We had already dined on caviar and seafood, so the obvious transition to a meat course would be lobster, two different preparations:
Lobster Tartine, Leongrass and Fenugreek Broth, Pea Shoots. Served with Pinot Nior, III Somms Seven Springs Vineyard â€” Cuvee JG, Eqla-Amity Hills, Oregon 2007.
Two plump butter-poached lobster claws on a crisp crouton in an aromatic broth. Like the “lobster mitts” I had at Per Se, properly cooked claw meat can be a revelation, a totally different texture than the tail.
Steamed Maine Lobster, Artichoke, Citrus-Chili Emulsion. Served with the same wine as above.
Here we got the tail, simply steamed so as not to detract from the chef’s well-known citrus-chili sauce, which was the perfect balance of both, reminiscent of classic Thai flavors.
We were informed that the wine was a special bottling, a joint venture between Vongerichten and an Oregon winery. I had never considered a pinot with lobster, but it worked well with the strong flavors in both dishes.
Broiled Squab, Onion Compote, Corn Pancake with Foie Gras. Served with Barolo, Camerano Cannubi San Lorenzo, Piedmont, Italy 2004.
Another JG classic, the squab had hints of five spice, with the onion compote providing the traditional sweet component to complement the foie gras. I had no shame, I used the pancake to mop up the rich jus.
Lamb Chop with Green Chili and Mint, Sweet Pea PurÃ©e. Served with Margaux, Chateau du Tertre, Bordeaux, France 2004.
Lamb, mint, peas – all classic spring flavors, with the extra zing of green chili.
Chocolate Dessert Tasting. Served with Pedro Ximinez Solera 1927, Alvear, Montilla-Moriles, Spain.
Clockwise from top left: chocolate sorbet, a chocolate “straw” with caramel, chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream, and a chocolate “squiggle” with sesame tuille and nitrogen-frozen cream. The surprise here was the chocolate and sesame, a pairing of sweet and smoky that undercut what could have been a cloying dish.
But the star was the 83-year-old sherry. I almost licked the inside of the glass to get every last drop of that sweet nectar.
Seasonal Dessert Tasting. Served with Riesling Auslese, Wittman Westhofener Morstein, Rheinhessen, Germany 2006.
Clockwise from top left: lime sorbet with frozen lemon droplets, rhubarb with frozen yogurt, rhubarb tartlet with strawbery foam, and something I can no longer remember or identify. I don’t normally like rhubarb, but the variations presented made me reconsider my dislike. (My apologies for the shakycam photo. I’ll claim that I was still quivering from my first sip of the sherry.)
Although we had reached the end of the menu, the meal wasn’t quite over. There was the extra birthday dessert, a crÃ¨me caramel with an edible fondant banner
â€¦the rose petal macarons,
â€¦the hand-cut marshmallows,
â€¦and, finally, the jellies (grapefruit and blackberry) and assorted chocolates (including a miniature bag with more chocolates to take home).
I had experienced a preview of Vongerichten’s cooking at Market, his restaurant in Boston’s W Hotel, but it barely prepared me for the level of inventiveness and technique we experienced during this meal. We want to go back and sample some of the other dishes without the gradual progression of the tasting menu.
After three hours, it was time to bring the evening to a close. We headed back for the final birthday gift: the loan of a friend’s apartment for the weekend, a little time to unwind before returning to He Who Will Not Be Ignored. Who demanded a full accounting of the meal, and now wants “the lobster with the spicy sauce.” I’ll be sure to put a word in with JG.