Adventures in Dining

Just another weblog

Taste of the Himalayas, April 7, 2010 May 21, 2011

Filed under: California Wine Country — hpandaw @ 8:12 pm

We decided to try the Taste of the Himalayas, a restaurant that we’d read about on Yelp.  It was such a pleasant change from the heaviness of some of our meals.  I had the vegetable tandoori, which was flavorful and mild – it liked the exotic spiciness of some Indian foods that might have upset the delicate balance I’d reached with my stomach.  My husband had the paneer delicacy, which was saag paneer.  He was offered a choice of spiciness: mild, medium, or hot, and he chose medium.  It was a bit too spicy for me, but it was definitely delicious.  Saag paneer is always a favorite of ours.  The rice and naan that accompanied this were also excellent.  The rice was firm, not sticky, and the naan was rich and flavorful.  For dessert, we had gulab jamuns in honor of Dave from the Flight of the Conchords.  These were off the chain – they were beautifully spiced, and the sweet, honey-flavored syrup was great.  I’d only had gulab jamuns with a rose flavor, so the honey flavor was an interesting but delicious change.


Redd, April 5, 2010

Filed under: California Wine Country — hpandaw @ 8:10 pm

This was our last night in Napa Valley, and we decided to follow the recommendation from the tasting guide at Silenus and dine at Redd.  This was our favorite meal of the week, both because of the quality of the food and because of the attentive, friendly, yet unobtrusive service.  We opted for the 5-course tasting menu.  I told our server about my dining preferences, and then we were off for our culinary adventure!
My first course was sashimi of hamachi, sticky rice, edamame, lime ginger sauce.  This was excellent!  It was so light and yet so flavorful. The slightly crunche edamames perfectly complemented the meltingly soft hamachi, and the lime ginger sauce added nice depth to this simple yet beautiful dish.
My husband’s first course was yellowfin tuna tartare, asian pear, avocado, chili oil, and fried rice.  This was also meltingly tender, and it was perfectly spiced.  It pushed the envelope but stopped just short of being too spicy. I’m sensitive to heat, and I thought it was perfectly done.
My next course was caramelized diver scallops, cauliflower puree, almonds, and balsamic reduction.  This was also delicious.  The scallops were perfectly done: tender and so flavorful.  The cauliflower puree added a bit of a darker flavor to the dish which made it more interesting than most other scallop dishes that I’ve had.
My husband’s next course was Atlantic cod, coconut jasmine rice, clams, chorizo, and saffron curry nage.  This was another excellent course.  He really liked the chorizo, and I was able to taste a bit of his fish that didn’t have any chorizo contact. The fish itself was so tender, but it had a lovely crispy skin that contrasted beautifully.
After this, the chef sent out an additional course: a plate of creamy pasta with spring vegetables.  This was very nice, though we agreed that it could have used a bit more salt.  The bites that had shaved parmesan in them were perfectly salted, since the parmesan added salt to the bite, but when we had bites without the parmesan, these were the ones that needed salt.  I really liked the peas, which I expected to be sweeter, but which were nicely al dente and savory.  My husband likened the noodles to ramen, which was kind of fun.
My next course was skatewing, calamari, chickpea and pepper ragout, pinenuts, olives, aioli.  This was probably my least favorite of the dishes.  It had yellow raisins in it, which I’m not a big fan of, and it was very Mediterranean in flavor. Some people might like this, but it’s not really my style.  The skatewing, too, while well done, was not my favorite type of fish.  I tend to like thicker and juicier fish like tuna or sea bass, so it just wasn’t my preference.
My husband’s next course was glazed pork belly, apple puree, burdock, and soy caramel.  He thought that the apple went really well with the pork, which was tender and moist.
My next course was wild Alaskan halibut, onion fondue, spring peas, and five spice.  Again, the peas were nicely al dente and not sweet or mushy like some peas I’ve had (frozen or canned!).  The halibut was much more my style of fish, moist and light and delicious.  The five spice was very interesting with this dish, and I liked it.
My husband’s next dish was prime New York steak and shortribs, celery root puree, bacon and cipollini onion ragout.  He preferred the texture of the short ribs, with their deep and dark taste, and he really enjoyed the bacon and ragout.  This was a nice surprise.
My husband’s dessert was peanut butter, milk chocolate gianduja, and peanut honeycomb parfait.  This was fabulous.  The peanut butter and milk chocolate gianduja was rich and creamy, with a nice crispiness to it.  The peanut honeycomb parfait was delicious, light and creamy, but with the really nice crisp of the honeycomb.
My dessert was vanilla bean fontainebleu, rhubarb ice, and farina fritters.  Of these two dishes, I wasn’t really sure how the fritters connected with the fontainebleu, so I was left feeling like I had two very different, completely unrelated dishes on one plate.  The farina fritters weren’t very sweet, and I just didn’t care for them.  The fontainebleu, though, was gorgeous.  It was light, not too heavy and rich at all, but creamy and delicious.  The rhubarb added a nice sweetness and tartness to this creation.  Definitely a winner!


