cheated the way I sometimes do with nouvelle cuisine restaurants trying to appropriate low-end ethnic dishes.
  • Hidden Springs sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti, truffled pork meatball, San Marzano tomato sauce, boulot, basil chiffonade: also delicious. The agnolotti were perfect little pyramids, truly al dente, the meatballs were springy without being too firm or chewy, and the sauce was savory and bright. However, Rahul said it brought to mind Chef Boyardee ravioli, and I had to agree–obviously, it was far more complex and delicious, but I couldn’t help thinking of those little meatballs in tomato sauce glopping out of the can. Maybe it was just the visual, or the ratio of meatball to pasta.
  • Black Earth Meats lamb rack, grilled Kalamata olive sausage, sun gold tomato-butterball potato hash, Hidden Springs sheep’s milk feta & kale gratin, brown butter caper sauce. The lamb, served medium-rare, was just amazing. It tasted of lamb without being too gamey, and was juicy without being fatty. I used to dream about lamb like this when I was a vegetarian. It went beautifully with the caper-brown butter sauce. The tomato-potato hash was also fantastic. I found the sausage a little too salty, and the feta gratin was a misstep, I thought–the semi-melted feta turned into rubbery lumps, and was far too salty. The kale tasted fine, though, and its bitterness was at least good to offset the saltiness of the cheese.
  • Fountain Prairie grass-fed NY strip, creme fraiche mashed Kennebec potatoes, Snug Haven spinach, wild ramp and mushroom ragout, blue cheese-bone marrow compound butter, cabernet jus. Rahul got this rare and I think it might have been better medium-rare, but it was incredibly tender and rich. I only got one bite, so I can’t say much about the various sides.
  • Tiny dessert bites: chocolate ganache with cinnamon, “fiddle faddle” = caramel corn with hickory nuts, and a strawberry-rhubarb pain de fruit gelee. Nothing incredibly delicious, but it at least felt like a sweet little treat since we hadn’t ordered dessert.
  • I don’t have a copy of the drinks menu, but I had a cocktail called something like The T.M. Flip, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, maple syrup reduction, cherry juice, and egg white. Too bourbon-y, next time I’ll just go for the girliest drinks.
The ambience is upscale, of course, but it’s still friendly and down-to-earth. The service was a little slow, but unpretentious, aside from one thing that bothered me–our waitress kept coming by and asking “How are the flavors?” People kept walking by and waving at friends through the big glass windows up front.

Written by orata

April 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Posted in restaurants

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