My birthday is close enough to Christmas that celebrating it is a burden rather than a pleasure, in an already overloaded season. So we move it to an arbitrary date in the summer. This works especially well for the “every ten years” birthday celebrated at one of the world’s greatest restaurants, which uses fresh, local, and notably, seasonal, ingredients. Summer is a great time at Chez P. Other times are great times, too, but summer is the best. There are no choices: they plan, you eat. Always worth it, but two dishes tonight were particularly outstanding.
I’ll do the courses in order instead of starting with the main dish this time. They’re all main dishes in some sense.
Or maybe I shouldn’t 😉 The ratatoille timbale was actually the least interesting thing on the menu – merely “very good” rather than “breathtaking” as some of the other courses were. Nothing special in the taste or texture, IMO. The stuff around the bottom is an excellent red pepper sauce, but then, red pepper sauces tend to be excellent. The salad was perfection itself – perfectly dressed, with delicate, beautifully flavored ingredients, including a lacy sprig of chervil. Adding depth, over the top were teensy bits of botarga, which D observed is yet a new flavor of salt.
But the fish – OMG. “Half Moon Bay petrale sole with lemon, sage, and Chino Ranch carrots.” D commented that for him to want to smell the fish was remarkable and quite a compliment. It was very lightly breaded and fried. There were deep fried (I think- no detectable fat) sage leaves over the top – absolutely perfectly done – and around the edges, carrots of different varieties sliced thin as potato chips and cooked to perfection, along with sections of onions – I think scallions. Cooked in butter and probably also oil. Lemon in there somewhere. And look how beautiful it is!
Could it get better? No, that was un-betterable. But the main course, “Summer cassoulet with Salmon Creek duck breast, braised pork belly, fresh shell beans, chanterelles, and tomato confit”, lived up to its predecessor. There were mixed fresh shell beans – we saw what were probably cranberry beans and also cannellini – around and under the meats, buts of Romano beans, and also, tiny chanterelles, all perfectly cooked. Tomato confit… hm. Must be the delicate sauce around the dish, tying everything together. I didn’t stop to parse that one. Oh right – the meats: usually I cut off the fat, but not here where it will be perfectly done. The pork belly was crisped and delicious and the duck slices were delectable. There was a gremolata over top with (I think) parsley and crispy teeny bread crumbs, which added a perfect texture to the dish.
The wines: Chez P had a course of three wines, 3 oz each, that they were serving with the meal for an extra $40/person. IMO you can’t really understand a wine with 3 oz, so I was not interested in this, but we did ask what wines they were serving. The first course they had a Bandol rose, and that really would have been excellent, but we decided to match the second course instead and have a Burgogne Aligote, which we really enjoyed.
For the main course, we inquired about a garnacha, having had one of the great wines of our lives – a garnacha rioja from Martinez Bujanda – on a previous birthday dinner of mine at Chez P. However, the server said probably not – too heavy for the dish – and recommended a wine that absolutely blew us away. Called Babiole, it’s a “typical northern Rhone varietal” made by a mowhawk-wearing refugee from the Czech army named Andrea Calek.
Dessert was simple but exquisite: “Frog Hollow Farm blum sherbet with red wine0raspbetty granita and peaches.” The peach slices – different kinds – were thin and perfectly ripe, and the sherbet was lovely. Hidden in the back there you can just see what was called a “cookie” but was a narrow slice of a thin, crumbly and scrumptious buttery entity. R suggested having a Jurancon with this, and he and I did, giving D a taste, too. Interestingly, the server recommended the same.