Pineapple and Pearls 2nd Visit — Washington DC (1/2017)

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I had a work trip come up, so I used the opportunity to dine a second time at Pineapple and Pearls.  I knew enough in advance to be able to secure a spot.  In the seven months since my first visit, the restaurant garnered 2 Michelin starts in the debut of the guide for the Washington DC area.  The format and prices had not changed.  As a single diner, the only place I could book a seat was at the bar.  But that’s fine, as it meant beverage pairings were optional.  Half the meal is charged when you make the reservation and the balance the day of prior to arrival.

Upon entering the restaurant, they offered me one of two pre-dinner cocktails.  It was either a whisky cocktail or this, which was a blend of hot white chocolate, mescal, and chartreuse.

After being seated, I was offered the beverage menu, which listed more cocktails, wines-by-the-glass and beverage pairings options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  This time, I went with the non-alcoholic pairing. I was also offered the choice of still or sparkling water.

The first bite offered was the same as at the first visit – fennel bon bon with a touch of absinthe. Beet sugar formed the shell and inside was fennel yogurt, dehydrated golden raisin zest.  Underneath as a chaser was a combination of fennel, sunchoke, apple and celery juice with a splash of absinthe.

The next small bite was a beef tartare wrapped by cured sirloin into a roll.  This was topped with paddlefish roe and shitake ash.

My first beverage pairing was a winter pear and vanilla sparking cider.

The next small bite was a hoecake/johnnycake served takoyaki style (grilled pancake in the shape of a ball found commonly as street food) with Périgord black truffle and honey.

The next dish was a compressed napkin that they added hot water to for a finger towel to clean up after the finger food. It was scented with Kafir lime and ginger.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Atera 4th Visit — New York City (1/2017)

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A restaurant I had planned to dine at for the first time cancelled my reservation a day in advance due to unforeseen circumstances.  I managed to secure a last-minute reservation at Atera.  It had been about 18 months since my last visit.  It was a Saturday night, so I was a little surprised that a spot was available for the early seating.  But it was there on Opentable.com, so I took it.  Once I booked it, I was committed, since they have a 48-hour cancellation policy.

I was seated soon after arriving.  It looked like there were a few staff changes, but also some familiar faces.  They did remember that I had been there before.  I had a side seat this time (despite what they said about solo diner placement the last time). We started with a hot towel to freshen up.

The wine list by the glass seemed longer than the last time.  They also offered both a standard pairing and premium pairing (but no explicit premium by the glass offerings).  I went with a glass of the Puligny-Montrachet (from a magnum), which was premium enough.

We started the menu off with a beverage of lime snow and warm juniper foam.

Fermented mushrooms and burgundy truffle were served on a crispy waffle as the next small bite.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Pineapple and Pearls 2nd Visit — Washington DC (1/2017)

WashDCPinePearls-41

I had a work trip come up, so I used the opportunity to dine a second time at Pineapple and Pearls.  I knew enough in advance to be able to secure a spot.  In the seven months since my first visit, the restaurant garnered 2 Michelin starts in the debut of the guide for the Washington DC area.  The format and prices had not changed.  As a single diner, the only place I could book a seat was at the bar.  But that’s fine, as it meant beverage pairings were optional.  Half the meal is charged when you make the reservation and the balance the day of prior to arrival.

Upon entering the restaurant, they offered me one of two pre-dinner cocktails.  It was either a whisky cocktail or this, which was a blend of hot white chocolate, mescal, and chartreuse.

After being seated, I was offered the beverage menu, which listed more cocktails, wines-by-the-glass and beverage pairings options (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  This time, I went with the non-alcoholic pairing. I was also offered the choice of still or sparkling water.

The first bite offered was the same as at the first visit – fennel bon bon with a touch of absinthe. Beet sugar formed the shell and inside was fennel yogurt, dehydrated golden raisin zest.  Underneath as a chaser was a combination of fennel, sunchoke, apple and celery juice with a splash of absinthe.

The next small bite was a beef tartare wrapped by cured sirloin into a roll.  This was topped with paddlefish roe and shitake ash.

My first beverage pairing was a winter pear and vanilla sparking cider.

The next small bite was a hoecake/johnnycake served takoyaki style (grilled pancake in the shape of a ball found commonly as street food) with Périgord black truffle and honey.

The next dish was a compressed napkin that they added hot water to for a finger towel to clean up after the finger food. It was scented with Kafir lime and ginger.

The next dish was a single long housemade chilled udon noodle with Jonah crab,  tempura, blood orange, ginger and toasted pumpkin seeds.  This was fruity and salty with a nice added crunch from the tempura for texture contrast.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

 

42 grams 10th Visit — Chicago (10/2016)

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A fall business trip gave me a chance for an early evening mid-week visit to 42 grams.  Since they opened up the counter seats to late seatings, I haven’t been to the early evening seating.  Since the next day would be a full workday, the relatively early dinner worked out fine.

