Restaurant Labyrinth — Singapore (11/2018)

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Restaurant Labyrinth is a 1-star Michelin establishment that takes the traditional local flavors of traditional Singapore cuisine and present them in new and modern ways. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance and can be done with the Chope reservation website/app. They only offer a multi-course tasting menu for dinner, and they feature locally-sourced ingredients (Singapore and the nearby regions that contribute to Singaporean flavors). They do ask about allergies and dietary restrictions beforehand. They have their wine list on a tablet for review.

As part of the introduction, they bring to the table a display of many of the ingredients that will be featured on the evening’s menu.
The first presentation was not listed on the menu and was a oolong tea-smoked quail egg with a runny yolk inside.

With the quail egg, we were brought some kombucha (aged 5 weeks) infused with rosella (hibiscus).
The menu presentations began with three platters. The waffle triangles were served with chicken liver paté, goji berry jam and pandan juice sprinkled on top. Next to it were the homemade lapcheong (like Chinese sausage) with barley, diced chicken, crispy rice, and pickled bok choy in a burnt rice “nori” (or crêpe). On the far right were the small bites (“nasi lemak” cheong fun) made from egg yolk gel and ikan bilis sambal (dried anchovy chili paste sauce) wrapped in rice pastry skin and topped with deep-fried black chicken skin, cucumbers, and fried anchovies.

For the complete write-up, click here.

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Eden Hill Two Visits — Seattle (8/2018 and 10/2018)

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I heard about Eden Hill from one of Andrew Zimmern’s Travel Channel shows. He did a short segment on innovative Seattle restaurants, and he briefly talked about Eden Hill. It’s a small, neighborhood-type restaurant in north Seattle. They serve an a la carte menu, as well as a tasting menu and a Grand Tasting menu, which requires a reservation and a pre-purchased seat (from Tock) for the bar/counter.

The first course was a beetroot and tomato salad, where the tomatoes have been dipped in a beetroot sugar “glass”. This was garnished with olive oil, key lime, basil and sea salt.

Next up was a “martini” with pressed corso (dried fruit) with grapefruit and a little calamansi vinegar and truffle oil. The “olive” was a baby peach stuffed with ricotta.
I decided to try the wine pairings with my dinner. The first beverage pairing was a French champagne.

The next course was squash blossom with cheese and fermented squash (from last season) fried and served with elderflower.

The next dish featured local mussels, a corn fritter, and micro sorrel.

For the full write-up, click here.

For the write-up of the second visit, click here.

Ultraviolet — Shanghai (4/2018)

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Even though Ultraviolet has been around for a few years, I had not heard about until it was briefly mentioned in a short listing of highlights for cities around the world in a magazine.  Chef Paul Pairet offers a tasting menu paired with wines/beverages.  The evening includes a broad range of sensory experiences to go with the meal.   There is only one seating a night for a maximum of 10 diners.  On any given night, only one menu is offered, and during a month, most of the menu/beverage variations can be found.  The website shows what is included for each menu variation and the wines that will be offered.  The variations are priced differently, and half of the cost is due upon booking.  On the days that I had targeted for going to Shanghai, the “Special Event” menu was going to be offered.  This is the most expensive option and takes the best items from the other menus and pairs them with some top wines. 

Detailed instructions on how the evening will proceed are provided in advance.  There is no dress code, and still photography is allowed (no video though). We are told not to expect a cell signal in the dining room.  The evening starts with the diners asked to gather by 6:30 pm.  From the meeting point, the diners are taken to an undisclosed location for dinner.  Everyone is returned around 11:00 pm to the starting point.

The meeting point was easily found at their regular restaurant on the 6th floor of a building on the Bund.  Upon arrival, I spoke with the hostess at the restaurant to find out where to wait.  She led me into the restaurant to an area where other guests were already present.  I was offered a glass of pear cider, some water, and a seat with the other guests.

