Saturday, May 03, 2008

Somebody's Got to Do It - Aquavit

So tonight was the night to celebrate both M & J's birthdays - figuring somewhere in between works for both. B actually was on the ball and suggested Aquavit. I was pretty excited- it was one of those restaurants that I hadn't been to that had always seemed like somewhere I should have been.

Given my afternoon, I really should have been late, but due to vagaries of life, I was somewhat early. And so I spent a nice 15 minutes with J&J and a very nice rose champagne. Life is good.

The other eight arrived only a little late and we were shown to our table. I want to take this table home with me. Granted, I would need to rearrange my apartment a bit - getting rid of that whole living room thing and replacing it with the table, but really - I think it would be worth it.

We settled in and decided/had decided for us that we would get the chef's tasting menu. I love tasting menus. And that we'd get the wine pairing menu. Wait, I forget - was it my birthday!? Who cares what we're celebrating if I'm getting everything I want.

An amuse bouce. Really, a nothing. The smallest of things. And yet... it does set the tone. And here we had a warm shot of carrot (and ginger?) soup and an avacado, fennel and mandarin salad 'frosted' with raw tuna. The trials and tribulations of the day were already a thing of the past. Hmmm. Mandarin with the others. Unexpected. Yumm.

Then a tiny hiccup (really only the smallest one). The first pairing for the first course is aquavit - and I am just not a huge hard alcohol person. Really, if I were, this would have been great - I think it was cranberry. It was nicely chilled, it was in a beautiful glass - but I had a moment of panic that it wasn't a wine pairing I had ordere, but an aquavit pairing. Deep breath. All is good. The first course itself though made all those worries - maybe all worries ever, go away. A bowl of ice (notice me drawing verbal pictures as I didn't have my camera - I find the pictures at meals nice to have afterwards, but actually disturbing during the fact) and gently resting on top, two shells. And inside the shells - little bits of heaven. On the left, a raw scallop with a dab of mango sorbet. On the right, a raw oyster with other stuff (sorry, didn't write it down - there was green). If I had to choose (like on pain of death), it would be the oyster, but otherwise, (really it was close!), I'd just have another serving of both.

Then, the lobster roll. Every restaurant has things it's famous for. And apparently this (justifiably) is one of those for Aquavit. It's not what you'll get in Boston or Maine, but man is it good. It looks a bit like an Italian cookie (those cigar ones). It's rather thin and rather white. On top there is some roe. And man does that roe just somehow make the dish. Each bite is a little symphony of lobster and the sauce and the wrap - and then that little burst of salty goodness. Smile. And then another bite. And can I just say that to pair it with a dry reisling - geeeenius.

And then the palettle cleanser. Ginger Ale. Lemongrass. Ice. Aquavit (just a bit). Mmmmm. Yum. Palette cleansed.

Now, B suggested Aquavit. And even made the reservation. It was only later that J pointed out that she knew Johan - the chef. And so, he came out to greet us when we arrived. And charmed us. (Please understand though that any charming had no impact on how I viewed the food itself, though it helped the aura of the entire evening). And then he sent a little gift. But not just any gift. Apparently he had checked with Santa and knew just what I liked. On a bed of avacado puree he placed some grilled (in some kind of very magic red sauce) octopus. Now, if anyone is shopping for my birthday (only 213 shopping days) these are two really good idea - always bound to please.

The next course was three separate things on a plate. I had heard fois gras though and so I was excited. The fois gras was in a little cake-like thing (there's a word and I'm totally blanking on it right now). The green thing was arugula sorbet. And the rice crispy looking thing was duck confit in rice crisps with an apple something on the side. Somehow, this variety of tastes just worked. Really. The sorbet made the fois gras sit up and take notice. The rice crispies popped to break up the richness of the duck. The texture of the duck made the smoothness of the fois gras a welcome next step. And so I went, round and round. Until the music stopped. It's rude to lick one's plate in public, so I refrained.

Next, we got the trout. Now, anyone who knows me knows that cooked fish is just not my thing. I love raw fish (sushi, we call it), but the cooked stuff is never really where I go. But J got so happy when she heard trout and sunchokes that she wasn't even paying attention to the broth surrounding it. And I have to admit, she was right to be excited. The fish was basically poached. It was tasty and tender. And the sunchokes added a little bit of something to the depth of the fish. If all cooked fish was like this... I'd eat it. But it's not.

Next was (generally my favorite) the meat course. Venison - which I love. It was wrapped in bacon (which I think we all know that I love). Paired with lingonberries and some long white thing that I was a bit baffled by. It was great. Really great. But it wasn't quite as sublime as what M ended up with. Apparently, she's not a venison fan. And so she got a rib-eye, paired with kimchi. OMG!! Now that is a wayto serve meat. I mean, the venison was great, but that was amazing (or at least the one very small bit that I managed to have of it was).

Finally dessert.

Or, no, wait. Another palette cleanser. This one was basically rice pudding (I think there was more to it than that) with a bit more mango sorbet in the middle of passion-fruit. I know what you're thinking - wait, wasn't that dessert. Oh no, it wasn't.

Okay, now, really, finally dessert.

The wine pour was a non-fortified wine, but it tasted like a port with hints of chocolate. Awesome. But it somehow didn't work exactly well with the five various desserts that appeared in the middle of the table (more gifts from the chef - so I left the one directly in front of me - the White Coffee Chocolate Bombe til last as I figured that was the one that I actually had control over/complete ownership of). The mango tart (looked like a Tarte Tartin) was amazing. The chocolate brownie thing with the bananas may be the best thing I've ever eaten. The coconut thing was good - though better appreciated by someone who is a bit more excited by coconut desserts. The goat cheese yogurt thing (?) was actually one of the best! M loved it. Having tried them all, I settled back to try mine. Ummm. Okay. Now I get it. Yeah. The wine pairing was for this dessert - not those others. And man was it well paired. The bite of the coffee, the sweetness of the wine, the milky lightness of the center. the chocolate in the wine, etc. Some food really is just better with wine.


Or not. Petit fours. And here at Aquavit, apparently those include (upscale) Swedish fish. I (of course) had to try one of each: a biscotti, the Swedish Fish, a little mini bread pudding (?), and a truffle. I don't know if it was an act of God or of self preseration (just a wafer thin mint...) that kept me from another round of each.

I'm tying to figure out if I should call for my next reservation now or wait until tomorrow when they reopen.