Some nights I just don't particularly feel like cooking. It's not that I really don't want to, but I just don't feel super-enthusiastic about it that night. Those are the nights that we go out, and because they don't happen very often, we tend to pick an upscale restaurant. Last Thursday was one of those nights, and we sat around for a while trying to pick what restaurant to go to. We are lucky to live in an area where there are quite a few nice places to choose from, which also makes things difficult occasionally.
We decided on Todd English's bluezoo, which has some nice sentimental value for us. It was one of the first really nice dates we went on, and was also the place where I got Hubband to finally try some fish. (His horizons have, I'm happy to say, expanded greatly, and now he enjoys sushi all the time!)
I called at 6pm for a reservation, and got one for 7pm, reinforcing our notion that this place is a bit of a hidden gem. It gets busier later at night, but for a place of such ambiance and quality, I'm shocked at how easily we've always managed to slip in.
I started with seared diver scallops that were paired with a meltingly tender piece of braised beef shortrib on top of cauliflower puree. I've had this starter before, and it never disappoints. The scallops were seared and seasoned to perfection, with fabulous texture. The reduction sauce on the plate was intense and flavorful, and the garnish of pickled onion adds another layer of flavor, a little zing to the richness of the plate.
Hubband started with a plate of hamachi (yellowtail) crudo. Sashimi-style hamachi, topped with slices of frozen grapes, accompanied by house-made coconut yogurt with a basil-lime center, watermelon, and 'nitro-ed' pineapple. (Todd English has begun dabbling in the current molecular gastronomy trend.) The fish was perfectly fresh and firm, and well seasoned. The first bite I stole from Hubband's plate was just fish and grape, and seemed salty, but when I quickly snagged another forkful with watermelon and yogurt, that salt made sense, as it was immediately cut by the sweetness of the other components. This plate was gorgeous, refreshing, and addictive. I want some right now.
My entree was a deconstructed morel lasagna, with house-made pasta and herbed ricotta. I couldn't pass up the morels, as their short season is ending, and I was not disappointed. The morel pasta itself was obviously fresh-made, tender, and delicious. The ricotta was lighter than air, mild, creamy, a fabulous foil for the earthiness of the morels. Dressed generously with a sherry-butter sauce, fava beans, and more sauteed morels, it was wonderful, earthy, and powerfully satisfying.
Hubband had the dish that introduced him to fabulous fish in the first place, miso-glazed sea bass. A block of snowy white, moist and tender sea bass with a glossy golden glaze, some of the most delicious sesame spinach you'll ever taste, (Honestly, I need to attempt to clone the recipe. If I was successful, I'd make it at least once a week.) and a delicate pea tendril salad. Excellent, as always.
Feeling cheeky, we went for a dessert, which is really what forced this whole post. I should have taken pictures of every dish, as they were all beautiful, but to be perfectly honest, I was just thinking about enjoying the dinner and the evening, and not really thinking about this blog. (Shame! Shame!)
When this dessert came out, we were just so amused that I asked Hubband to take a picture with his phone. I apologize in advance for the less-than-pristine photo quality, but how could we resist this?That was our dessert. They call it a "zweet burger", with fries and ketchup. The burger bun is lemon cake, perfectly formed into a bun shape, with the top rolled in sesame seeds. Inside is a berry compote, with the 'cheese' composed of sheets of mandarin jelly (molecular gastronomy at work again!) The patty itself is citrus cream, dipped in hazelnut chocolate. Beneath the patty is another slice of mandarin jelly 'cheese' and the bun bottom.
The 'fries' are beignets, fabulous alone or dipped in the berry-orange zest sorbet that's posing as ketchup. I could have eaten at least a bathtub full of the sorbet alone, but berry flavors are an admitted weakness of mine. Raspberry coulis decorated the plate. Here's a view of all the layers inside the 'burger':
Some nights, it's just so nice to let someone else do the cooking.