alo 16th Visit — Toronto (8/2019)

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I haven’t written up every visit that I’ve made to alo only because having been so many times, I don’t want to keep listing the same restaurants over and over.  However, whenever I visit Toronto,  a dinner here is a requirement for me.  I will always want to sit at the Chef’s Counter, if only because it allows me to sample more of the seasonal creations that appear on the menu ( and are generally not served at a table.

The small bites start to appear as soon as you make your opening drink selection.  I chose to start with one of their non-alcoholic cocktails (they do not have a non-alcoholic pairing option).  It was a blend of passion fruit and green tea – perfect for a mid-summer evening.

The first snack presentation was:  a pomme soufflé puff filled with yuzu crème fraiche with chives and topped with ossestra sturgeon caviar; and a pastry roll filled with a foie gras parfait and a maple bourbon gel, with ends dipped in a peanut crumble that was slightly sweet with a touch of Anaheim chilis.

The next quick bite was a Prince Edward Island oyster served raw with their own mignonette of fresh cucumbers, sea buckthorn vinegar, tarragon oil and a bit of wild peppercorns for some spiciness.

This was soon followed by Hokkaido baby white shrimp with a dashi gel and some celery.  On top were dashi-poached potatoes with kombu, Sancho pepper leaves and, and pickled myoga (Japanese ginger).

Fresh Hokkaido sea scallops were featured in the next presentation.  These were served with lemon verbena and corn.  The wafer provided a nice crunchy texture for contrast, and the salt and sweet flavor blend was a nice touch.

The next dish was lightly grilled kanpachi (amberjack) with black truffle dashi with butter.  The warm dish was garnished with some samphire (salt-tolerant plant) and watercress. The crunchy skin was a nice texture to have.

I opted at this point to go with a Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley (kind of an unusual find on a by-the-glass list).

The next course was Alaskan King crab with crab and butter emulsion, courgettes, chanterelles, horseradish whipped cream and nasturtium leaves.  This was served very warm, with nice flavors from the courgettes and the crab.

The pasta dish was tortellini with Idiazabal cheese (a smoky cheese from the Basque region of Spain, crispy and poached artichokes, and a Marcona almond/red pepper purée. This was very tasty.

The next course was lightly crisped Quebec pork belly, served with black bean sauce, pork fat emulsion, tempura of gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and a Chinese chive purée.

For the full write-up, click here.

Kitchen Table 25th Visit — London (7/2019)

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I was looking forward to this visit because they had closed for a month (was supposed to be two) for remodeling.  Turned out they only remodeled the front part (the Bubbledogs part).  So, my visit was overdue in a sense.  Plus, it was the middle of summer, which is prime season for many local ingredients.

They first presented some pure tomato water from Isle of Wight tomatoes garnished with house-made fig leaf oil.  This was served as each guest was seated (i.e., not all at the same time).  This was a nice way to start with something refreshing (other than a drink).

The opening dish was Cornish brown crab, steamed and the brown and white meat separated.  At the bottom was some of the brown meat with crème fraiche.  On top was the white meat mixed with pineapple weed, a salad of dill and lemon verbena, and a garnish of salted gooseberries and cucumber marinated in dill.  At the counter, they finished the dish with a chilled light lemon verbena sauce.

The next bite was lightly smoked quail egg, topped with a shallot filled with black vinegar infused with winter black truffles along with some chervil.  Underneath the egg was black garlic purée, with all of this sitting on a spiral of crispy potatoes.

After starting off with the house-labeled English pink sparkling wine, I switched to a glass of the 2007 Paul Pillot Chardonnay.

The next snack was the chicken skin wafers with rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam.  While this has always been on the menu, this is the first time I’ve seen it served as a “sandwich”.

The Parker House rolls were next, first shown just out of the oven.  These were served with whipped butter mixed with aged lamb fat and tomatoes barbequed in lamb fat.  The butter was topped with pickled wild garlic buds and onion oil made from green onion tops.

For the full write-up, click here.

Eden Hill 5th Visit — Seattle (7/2019)

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The Grand Tasting menu is normally 12-15 courses.  After I sat down, they said they were planning on about 20 courses, one of the longest menus they have done to date.  I was the only one doing the big menu for the 5pm seating.  The restaurant will be changing soon, when the new, more casual, sister restaurant opens a block away.  At that point, Eden Hill will no longer offer an a la carte menu. 

I started out with a Celery Blossom Spritz, followed by a glass of the Columbia Valley 2010 Riesling (which I had tried before).

The first snack was Willapa Bay, Washington oyster, served cold with pickled foie gras, herbs and an apple cider mignonette.

The next snack was a savory mini doughnut with a tomato jelly filling (there was some sweetness from the jelly).