To read the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 12th Visit — Chicago (3/2017)

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This visit was my first with their new format for 2017 with just one seating for the evening. Timing-wise, it worked best for me as dinner probably wasn’t going to run as late as the late seating used to run. However, the price went up with the new format and the experience was no longer BYOB (for free).
With the new format, there were going to increase the number of courses, upgrade the course ingredients and slow the pace of the experience. Also, they recently received their liquor license and now had a wine list (by the bottle only). It wasn’t going to work for me to buy one of their bottles, so I just opted for tea. I ended up being seated next to another solo diner who did order a bottle, and he shared a glass with me, which was very nice.

The menu is not normally presented at the beginning. I just placed the photo up front to allow viewing of the wine choices and food at the same time.

For the full write-up, click here.

It is also with a great deal of sadness that I have to report that 42 grams is now closed.  It was one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, and I will miss the food and the people that made each dining experience an enjoyable one.  There is an independent film that made its premier in March called “Courses” that documents the history of Sous Rising/42 grams.  See it if you can.

 

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.

 

Single Thread Farm Restaurant and Inn — Healdsburg CA (3/2017)

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The phrase “most anticipated restaurant opening” had been echoed by many publications, both food and non-food related) for several months prior to the opening and continue today as reviews come in.  I read about Single Thread Farm about a year ago and had been tracking their progress.  When they finally started taking reservations, I signed up for the whole experience for a Thursday night (room and dinner).  Weekend stays require a two-day minimum.  And dinner and the room are prepaid before arrival (although you can choose to order beverages at dinner).

This first part will cover the dinner experience as I normally would.  Afterwards, I’ll describe the hotel stay.

I booked an 8:30 pm dinner since I would be coming up from the city earlier in the day and didn’t want to stress making an early dinner seating.  They did contact me a few days prior to my dinner to offer an earlier seating for dinner, which I declined.

I walked downstairs from my room to the 1st floor reception desk.  They checked me in and then led me up to the 3rd floor roof deck.  The weather had just gotten nice enough for them to start using the roof for the pre-dining drink and snacks.  I must have been the only 8:30 reservation, as they seated me next to the fire pit and I noticed no one else was present on the roof.

They offered a glass of champagne to me as I looked over the Apéritif menu.  I declined and said I would just do wine at dinner.  They presented me with a ceramic glass with some chilled Sauvignon verjus (unripe grape juice) to begin the experience.  Soon after, they presented a trio of small bites to enjoy by the fire.

The first of the spring peas just became available and were used with farmer’s cheese and yuzu miso for  a slightly sweet and tart bite.  Beets roasted in a hearth for 4 days were served with tofu, winter citrus and charred kumquat. And to the left was a take-off on Japanese sendai rice cracker, only these were made with potato and tapioca with a filling of black truffle and mascarpone for a nice creamy and crunchy snack.

I was then led back downstairs to my table in the very nicely appointed dining room with a view of the open kitchen.

Once seated, I began thinking about the wine.  I had looked over the extensive wine list earlier in the day.  They offer a standard wine pairing and a reserve wine pairing.  They said their pairings provide for about 3.5 large glasses of wine over the course of the dinner.  That was still more that I probably wanted to drink.  So, I considered just ordering by the glass or selecting a fairly accessible bottle of Meursault (photos of several pages from their wine list appear at the end of this write-up).  After some additional discussion with the sommelier, I opted for the bottle of Meursault (I could take it with me since I wasn’t flying anywhere – I just had to tell them when I would like to cap the bottle).

The first presentation was a centerpiece adorned with several small dishes.  All of these were served cold or at room temperature.

The presentation represented late winter in Sonoma ingredients, a couple of which were from their farm, with the rest being fairly local in origin:  young broccoli form the farm with sesame dressing, steamed crab leg meat with spicy yuzu salt, lacto-fermented carrots on top of a black sesame cream, geoduck clam with kaffir lime gel, citrus-braised kohlrabi with Meyer lemon gel, mackerel cured in salt and gyokuro tea, a baby turnip from the farm, kumamoto oysters from British Columbia that were lightly pickled and served with some fresh wasabi, crispy potato “mess” with herb emulsion, and green garlic tofu panna cotta with asparagus and dashi.  This was a nice broad assortment of flavors and textures to start.

For the full write-up, click here.