8.27.2015

LONDON calling: The Pantechnicon Rooms


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This is just a wee bit more than your typical pub. So we had a wee bit more than your typical lunch at Pantechnicon. With a pitcher of summery Pimms on deck, it was a veritable feast in celebration of our arrival in London after many years away and old friends.
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The starters were mixed: some stronger than others, some memorable and some lost. Four miniscule Scottish scallops were surrounded by wisps of fennel and peas and dribbles of chorizo dressing. It had a little bit of everything from spicy fatty chorizo to sweet earthy peas and tender scallops, just not enough. Fried calamari came in a basket, crisp, hot and fresh with just enough cooling lime dressing and spicy chilli sauce. It was typical, familiar and tasty. The sharing plate trio was much less appealing— the short rib pastrami was dry and burnt, the pulled pork croquette was flavorless, and the pork ribs were dull.
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What possessed me to get a salad is beyond me. Maybe it was that crispy duck egg that hypnotized me. Sometimes salads are your favorite, but this “salad” was missing what makes a salad. The base of the “salad” was a thick bed of chewy, stiff, dark wild rice, which was mostly inedible in my book. The crispy duck egg, figs, zucchini and almonds, however, were tasty on their own. There was so much crunch from the egg and a creaminess from its soft yolky center that added richness to the merlot dressing and summery ingredients. Good thing my friend and sister are much lighter eaters than I am.
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Both mains were hearty, not extremely creative nor memorable, but solid and satiating. The flanks of pork rib eye were tender and juicy, topped with a chunky apple chutney to complete the classic pair. The sweetness of the round sweet potato contrasted the earthy mushy peas, highlighting the salt of the meat and long crunchy chicarron. Even the spicy baby chicken was well executed but just chicken with a fat scoop of mashed potatoes. The bone marrow and Madeira jus and mushroom sauces added oomph but were unnecessary in the end.
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Yes, lunch was necessary and nourishing, but it was just a backdrop for memories, laughter, catching up and the essential Pimms. It was more than just a meal; it was the start of a great trip with great friends.
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RER 7.29.15

8.25.2015

passport to PARIS: Pirouette

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There was something almost chronological about the three-course meal at Pirouette. Each dish grew on the one presented before and served as a foundation for the dish following it. Even the colors swelled and fell as the meal progressed, introducing a wave of feelings and connotations.
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The cold corn soup was sweet and summery, silky and creamy with floating basil oil and succulent chunks of lobster. Pretty bright green nasturtium leaves enlivened the golden yellow soup, bringing summer to life with the most vivid of hues. Every element was soft and stringy, smooth and luxurious, but light enough for warm weather.
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A sculpture of freshness interwoven with snappy pea shoots, crunchy gomasio wings and crisp fried onions grew from a base of a fat dull red-orange tomato. Tiny wild strawberries dotted the vertical salad, bringing sweetness to the mix, while the creamy mascarpone cooled and heightened refreshment. The combination was inimitable, a chorus of closely monitored textures and bold flavors that melded into one.
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Although, embellished with greenery continuing in the season vein, the veal main sang a heartier note, laden with chickpea panisse and earthy swiss chard. The meat remained tender and juicy, but it submitted to the grainy fried panisse, which crumbled and mystified. Bitter tart lemon confit brightened and balanced, bringing the dish full circle.
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Even heavier and darker, the Neapolitan of duck and foie gras, succumbed to decadence. The fatty duck, chewy and meaty, countered the buttery and velvety foie gras, creating a tug of war on the palate with seemingly compatible playmates. Black garlic richened the sumptuousness of the dish, while the dark cherries added a necessary sweet tanginess and acidity for balance.
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Dessert had recognizable moments, but further twists crafted something different. The rice pudding was reminiscent of home, creamy, sweet and soft, while the ribbons of salted caramel and the imperceptible caramelized hazelnuts added dimension. White peach pieces and dark blackberries danced under a boule of spicy rich clove ice cream, while sweet meringue and fragrant speculoos gave crunch to the varied dessert.
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Less warm and more hip, Pirouette brings together seasonal, high-end and quality ingredients  to create a building harmonious meal which is hearty and satisfying.
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RER 7.28.15





8.24.2015

passport to PARIS: Verjus

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Indulgence can be overrated, and in fact, moderately pretentious, demolishing modesty and humility. Luxury can be over-drawn, where extravagant elements intertwine disharmoniously.

This, however, is not Verjus. The Parisian restaurant is unassuming with light rushing in like a sunroom off of a kitchen. Technique, ingredients and assembly speak to indulgence minus the bad connotations. The warmth of the orange-pink evening light is reflected in the atmosphere— the staff, the pacing, even the familiar foods refined to elegance.
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RER 7.27.15

Each amuse bouche was constructed to be savored and ephemeral, catering to both texture and flavor. The crispy chicken skin swathed with creamy meaty chicken liver or the crunchy sourdough crostini topped with fera and popping orbs of pickled mustard are prime examples. The four bites melted in the mouth, leaving the residue of freshness and a quiet innovation.
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Some of the courses were confusing in a mysterious and magical way, in that they almost combined the unimaginable. The way different varieties and stages of tomatoes played together with the green purslane and the house-made toasted fresh milk cheese, dusted with a powder of dehydrated tomato, evoked the feelings of salad, unconnected but willing to converge. Two silvery sardines topped with tiny cubes of summery zucchini and new potato effortlessly brought together the briny with the mild, embellished with herbal dill and scientific dehydrated egg yolk.
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Others looked familiar but guaranteed an inexplicable flourish of decadence. Plump yellow cappelletti nestled with nutty chanterelles evoked memories, but middles made of studded ricotta and cervelle created new ones.  A polite pile of sirloin tartare exuded fineness, but the crisp nature and bite of the cucumbers and beans toned down the decadence while elevating the appeal to the tongue.
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Dessert, too, only looked disjointed and unprepared: common oat moments and fresh peaches and pretty wild blueberries, spun into dreams with a sweet and creamy white chocolate mousse.

The insightful courses compounded expectations and anticipation with surprise and whimsy, manifestations of profound flavor profiles, thoughtful layered texture and attentive aesthetics. Verjus presented a deep knowledge of the complexities and simplicities of food and experience, resulting in more than just a meal.
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RER 7.27.15