By this time, we couldn’t tell if we were slightly buzzing from the 6th glass of wine, or the parade of food that had unfolded before us. We were a couple hours in, but the chairs were still cushy and comfortable, the waiters still buzzing like clockwork and all we could really do was look around and just smile at each other in collective contentment. The delicate tastes of sea-flavored roe, fish, floral foam had started to settle into our flavor memory banks, but we were ready for some meat, maybe a bold red, and the next course offered up both.
The Wagyu beef looks like a too-cruel mere bite of the intensely marbled meat, but it’s the perfect size. Its luscious flavor is intensified when dipped into an “A-1” powder of raisin, clove, anchovy and tamarind stuffed into a tiny plastic packet. The puréed potato cube encrusted with potato chip added the potatoes to the meat, a 2006 Sonoma Coast Syrah threw in the flavor of a bold, juicy, beef-friendly red, but it was the waves of smoldering dry ice reminiscent of a barbecue that brought the course to a new sensory level. Right on cue, a waiter came over to make the frosted over centerpiece “erupt,” emitting barbecue-inspired “smoke” that swirled around our sea of wine glasses and lapped up against ours plate before rolling over to the ground.
The smoke had cleared, the rest of the A-1 powder was gone when this simple spoon was set down in front of us with special direction to not bite down until the entire thing was in our mouths. The black truffle “explosion” was an intense burst of black truffle stuffed in a velvety smooth al dente ravioli. Our mouths were bursting with truffle broth, Parmesan and romaine, but the flavorful bite would have left us speechless anyway.
The intensity had been kicked up, but we were ready to start heading into the sweet, and the bacon course was the ideal way to do it. I’d had the dish before, and truly never forgot it. A single strip of bacon drizzled with butterscotch and laced with apple and thyme hangs on a silver wire. Sweet, savory, stare-worthy.
Oh my god, rhubarb. Could there be a better flavor? Tangy yet sweet and so conducive to pairing with other flavors. The rhubarb course, rhubarb, creamy cheesecake and a subtle onion cotton candy, is served on a pin-pricked pillow filled with lavender air that deflates and is emitted as the plate is set on it. You get a little lost with this one, not knowing quite what flavor or scent to take in first, but it’s another good bridge from the savory to the sweet.
Wherever I’m enjoying dessert, I want to make sure that chocolate occurs at some point. The chocolate course offered a lovely array of various “bubbles,” from fudge cream to a consommé of maple sap and blueberry. A subtle hint of tobacco hit our tongues at various points, but I’m still trying to figure out where and in what form it was hiding on the plate. A 1994 Smith-Woodhouse Vintage Port tied the heady, smoky, chocolate flavors together, a combination that might have represented the flavor of the color blue.
The final three flavors ended on a sweet and playful note, and each looked plucked from a candy store shelf circa 2060. We began with the raspberry transparency, a paper-thin shard of intense raspberry candy clipped onto metal wheels. It broke into crunchy sugary stained glass shards into our mouths invoking the essence of raspberry along the way.
Bubble gum. This long frozen plastic tube was placed in front of us with instruction to, “slurp it all out at once. There’s less in there then it looks.” We slurped and later found out that the frozen tube is filled with hibiscus, crème fraîche and tapioca flavored with bubble gum stock. Yes, actual stock, from bubble gum. Delish and fun (insert laughing fit).
Caramel. The final, solitary flavor of the night. The pile of brown caramel and salt powder turns into a creamy, lucious, buttery caramel when chewed. Perhaps the best caramel we’ve ever tasted, we swore the stuff should be packaged up and sold as chewing “dip.” Instead there would be no spitting, only savoring the flavor as long as we possibly could.
But wait, there was more! Click here from Alinea 1.0, and here for 2.0.