220 main b/w franklin & congress
( photos are courtesy of james yu)
see updated 8/17/08 review
now i am truly embarrassed about the quality of my photos. the footage i have from last night's dinner really didn't capture the beauty of the food and the food was GORGEOUS. i think i would actually be doing the restaurant a disservice by posting my photos, so thankfully james offered me his.
the restaurant has been updated. a circular bar has been put in the middle of the restaurant and i can see that it will do well in attracting a vibrant bar scene. there is also one long communal bar table where i saw 6 guests cocktailing happily. i like some of the new, modern touches including the black and white giant hanging tapestries and the black and white cowhide (faux?) backed bar chairs. the contrasting textures are interesting. the tall banquettes are left over from the days of bank, the previous restaurant that was opened by the jean-george vongerichten enterprise. overall, the restaurant just seems more energetic. it was a good move to get rid of the old bar. i never wanted to sit there and bars and i usually get along just fine.
the 6 of us started the night with a bottle of l'aventure syrah from paso robles alongside our cocktails. it was remarkably priced at $65. in fact, we were surprised how affordable the wine list was, not quite as close to retail as ibiza, catalan, reef but still quite low. for example, a bottle of nicolas feuillatte brut rose (one of my favorite champagnes) is $38.50 at spec's, $40 at ibiza, and $55 at voice.
for appetizers we started with 2 orders of grilled octopus, 2 orders of truffle fries, the mushroom cappuccino, and crabcake. the grilled octopus had a wonderful char on it and was topped with a lovely frisee salad dressed with truffle vinaigrette and hon-shimeji mushrooms. the truffle fries, lightly drizzled in truffle oil and parmesan, arrived hot, crispy, and provided a wonderful truffle fix.
the mushroom soup "cappuccino" was whimsically served in a coffee cup with saucer. the stiff foam did a good job replicating a cappuccino froth. i wanted to pick up the cup and drink it! the flavors were wonderful and earthy and the texture was soft and creamy, but unfortunately it was painfully oversalted. we informed our server and had him remove it from the table. (btw, no one followed up with our complaint. we were not offered a new one or a replacement nor was the item taken off our bill.)
lastly, the crabcake was nothing remarkable. it had a lot breading and was served on pressed avocado, shaved fennel, and cilantro oil. i would have enjoyed more cilantro oil since the cake was bready and dry. it seemed more like a garnish on the plate.
now we were down to 5 people and only 4 of us were drinking. we ordered the beau vigne juliet, a cab blend from st. helena, CA. the bottle was $73 (retail is $54.95). it was a nicely balanced wine with good fruit and an interesting finish.
i noted to the group that the chef didn't send out an amuse. am i wrong to expect one from a restaurant at this price point?
for entrees, i chose the lacquered duck breast w/ morels, fava beans and black pepper gastrique. the duck was slightly overcooked (i requested medium-rare) but the dish was still fantastic. my plate was also garnished with sweet potato puree that had a nice star of anise flavor punch.
the wow dish at the table was the venison sous vide. the protein was pleasantly gamey and oh-so-tender. the accoutrements were caramelized apples, cipollini onions, and sour cherry sauce. superb! everyone also enjoyed the rack of lamb which was perfectly cooked (see top photo). both the guys were gnawing on bones which is a good sign.
we also picked 2 fish dishes for the table. the first was the alaskan halibut with baby carrots and truffle foam. the dish was composed of 3 thinnish filets of pan seared halibut which were overcooked and dry. i questioned why the chef didn't choose to serve 1 thick piece of fish to really show-off the buttery unctuousness of good halibut. the truffle foam provided some creaminess and saved the dish. however, the grouper wasn't any better than the halibut. the fish was also dry but the mussels served on top and the sauce (a mussel broth maybe?) didn't excite any palates at this table.
after a round of espressos, we had 3 desserts. the peanut butter custard with caramelized bananas was the table favorite. a study in chocolate included warm molten cake, mint ice cream w/a chocolate cookie, chocolate mousse, and a milkshake. it was a fun playground of various chocolate treats however the cookie was so hard we couldn't even cut it with a knife. lastly, we picked three in house made sorbets: ginger-lychee, green apple-champagne, and passionfruit. we expected a smoother texture. some of them were also cloyingly sweet.
service was wonderful. the company was even better. i dug the ambiance of the place which was relatively busy. will i be running back? probably not b/c i expect a little more polish if i'm digging out the serious coinage. but i *am* still thinking about that venison more than 24 hours later.