You have to love a place that describes dinner as a “Five-Course Tasting Affair” … lets just start with that, shall we. Affair is an apt name for the experience, as in my mind an affair is something one is lured and seduced into (ideally) and requires a curiosity for the unknown, an abandonment of the usual and a sense of adventure. Yes, we’re still talking food, but you get my drift.
When Pam and I decided to have another one of our “girls night out” dinner events we diverted from our past practice of working out first, and then dinner and just cut to the chase. Apparently we’ve graduated to dropping all pretense and now just get to the best part, the yummy dinner and dessert we always treat ourselves to afterwards. It was her turn to pick, and while she had been to the Uptown Billiards Club in the past, I had never been.
This was back in January, so the miserable weather may have contributed to a reluctance to get out and do anything other than hunker down someplace warm and be babied as kind people brought us food. Yes, I realize I’m very tardy in posting this blog – I’ve been on a writing hiatus, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating, and shooting photos. I’ve just been neglecting my pet blog – so sue me.
This particular January, the theme at Billiards was “Meyer Lemons”. Each course is served in order, punctuated with a different wine. I realized right away I might be in over my head – I rarely drink and have no clue about wine, but that’s what’s so wonderful about this particular affair – you surrender yourself entirely to the chef and don’t have to worry about it or understand a single thing, nothing to do but experience the array of new tastes.
The cost is a mere $35 ($25 if you forego the wine) and we felt that to be an excellent bargain. They offer a full drink menu which I mention only because I’m in love with the names of the drinks. Someday I will have to write a blog entirely about the creativity of alcoholic beverage names, but another day.
We started off with something called “Ahi Tartare With Ginger and Meyer Lemon – rainbow beet carpaccio and crispy wonton” Oh dear. Now, I know enough to understand that Tartare probably means uncooked. But heck, who doesn’t like wontons, right? Crispy is code for fried, that’s safe and familiar territory. All I know about the wine was that it was Italian – and we all know anything Italian is wonderful, do we not?
The next course, was a very familiar treat – Crispy Fried Cod – lemon buttermilk dressing served with preserved lemon, fennel and pickled onion with a French White Bordeaux. One thing I like about these small portions is there are several of them, so you can get just the perfect amount of a little taste of heaven, sip your wine (I think I had three different types lined up at one point as I’m a slow sipper) to clear your palate in between courses and not feel stuffed or overfull, just happily teased and a little buzzed.
Next was the Arugula and Crispy Duck Confit Salad – with lemon and pomegranate vinaigrette, spiced pistachios and pomegranate seeds – with a wine from Spain this time – yay, world tour! Honestly, this is just the perfect thing for someone like me, because I would never order duck as my main dish in a restaurant, but to be able to try something so exotic and not commit to having that be your entire dinner is great. Plus I love salad and vinaigrettes, as well as pomegranate, having something new and different paired with other familiar things is a great way to experiment with new foods. I probably would order duck in the future now.
The final course, however was my favorite and the one that I wished most for more of (as in “Please, Sir, may I”!) – Braised Beef Cheeks. I admit, by the time I was there, having had all these wines (another Spanish one this time) I was silly and worried about what exactly a beef cheek might be? Was this a delicate way of saying “rump”? Or literally cheeks? I’m not certain I really need to know the anatomical details of what part of an animal I’m eating, but that’s just me. However, by the time I had experienced this melt-in-your-mouth treat, I was beyond caring what it was called and would have gladly swapped dessert for another helping of those cheeks (and that’s saying something). It was served with meyer lemon and roasted celery root puree.
Finally, we arrived to the dessert portion of our lemon tour. House-Made Dark Chocolate Ice Cream, with meyer lemon marmalade and macadamia nut tuille – again with another Italian number – a dessert wine this time. To be honest, I’m not really an ice cream kind of girl. I love cakes and cookies the most, so I could have swapped this out or would have made another choice if there had been one. The dessert was very rich, the dark chocolate paired with the marmalade – I’m also not crazy about chocolate and fruit together, but realize I’m probably in a minority here. The tartness of the lemon marmalade (almost a bitter taste to me against the chocolate) definitely drew out something in the ice cream. I loved the cookies the best.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for a fun and new experience, it’s a great way to try several dishes, to feel pampered and as if you are getting a taste of “cuisine” rather than just “dinner”. The Chef came out and walked around and visited with the diners, there’s a bar and billiards of course, great atmosphere and I hear they have great happy hour deals before six.
I did see that if you are bringing children (and why would you? I’m not sure I’d describe this as kid friendly food – it’s not kid unfriendly per se, but I imagine some of the charm would be lost on a child) you need to give them notice as the only entrance into the restaurant is through the bar.