November 15, 2017

Nice, but no WOW

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The Locusts are back in town again, and we decided to catch up for dinner in order to discuss our plans for Peru 2018.  After going through rounds of elimination, we ended up booking a table at Octavium, the new-ish "private kitchen" from Chef Umberto Bombana.

There was a ton of buzz on social media earlier this year from so-called influencers who got previews of the place.  I was scratching my head about why the chef would want to open a "private kitchen" that seemed to be easily accessible to the public, but hey... what the hell do I know, right?

This "private kitchen" tries to live up the "private" part by refusing to publish its phone number.  To get a table, one must send an email, then wait for a reply.  Thankfully, I was able to get myself a table with just a few days' notice, despite reports in the media about the place being fully booked for months.

Amuse bouche - our server laid down these bowls in front of us, and left without any explanation.  I guess it was some kind of pumpkin custard, with cubes of pumpkin.  Not exactly sure what the green purée was...

Not off to a very good start, but then service for our entire meal was about the same.  The staff were very "efficient" and quickly laid down the dishes with swift, if robotic, movements.  Very different from the more elegant service at other fine dining establishments in town.

Marinated scampi, oscietra caviar and puntarelle - this was pretty good.  There was good acidity in the citrus coulis, which worked well with the scampi.

Melloreddus, traditional pork ragout and castelmagno cheese - one can always count on good pasta with Chef Bombana, and the ragù was certainly tasty.

Roasted "Te Mana" lamb, 3 styles of artichoke - the lamb loin was very nicely done, and certainly very tasty.  The little bits of lamb belly was deliciously crispy, but those pieces were ridiculously small - as was the single piece of lamb rack.  The artichoke came roasted, pickled, and puréed.

Speaking of lamb... While this was certainly delicious, I don't think it was anywhere close to the Colorado rack of lamb that they used to serve at 8½ Otto e Mezzo in the old days...  I could never wait to sink my teeth into that thing, since it delivered such an amazing level of satisfaction. 

Hello Kitty had the Fassone, and her tenderloin was overcooked... which was made worse by the fact that Fassone is a very lean breed.

Our palate cleanser was a persimmon sorbet with persimmon cubes and garnished with pomegranate sorbet.

Monte Bianco, hazelnut merengue and chestnut gelato - so we've got chestnut gelato on the side, with a cylinder of rum cream covered with chestnut purée and sticks/dots of hazelnut meringue.  Pretty decent.

I brought a lonely bottle to dinner - something I had been aging for about 18 years... and which happened to be the very first vintage of the wine.

1997 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta - decanted for 30 minutes prior to serving.  Sweet fruit, a little inky, with grilled meat notes.  Surprisingly tannic.

From my perspective, the meal was fairly decent. Not a single dish was a fail, and everything I had was well-executed.  However, it was also lacking a little in the "wow" department.  I know that it's truffle season and that many people come to a Bombana restaurant for it - and we could smell the wonderful fragrance from all around us.  But we're cheapskates... and I wasn't gonna cough up the premium being commanded this year due to the poor harvest.  In any case, I would want the "wow" to come from the restaurant's kitchen instead of the truffles.

As we left the restaurant, I couldn't help but feel a little similar to that night I dined at Saison - nice and solid, but not much "wow"...  At least this meal cost less than half of what the 3-star meal cost in San Francisco so I could afford to go back a little more often...

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