The first dish started out with Hamachi poached in wagyu fat.  A thin sheet of daikon topped the fish, which was in turn topped with golden osetra caviar, beef tongue smoked in lapshang souchong tea, and tom kha cream (kaffir lime, lemon grass galangal).  The beef, caviar and daikon offered texture contrasts, although we were supposed to try and eat it all in one bite.

The next course had whipped foie gras at the bottom, covered by crisp rice noodles. On top, there was a star flower, finger lime pulp, and freeze-dried mango sprinkled for a final garnish.  The crispy rice noodles contrasted with the smooth foie gras, and the tartness of the finger limes worked nicely to add acidity and the mango came in with a touch of sweetness.

This course featured lobster mushrooms in a shellfish butter sauce.  This was garnished with char roe, crispy dulse (red algae) leaves, oyster blossoms, sea grapes and XO sauce.  is was a nice umami-filled dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

Atelier Crenn 2nd Visit — San Francisco (9/2016)

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I had visited Atelier Crenn almost exactly three years ago. Dominique Crenn’s story was the subject of an episode of Chef’s table on Netflix, and that prompted me to go back for a visit. I liked my first experience very much, so I was looking forward to my return. They changed from using OpenTable.com to Resy as their booking system. I was able to secure an early seating for a Friday dinner a few weeks in advance.

As before, there was no menu, just a poem, with each line referencing a course. The wine list format was different in that all the by-the-glass choices for the whole meal were on one page. Now, it was compartmentalized into a more familiar format. I went with the Chassagne-Montrachet Chardonnay this time, which I thought was among the better Montrachets that I have tried.

There was still a longer selection of half-bottles than usually seen.

The meal started off with the traditional (for here) apple cider inside a delicate cocoa butter shell topped with a little crème de cassis.

Soon after, a very delicate preparation of potato dusted with seaweed with a little maple butter was presented.

Along with the potato was Hokkaido uni with golden Osetra caviar with ginger and carrot curd. This had a touch of sweetness to it.

For the full write-up, click here.

Gunther Seeger — New York City (9/2016)

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This new restaurant is named for the chef. Friends had recommended that I try the place out, as the quality of the ingredients and flavors seemed high, with the tasting menu taking advantage of what the daily markets had to offer. The restaurant was bookable on Opentable.com, and it was relatively easy for me to reserve a Saturday night slot in advance.

The wines-by-glass were all a little younger than I wanted. The bottle menu was pretty extensive.

One whole side was devoted to German wine. So, I asked if they offered pairings, if it was possible to find out the offerings, and perhaps order a glass from the pairings instead. They said they only offer them in the context of having the pairings and there were no white Burgundies on the list anyway (which I had asked). I settled for the young white Burgundy after that since there was no further inquiry about what offerings may suit my tastes.

The menu is a set tasting menu. There were no unlisted courses.

The evening started with a Kabocha squash soup. Suspended with the spoon was a piece of pickled squash with Sicilian pistachios as garnish.

The salad course featured buttered lettuce with a Sauvignon Blanc emulsion and Parmesan sauce, topped with chives and grated Parmesan. This was served with a slice of brioche bread. The salad was pretty plain-tasting. I had wished the brioche was toasted to give some nice texture contrast (it was not even served warm).

For the full write-up, click here.  Note that since this visit, Gunther Seeger received a Michelin star.

Blue Hill — New York City (9/2016)

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I hadn’t heard of Blue Hill before.  Chef Dan Barber was the subject of the second episode of the Chef’s table documentary series on Netflix.  I became intrigued about the beginnings of the farm-to-table movement and how this was trying to work at Blue Hill.  Though the episode was already a couple of years old, it was still a little tough getting a reservation on a weekend.  I did manage to book a late evening table on a Friday night via OpenTable.com.  Blue Hill has one Michelin star.

They offer three choices for food options.  There is the regular tasting menu of the listed items (on the left), an extended menu with additional unlisted items, and a 4+ course menu with selections to choose from for three of the courses.  I chose the extended Farmer’s Feast option for maximum sampling.

The wine list was nicely arranged with a wide selection of wine with many French wine choices.  They had a white Burgundy by the glass, which was my selection.  The bottles of white were sub-categorized by characteristics.  There were several Mersaults with quite a range of prices.

The first bite was a whole habanero pepper.  It was special in that it was bred not to be spicy hot to let the true flavor come though.  There were no seeds inside and only a hint of spiciness when tasting the part closest to the stem.

The next plate was a plate painted with a vinaigrette to use a kind of flavoring to go with the fresh summer vegetables.

The next small bite was a tomato and corn tart.  This was followed by a grilled fruit that looked like a fig, but wasn’t called that.

For the full write-up, click here.