Thursday, September 29, 2011

RN74: Downtown Swank.

I was early.
Mr. Pants wasn't set to get here for 45 minutes, so I thought I'd have a drink at the bar and soak up some of that swanky ambiance. The hostess seated me at the bar next to a cool, european-looking man. Thank you, hostess.

He has a row of drinks in front of him.  SIX of them. All different.

"Rough day?" I ask.

He laughs and says no, he works there, and oversees the cocktail list and the bartenders.

Thinking of my job shuffling paper, I think damn, how does one get in on this gig?

I'm glumly contemplating this as my Old Fashioned comes and Carlo (ciao, Carlo!) sips at all six of his drinks and takes tiny notes in a tiny notebook while we discuss cocktails.

The Old Fashioned was wonderful, with trendy square ice cubes, perfect (subtle) amount of sweet, and fragrant orange peel swimming in the caramel colored Woodford Reserve bourbon. Always nice when they ask your preference, though I should never expect anything less.

The clubby bar and lounge area just teems with the high-heeled and well-heeled. Candlelit low tables encourage elegant slouching into the leather upholstered booths. It has a whiff of a corporate feel, though, and feels the slightest bit stilted, as it is part of a restaurant group.  I was prepared to dislike the food.

We split the duck confit arancini to start, with pistachios, cherries, and foie gras sauce. A small portion in a large white bowl, these were starchy, crunchy balls of meaty goodness that went perfectly with our  reasonably-priced French pinot noir.

I tore into the Painted Hills Boeuf Bourgignon It was a long rectangle of braised meat, with sauce and some of the tiniest veggies (carrots, potatoes) I've seen.  Pureed celery root lay under the veggies, everything was beautifully plated, and beautifully cooked.

Mr Pants got the other thing I wanted on the menu that night (no not Carlo!)  The grilled Idaho rainbow trout, with cool perfect cubes (again with the geometry) of a smokey, bacony glazed pork belly with  lentils and green beans. Again, everything was cooked to absolute perfection, green beans, firm, slightly crunchy, the fresh, crispy trout melted in the mouth.

My dessert was just decent, a sort of Opera torte- with espresso curd, but Mr. Pants got an intriguing mix of fruit and almond ice-milk, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, with fragrant basil meringues. That's right, basil meringues.

Highlights: Cocktails, main dishes like Boeuf Bourgignon, Trout, ambiance.

Disappointments: Prices are pretty high, though you can find drinkable wines for less than you might think. Corporate feel.

Mr. Pants:  Happy and well-fed.  The cool wine board, (that alerted everyone to the most recent bottle of wine ordered) was reminiscent of the old train station flip-boards and reminded him of his youth in France.

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