Friday, November 25, 2011
Sometimes a restaurant can do everything right and still feel a little off. I went to Zealous last week for a five course dinner. The dining room was a big open space with a lot of white and glass ceilings. While it was very open, it was divided by long serving areas and bamboo plants surrounding the center tables. The space was so white, it almost reminded me of an operating room. The look of the space might sound a little off-putting, but the table and chair were very comfortable. The hostess and waitstaff were very friendly and seated me and took my order very quickly and I didn't have to wait long for the start. My Amuse Bouche came quickly and while it looked very good, I was surprised by the small size. I will grant that an Amuse Bouche is generally small and is supposed to be a one bite wonder but most, in my experience, have been the size of a couple of bites. This was a couple of bites but only by a technicality. I was served a pumpkin and truffle gougére (a savory cream puff) with a balsamic reduction and a spiced pumpkin seed. It tasted very good and I was actually surprised how well pumpkin and truffle flavors work together. It went down though, in one bite and the pumpkin seed was the other bite. Despite the size, it was a good start.My first course came quickly after I finished my Amuse Bouche and I would call it a salad course but only because it had the elements of a salad in it. It was a visually well constructed dish that was essentially a deconstructed salad. It included gravlax (salt cured salmon), beets, grapefruit, brussel sprouts, baby greens, and crispy papadum. All of the elements tasted very good and while I suppose that you could have mixed and eaten the food together, it was just as easy to eat each of the elements separately which is what I ended up doing.
The next course was a seafood course and when it was presented, I started to notice something. While fine dining is considered a style, most restaurants even those pinned in the fine dining area can also have an ethnic focus of some kind. Zealous is a very international restaurant drawing on techniques and foods from all over the world, sometimes multiple areas in one course. In the first two courses I had had French, Swedish and Indian, and with this course, we had Asian and American. The course consisted of a seared scallop with an Asian slaw, a kimchi puree, and crispy pork belly. The scallop was perfectly seared and the kimchi was surprisingly spicy. Admittedly, I couldn't find the pork belly, but I then tried some of the crumbs that were scattered on the plate. It was another nice looking (if small) course that tasted very good.
From Asia, we went to France, and to a certain extent, Italy and it was very definitely the carnivore's course. We started on the left, with a filet mignon served with baby carrots, roasted onion went to the center for a potato and mushroom lasagne, and to the right for a braised short rib with a truffle foam. It was a very good looking (and good tasting) plate and while I really like truffles, I am really not a big fan of foam.
After the strong flavors that came from the beef, a palate cleanser was in order and that came from the next course. I was served a peach sorbet in a pomegranate soup with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, melon, apple, and pineapple. It was light, sweet, refreshing, and slightly tart, and got my palate ready for dessert.Dessert was kind of a surprise in that it came as a pair. The first of the desserts was a chocolate pudding cake that was served with chocolate pudding, pickled cherries, and armagnac ice cream. The second was an apple tart topped with apples and served with apple sauce and Goldschlager ice cream. Both desserts were very good and had something to say for them but I preferred the pudding cake and its accompaniments. While the apple tart and the accompanying apples and apple sauce were very good, I have never been a huge fan of Goldschlager. I find it too sweet and the ice cream version didn't improve it much.
After the dessert, I thought I was finished and it would have been a good place to finish but instead of the after dinner mint that many restaurants bring, I was brought a chocolate cupcake and an apricot financier cake. They were both light and very good providing a nice finish to the dinner.
After paying and leaving the restaurant, I looked at my watch and noticed that I had been there for less than hour. While I never felt rushed, I am not sure that the time is worth the money. The food looked and tasted excellent, the waitstaff was very friendly, as was the chef, and while the serving sizes looked a bit small, I didn't leave the restaurant hungry. Having said that, between the ambiance and the speed of the meal, I am not sure that I really liked it or if I will be returning.