The next snack was a smoked cucumber mousse with herbs, watermelon radish, lemon, and pickles.

This “tea” was a slightly sweet warm nori broth served with a King salmon saumon fumé and ginger cookie.

The next dish was a King crab salad topped with pickled kohlrabi, herbs, olive oil and shallots.

The bread course was a toasted slice served with chicken liver mousse and compressed cherries.

Next course was a play on Salade Niçoise.  The salad had green beans, dehydrated niçoise olives, raw radishes, pickled celery, brioche crouton, confit turnips, and a smoked halibut dressing.  It was accompanied by a very tender braised brisket.

The Eden Hill Waldorf salad was next with three forms of a smoked blue cheese from Portland: fresh pieces, cookie crumbles and foam.  Candied walnuts, pickled celery, dehydrated brioche, and dried grapes were also included as always.

The next course was added to the menu that evening – Duck egg chawanmushi.  The custard was topped with seared foie gras, pickled mushrooms, a balsamic glaze, and white truffles.

I switched to an “old vines” 2016 French Cabernet Franc.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

Pineapple and Pearls 5th Visit — Washington DC (4/2019)

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Since my visit to Pineapple and Pearls just over a year ago, the dining options changed. In the past, I could sit at the bar and prepay for the full tasting menu with beverages optional. Currently, sitting at the bar comes with a different, bar-specific menu, with some items form the tasting menu and some just for the bar. However, they did allow me to book a solo (or odd-numbered party seats) at the Chef’s Counter, where you pre-pay for the menu and the beverage pairings option of your choice (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). So, this ended up being the first time I was able to sit at the Chef’s Counter overlooking the kitchen. While waiting to be seated, we were offered a glass of champagne or white tea.

I generally don’t do wine pairings, so I went with the non-alcoholic beverage pairing.

The first beverage was made using an elaborate drip coffee technique. What resulted was a hibiscus tea and fruit-blend with orange juice, apple juice, yuzu-honey syrup, lemon, thyme, and lemon zest. A different mixture was prepared for those who selected the wine pairings.

The first dish arrived soon and consisted of a slice of wagyu beef tallow pie made with smoked A5 wagyu rendered fat and a red onion gelée on a rosemary pastry crust. The other item was a vol au vent of flavors of escargot – creamed parsley, creamed beurre blanc, sautéed American snails.
The next course was scallops crudo prepared in a mille-feuilles style with white asparagus and fermented kohlrabi (providing a nice texture contrast).

At the table, they poured a brown butter and sudachi hollandaise sauce.
This was paired with a celery and green pepper soda.

At the beginning, I had asked if I could order a glass of wine (in addition to having the non-alcoholic beverage pairings). They said they do not normally have a by-the-glass wine menu. But she asked what I was interested in trying. I had said that in the past, (when I sat at the bar), they offered some interesting wines, like a French Chardonnay from a magnum bottle. She said they would bring me something to have. It came with the next course and was a 2006 Puligny-Montrachet that was very good.

For the full write-up, click here.

Eden Hill 4th Visit — Seattle (4/2019)

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This visit to Eden Hill completed the cycle for me regarding trying the menus for all four seasons. Up front, we were told there would be 24 courses. So, with the warmer weather of springtime, I was anticipating smaller and lighter courses, rather than the larger and heartier courses from winter.
As expected, the wine list had some changes, with a few interesting-looking wines by the glass.

To start off, I selected the 1996 Spanish Rioja. I also picked the rosemary tattoo this time.
The first bite offered was a tartare of Shikoku oyster and wintergreen scallop. This was mixed with a kosho vinaigrette (yuzu-kosho is a blend of chilis fermented with salt and yuzu juice and zest. The liquid nitrogen kept things cool and made for an attention-getting opening.

In the rear was a puffed salmon skin chicharrons with salmon tartare, sorrel and . Up front was a scallop chip with scallops, caviar, crème fraiche and madrone bark.
The next presentation was a sweet tuile in a cone shape with oxalis daisy salad at the bottom, Anderson Ranch lamb tartare, and garden flowers at the top.

Next was a one-bite play on a Cubano sandwich, served as a croquet and made with shoulder bacon.
This was followed by a tasty fried quail leg, served on empty quail eggs.

The next bite was a piece of fresh focaccia fried and served with Chilean shrimp tartare made with fresh lemon and soy sauce infused with the roasted shrimp heads. The mayonnaise on the bottom was made from a demi-glace of the shrimp bodies. Frying the bread provided a nice texture contrast.
The next plate featured a halibut ceviche served with local white asparagus and lemon segments poached in lemon syrup.

For the full write-up, click here.