Ubuntu, April 4, 2010

Filed under: California Wine Country — hpandaw @ 8:09 pm

Our dinner this evening was at Ubuntu in Napa, a vegetarian restaurant.  This was such a nice, light, refreshing place, after eating out so much.  It was lovely to be able to go into a restaurant and ask the server to choose some selections and bring them out, because I could eat everything on the menu!  Our server thought it was so much fun that we asked her to choose the dishes for us.  The concept is small plates, so we told her to choose four dishes.  Our first dish was our favorite of the evening, the calcot and lemongrass curry, chard condimento and pickles, picadura nettles, whipped coconut, preserved lemon.  This was delicious, so creamy and yet refreshing.  There were these lovely minty green dollops at the bottom of the soup that we’d hit while eating, and that really added more depth and nuances to the dish.  We both really enjoyed this.
Our second dish was the warm spring onion jam-glazed doughnut stuffed with cool burrata, crispy fried shallots, peppery greens, and agretti.  This was pretty good, though it would have been better if the doughnut had been warm.  Since it was cold, we both thought that it tasted like it had maybe been sitting out for a while, rather than the temperature being the chef’s intention.  The warm onion jam was excellent with the greens – they were very lightly dressed, and were so delicious.
Our third dish was a disappointment.  We’d just had a greens-heavy dish, and here came another, except these greens didn’t seem to have any dressing on them.  This was the carta da musica, homemade crispy Sardinian flatbread, today’s leaves barely dressed, truffled pecorino, and orielles.  This dish just never seemed to come together.  It was basically a very thin, very crispy, very flavorful cracker, with a giant pile of greens on it.  There was no good way to incorporate all of these ingredients into one bite, since the flatbread immediately cracked and crumbled into shards.  The pecorino was very, very salty, and my husband hated it.  He asked me to take one for the team and eat the pecorino, since he couldn’t stand it.  Overall, this dish disappointed us.
Our final savory dish was horseradish gnocchi and “hakurei” turnips, truffle fonduta, hong vit, and smooth fava leaf.  It was very creamy and quite rich.  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the horseradish gnocchi, since I don’t do well with heat, but these were very faintly spicy and were much milder than I thought.  I loved the turnips; these were lighter than the gnocchi, but were very tender and picked up the lovely flavors of the fonduta.
Our dessert was a fruit float, with tapioca, Meyer lemon mousse, and grapefruit sorbet.  It was the perfect way to end a dinner, not too light, and also not too sweet.  Very, very refreshing and lovely.


French Laundry, April 3, 2010

Filed under: California Wine Country — hpandaw @ 8:07 pm

Back in 2010, we went on a trip to California, and I have neglected to post our reviews.  No longer!  I just felt I should explain the recent posting of these dining experiences.

I probably would have paid $40 per person for what we ate at the French Laundry, but $250 left me feeling ripped off.  We had a far better experience at Redd, for which I would definitely have paid the $75 (120 with wine pairings) that we paid there.  While everything was good, the absence of the “wow” factor made me regret the high pricetag that accompanied this mildly pleasant dining experience.  I did feel bad for our poor waiter – I don’t know whether he was new, or whether he was unfamiliar with the menu, but he was extremely nervous when reciting the entire menu for us.  His face turned bright red, and he was sweating with exertion while he was trying to remember the menu.  I found myself turning my menu out so that he could peek at it if he needed to refresh his memory.
My first course was the Tokyo turnip soup with ruby red grapefruit, cashew, and ginger panna cotta.  This was very nice, smooth and creamy, and I definitely enjoyed it.
It was followed by a salad of roasted Belgian endive with sour Michigan cherries, pecans, oxalis, and kola nut “gastrique.”  This was pretty interesting, and the roasting of the endive did add some depth.  Not a “wow” dish, though, which was a recurring theme.  Pretty nice, kind of good, not overwhelming.
My next dish was a pave d’aubergine confit with cauliflower, chickpeas, sultanas, harissa, pine nuts, cilantro, and yogurt.  Another pretty good dish, not great.
My next dish was a soft-poached Americana hen egg with lobster “salpicon,” sunchokes, Savoyard spinach and “mousseline béarnaise.”  I didn’t like this at all.  It was entirely too gooey in texture; a little contrast would be nice. It was also EXTREMELY rich, and I knew that I had lots of other dishes coming.
This was followed by herb-roasted hen of the woods mushrooms, fennel bulb, san marzano tomato compote, green garlic, marcona almonds and sherry mignonette.  I thought this was pretty good.  The mushrooms were nice and woodsy. I’d had these before, at Victoria & Albert’s, and this dish actually reminded me a good deal of a dish that I had there.
Next came Yukon gold potato “mille feuille” with French Laundry garden broccolini, “piperade,” spring onions, Nicoise olives and crème fraiche.  In contrast to the previous dish, this one was a bit bland.  The potato mille feuille could have used salt, though the flakiness was nice.  As a whole, though, the texture came across as a bit too blah.  It lacked the creaminess that some potatoes have, and it lacked the crispiness that other potato dishes have.  It came across as an unsatisfying compromise.
I next had an Andante Dairy “Cavatina” with pickled pear, young beets, peanut brittle and watercress.  This was okay, but I prefer to get the opportunity to taste more than one cheese.
My palate cleanser was an English cucumber sorbet, white verjus gelee, green grape and quinine-juniper foam.  This was a very nice, light, refreshing taste.  No “wow” factor, though – it was, ultimately, just a cucumber sorbet.
My dessert was a rhubarb and kumquat “vol au vent” vanilla “chiboust,” poppy-seed ice cream, and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar.  This was very light and refreshing and wasn’t too heavy after the big dinner.