July 31, 2008

Spontaneous dinner

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Tonight a colleague and I decided to have dinner at the Mandarin Grill + Bar on a whim. Believe it or not, I haven't been back to the Mandarin Grill since the hotel's renovation, so I was pretty eager to check out the quality of the cuisine.

We started with the 2006 Sigalas Santorini, made on the famed Greek island from a local varietal called Asyrtiko. I had a chance to try this wine last year on a visit to Pierre, and I was sufficiently impressed. The nose packed quite a punch, full of toasty oak and minerals. The wine was full bodied, ripe and sweet on the palate, but there was also enough acidity on the finish - and it was a pretty long finish.

For starter I chose the veloute, intrigued that the dish was named after a sauce. In particular I was interested in the 65 degree egg that was in the description. I wasn't quite prepared for it when the dish arrived before me. Long, thin slices of green asparagus lay at the bottom of the shallow soup bowl, surrounding an egg yolk. The waiter proceeds to pour green veloute into the bowl, scalding the egg yolk and covering it entirely. I guess I'm having soup! Or to be more correct, I'm having sauce as a starter...

Actually, the soup/sauce was pretty delicious, and I am reminded of the veloute of green peas from my meal at Al Muntaha at the Burj Al Arab. Here the soup was thick, and when you roll the liquid around your tongue, you can kinda feel the texture and consistency coming from the flour. The egg yolk, however, was disappointing. It wasn't as liquid as I had hoped.

I chose habilut as my main course since I hadn't had this fish for quite a while. The fish was poached and sat on a bed of green pea mash, surrounded by more green peas. There were even a couple of green pea "ravioli" made in the style of El Bulli - green pea puree enclosed in the calcified exterior. There were also three langoustines - grilled and de-shelled - which were so sweet and delicious. The shellfish was so full of flavor...yummy!

Back to the fish...the chef had added a crusty layer on top, made of small, square croutons. What was interesing was the "glue" that binds this crust to the fish - it was a sauce that reminded me of lemon meringue pie. It was sour as you would expect lemon to be, but at the same time there was plenty of sweetness as well as a bit of je ne sais quois - eggwhite perhaps? - that just brings to mind one of my favorite desserts. It certainly added a very interesting dimension to the whole experience. I'm still having an internal debate about whether this worked for me or not.

We were both pretty stuffed at this point, so no desserts for us. After a shot of espresso and a nibble of petit fours, it was time to head home - pretty satisfied overall and happy to have finally made it back to the Grill.

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