September 13, 2014

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It's been YEARS since I last got together for dinner with a couple of friends, and they decided that it was high time they went out with their "foodie friend" and get some benefits out of eating with me.  Originally they had suggested that we visit a certain new restaurant in town, but upon being advised by yours truly that there was a greater-than-zero chance of being poisoned by the kitchen (I had been rather unkind in a post on another of the group's restaurants, had received hate mail from someone in the restaurant group, and have since then never dared to set foot in any restaurant belonging to the same group), my friends decided it would be in their best interests to try another place like Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein instead...

I was a bit lazy and didn't call far enough ahead to book, and by the time I did the only available table was on the outdoor balcony.  Surprisingly the ladies didn't mind, so I retracted my request to move to the first available table outside.  Then I pinged the big man himself to let him know I was coming, and he promised to show us some magic.

My friends arrived a few minutes before me, and was told by the staff that we could not sit facing each other but had to sit in a row facing the city (and away from the restaurant).  My blood started to boil as I received text messages updating me on the situation.  WTF?!  How do you expect the 6 of us to sit in a row and have a conversation?!  I was ready to have a fit and told my friend to let the restaurant have it if they insisted on the moronic seating arrangement.  Fortunately, the situation seemed to have been resolved by the time I arrived... but the evening had gotten off on the wrong foot.

Since I had already been here twice and liked most of what I had, and this was Harlan we're talkin' about, I dispensed with ordering and just asked Harlan to send out whatever he felt was appropriate... giving him carte blanche.  We turned our attention to the wines we brought instead...

Spanish farm-raised bluefin tuna tartare, slow-cooked egg and creamy tuna sauce - didn't end up having this as I was away from the table taking care of the wine...

Heirloom tomato tartare, burrata cheese, balsamic jelly - this was OK.

Beef carpaccio roll, rocket, stracchino cheese and truffle - this was OK, with some nice flavors from the truffle.

Seafood paella - I guess this was off the menu, and HG carried it from the kitchen himself.  The carabineros were tasty but a little on the small side, although that didn't stop me from greedily sucking out whatever was in the head...  The scallops were a little overcooked and chewy, but the octopus was slow cooked and very, very tender... while retaining some bite.  Throw in clams, chorizo, and pimentos into the mix and you got tons of flavor - especially when you finish this in the Josper oven.  I couldn't believe it when no one wanted the socarrat, so I scooped up a good portion of it and gorged.  A little wet for my taste, but still pretty damn yummy.

60-days wet-aged U.S. Brandt striploin - gotta say I wasn't a fan.  Not a whole lot of flavor here... really just kinda bland.  I think we all agreed that this was a little disappointing.

Still pretty juicy but slightly tougher than I expected.

60-days wet-aged U.S. Brandt hanger steak - as expected this had more flavor than the striploin.

Australian grain-fed yellow chicken, marinated with garlic, herbs, sea salt, lemon and black pepper - the big upside surprise of the night.  The chicken was cooked sous vide for 4 hours and then put on ice.  It's brought up to temperature after being ordered, then roasted for 18 minutes.  This was incredibly tender, and even the breast meat that I had was very, very succulent.  The drumstick still had pink areas and a bit of blood, but that's fine by me.  Very, very good stuff, and I'd order this again.

I probably should have taken some of that Italian rocket salad, but I was happy enough with the amount of food I'd already taken in... especially all that paella...  The ladies also shared a dessert between them but I was content to sit this one out.

Two of us brought a total of 5 bottles of wine, and Harlan was kind enough to only charge us corkage on two.

2009 Pazo Señorans Albariño - full-bodied and oaky.

1975 Pontet-Canet - brett, a little fruit left, cedar on the nose.  Naturally the tannins are still here since it's a '75.

1970 Gaja Barbaresco - over the hill and gone, no more fruit left, just acidity, smoky and savory, soy sauce.

1999 Araujo Syrah Eisele Vineyard - exotic, tropical coconut and vanilla, along with some coffee.  Pretty nice.

2001 Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Ripe al Convento - kinda ripe, still big tannins but they are softening, full-bodied and alcoholic.  A little coffee and smoky nose, with almost a hint of mung beans.

The food tonight featured a few underwhelming dishes, which hasn't happened to me at one of Harlan's restaurants for a long, long time.  But I was happy to see my friends and meet new friends, although I thought it was a little warm to sit outdoors... and it also made for very tricky lighting for photography.  Next time I'll tell the restaurant it's indoor seating or bust...

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