Saturday, September 19, 2009
We’d been hearing good things about The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, so we decided to try it out for our anniversary. We had a bit of trouble finding the restaurant; there was a car show going on, and Plant Street was closed down to auto traffic. Once we arrived, however, we were greeted immediately by Laurie.
We were the first ones to be seated that evening, which was nice for us, as it gave us a bit of quiet time before the restaurant filled up. There were only 6 tables in our dining room: three two-tops and three four-tops. An adjoining dining room had one large table, and Laurie told us that they were expecting a large party later on that evening. The atmosphere was intimate, but it wasn’t the hushed, romantic atmosphere of Victoria & Albert’s restaurant. When a party of four was seated next to us, we could hear every word of the men’s descriptions of their various car accidents. As one man had been in nine different accidents, this topic of conversation went on for quite a while. All of the diners were in business casual attire: slacks and collared shirts for the men, and dresses for the women.
The menu is a three-course prix fixe for $49.99, with optional additions like the wine pairings for $21.99 and a five cheese tasting course for $14.99. We opted to add on the cheese course, and my husband opted for the wine pairings, while I, as the driver, chose to sip on one glass of wine throughout dinner.
My first course was my favorite of the whole dinner: a tuna tartar with avocado and mango. This was absolutely delicious and very light. The tuna was soft and fresh, and it contrasted nicely with the crispiness of the diced cucumber. The creaminess of the avocado and sweetness of the mango rounded off the concoction beautifully. The tartar mixture was tossed with sesame oil and sesame seeds, and it was nice and salty, without being unpleasantly so. I chose the wine recommended as a pairing for this particular dish: the Now and Zen Wasabi White. This was a great choice; I’m usually not a big fan of white wines, but this was off-dry, fruity, and very easy to drink.
My husband chose the savory foie gras crème brulee for his first course. In order to make this dish, they seared the foie gras to render the fat off of it. They then added the fat, onions, and apples to the crème brulee dish. They chopped up the foie gras, added it and butter to this mix, and they cooked it all in a water bath. After that, they lightly caramelized the top of the foie gras to brulee it. The caramelized sugar was sweet but not cloying, and this dish was much lighter than it looked or than my husband expected. The temperature was cool, which he found off-putting, but it tasted very good. It was nice and creamy without being greasy. He did wish that he’d been given more toast points with which to eat the crème brulee. His wine with this was a Lynskey Gewurztraminer. It smelled and tasted of peaches and honey.
My main course was the one that Kevin, the chef and owner, had recommended, the mirleton and crab gratin with shrimp and scallop, Cajun hollandaise. He told us that he was from Louisiana, and this was very much a Louisiana dish. It tasted like something my grandmother would have made. The creamy gratin was baked in a casserole dish and topped with panko, and the scallops and shrimp were seared and placed on top of the gratin. This was very well-seasoned, with heat that I only felt in the back of my throat, not in my mouth, so it didn’t interfere with my tastebuds. It reminded me of my childhood, so I enjoyed this dish very much.
My husband’s choice was a braised beef shortrib with creamed leek mashed potato. The portion sizes came as a bit of a surprise to us. They were large, and we’re used to having many small courses when we eat out, so it was definitely different. The beef was tender, well-cooked, and had very little fat. However, it was underseasoned. The leek mashed potato was really good, and he thought it was probably the best part of the dish. The asparagus were cooked very well, with some bite to them still, and a vibrant green. The dish needed salt to pull it together, though, since otherwise it came across as a bland pot roast dish. His wine with this was a Prazo de Roriz Douro, from Spain. It was a very interesting wine, which we both enjoyed. The finish was short, but it was a smooth, easy-to-drink wine.
There was a little mix up over our desserts. I had ordered the warm peach bread pudding, toasted nuts, with caramel cream cheese ice cream. My husband ordered the tropical tapestry of mango pineapple salsa with coconut macaroon, vanilla ice cream. They switched desserts, though, and because of this, my husband ended up with the wine that was paired with the bread pudding. This wasn’t a problem, as he very much enjoyed it, a Santa Alicia late harvest muscatel. It tasted like grapefruit, and wasn’t like the typical honeyed, ubersweet dessert wine. It had some nice acid to it, which we both liked.
My bread pudding was great: warm, soft, and sweet, and the caramel ice cream melting over it added a lovely sauce. There was a ring of balsamic vinegar around the edge of the dessert, which I thought added some nice depth to the bread pudding.
My husband enjoyed the pistachio in his dessert; he thought that it added both a nice flavor and a nice texture. The macaroon was good, very coconutty, but the vanilla ice cream didn’t wow him. He gave me a bite of this, which I had trouble tasting because the ice cream was so cold.
After dessert came our cheese tasting, which was probably the most disappointing part of the meal. Heresy! Nonethess, it is so. We’d appreciated the fact that their wine list had interesting wines that we couldn’t find in most supermarkets, but the same could not be said of their cheeses. The five cheeses on the plate were provolone, gouda, Roquefort, asiago, and brie. Blah. We would have appreciated the opportunity to try something that we couldn’t normally get ourselves, or at least something that wasn’t carried at the local Publix. The accompaniments were very good, especially the quince jam, but we were really disappointed by the cheese selection.
To summarize, we liked the business model of the chef/owner who was very approachable and his wife who was knowledgeable about wine and also very approachable. We liked the fact that there were very few tables, so everyone got personal attention. However, we felt that, with a little more attention to the kitchen, our dining experience would have been great instead of just very good.