January 30, 2015

Hell week day 5: au revoir, mon amour!

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Tonight we've come to the end of an era, at least for me and some of my friends.  Our beloved On Lot 10 is closing tomorrow, and this is the very last time we would ever walk through its doors.  A few of us first learned of the impending closure when chef patron David Lai spilled the beans at a lunch last year, and my first reaction was to ask him: "SO WHERE ARE WE GONNA EAT?!"

Some of us have been trying to pack in visits late, and tonight would be my third visit this month.  After all, this may be the last chance to taste some of the dishes we've grown very fond of.

What was interesting tonight was that a friend and I both booked in advance, and we negotiated with the restaurant so that we would share the entire upper level between our two parties.  That way we would be a little more flexible in terms of the number of people we could invite, and worked out pretty well in the end.  In fact, we even engaged in some "horse trading" as we passed a couple of people between our two groups...

As usual we left the menu entirely up to David and the kitchen, although I insisted that my favorite dry-aged beef must be on the menu.  There was never any doubt that we would be completely stuffed by the end of the evening.

Culatello di Zibello - generously shared by Kung Fu Panda at the neighboring table who brought it back from Parma.  I love the cornichons and pickled chili peppers from Spain.

Steamed flower crab - I just had the most amazingly beautiful flower crab paella here 3 days ago, and here it is on the table again.  As usual left the claws up to the others and just took a section of the body.  Very, very yum.  For a moment, some us thought we had been transported to a Chiuchow restaurant...

Sea urchin omelette - egg and sea urchin are natural bedfellows, and this disappeared in no time.

Whole roasted foie gras - David's been wanting to serve this to us, and even though it was completely decadent, I figured... what the hell!  Soooooo soft and melt-in-your-mouth in the middle, with nice charring on the outside.

Pan-fried fourfinger threadfin in lemon caper sauce - we got a pretty nice and big specimen, which was split amongst the three tables.  I love fourfinger threadfin (馬友), and of course I can't get enough of that lemon caper sauce which also gets soaked up by them croûtons.

Chuleta de Rubia Galega - I've waxed lyrical about this hunk of beef at least a half dozen times over the last year, and tonight was the last chance to introduce it to a few friends who have yet to try.  For some reason we barely had enough to go around, so I just had a small piece for a taste.  I did manage to have myself a tater, and managed to scoop up easily half of the lettuce on that plate.

Crispy suckling pig - it's been a long time since the last time I had this, and coming after all that food tonight, it was a little tough to take in much more than a little slice.  Love the crispy crackling!

The kitchen sent out some sides, including this pile of taters... I think I saw someone having her fourth...

Finally, we got some tarte bourdaloue to finish.

I finally remembered to bring out the special bags of Jelly Belly that a friend of mine brought back from the US.  The Draft Beer flavor was pretty meh, and you really need to put at least 3 of them in the mouth together to pick out the beer flavor.  The TABASCO flavor, though, was kick ass!  Not only does it pack a real kick in one single little jelly bean, it also tasted like the real sauce out of the bottle.

We got a big party of 15, which means we needed plenty of vino.  So a few of us just randomly grabbed a few bottles...

Ruinart Brut

2012 Roses de Jeanne Côte de Val Vilaine, dégorgée en Avril 2014 - a little more oaky, mineral, and lively.

2003 Françoises Bedel L'Âme de la Terre - very caramelized, like cotton candy, really ripe on the palate, almost like marmalade.

2003 Domaine Leflaive Puligy-Montrachet Les Combettes - nose was very toasty, very ripe, nice and buttery, with a little sweet grass and lemon.

2002 Oremus Eszencia - nutty and marmalade, honey.  Very rich and viscous, but surprisingly nice acidity to balance it.  Went nicely with the foie gras.

1989 Cos d'Estournel - smoky, a little closed at first, with some woodsy notes.  More concentration here.

1986 Cos d'Estournel - more animal on the nose, meaty.

1995 Clinet - nose of coffee and smoke.  Opened up after a little.

We all had a fun evening, but it was sad that this would be our last at our beloved restaurant.  It's not often that one finds a chef who has the passion and the creativity to keep surprising his customers at every turn.  We give David carte blanche for each and every visit, and I can't even begin to count the number of times he has managed to surprise me over the last 4½ years.

Therefore it was all the more disappointing that yet another dining establishment has succumbed to the bane that is rising rent.  David has stated publicly that the rent on the space has more than tripled over the last 6 years.  When one of your major cost components experiences such a meteoric rise, how do we expect restaurants to stay in business?!  Would restaurant patrons be willing to fork out 50% more, or double, so that restaurateurs can keep their margins while factoring the higher cost of rent, staff wages and the cost of ingredients?  

And if people aren't willing to pay more, the restaurants either have to shutter, or find ways of cutting costs.  This inevitably leads to poor quality in terms of food - perhaps by using cheaper ingredients - and is one of the major contributing factors to the numerous food scandals going around the region.  Is this what's in the cards for us?

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