Tuesday, September 2, 2008

L2O

I've wanted to go to L2O since I heard about the chef's blog, where they talked about the process of setting up the restaurant, the products they were using, and had pictures of potential dishes. So when Michelle chose it for her birthday dinner, there weren't any complaints from me.

We decided to go "all-out" and opted for the twelve course (+ extras) tasting menu. (The other option is a four course prix fixe where the categories are raw, warm, main, and cheese/dessert.) Overall, the dishes were all technically impressive with really attractive presentations and some innovative touches.

(We chose not to take pictures during the meal, but I have linked to pictures on flickr or on the L2O blog.)

Amuses: a clam (I don't remember the name, but it was similar to geoduck in texture) with cucumber and jalapeno, and a kampachi tartare in bonito gelee with lime foam

M: The jalapenos in the clam amuse were minced into the smallest cubes - maybe a square millimeter! All of the ingredients were treated with care, cut into perfect cubes or formed into perfect rounds.

1. Fluke. Sashimi with grapefruit, shiso and ossetra caviar. Really nice, but too bad it was only a single bite!

2. Tuna. The cubes of tuna were arranged like a checkerboard (similar to this) with some "squares" replaced by olive and olive oil emulsions.

3. Tofu. Housemade with red miso, bonito flake, and tomato.

M: I really enjoyed this, it was light but flavorful.

4. Shimaaji. Rubbed with red miso, with tiny radishes, and "soy salt". This was definitely an innovative variation on a raw dish. One of many gadgets they have in the kitchen is a freeze-dryer, which they use to freeze dry soy sauce to make the soy salt. (Similar to this)

5. Halibut. This was by far the standout dish of the meal. According to the server, the halibut was steamed, but I suspect that it was cooked sous vide because the texture was incredible. It was served on a jamon clam chowder, with a tiny frisee salad, and a ginger-parsley "cracker". Apparently, the cracker is made from a meringue which is piped into a circle and freeze-dried. The final texture is really light (almost like cotton candy). Altogether, this was an amazing and memorable dish.

M: The cracker was immensely cool. It tasted quite like lobster tomalley to me (in a good way), so much so that I was surprised to hear that it contained no such thing. The frisee salad included the tiniest chopped micro chives (seriously, I was won over by all the lilliputian ingredients in the meal. You could say it was all very cute, but that would undermine the detail and care that went into all the preparation).

6. King Salmon. With corn and jalapeno purees. Definitely well-cooked, but a bit of a letdown after the halibut. At the outset of the meal, Michelle wasn't too jazzed about salmon, so she asked for the substitute. They gave her skate wing with bordelaise sauce and asparagus (including these ridiculously tiny spears of white asparagus).

M: Again, with the tiny. We thought they might be strands of enoki mushroom at first, but upon closer examination and taste, they were definitely tiny asparagus. I was glad I got the skate wing, as it had an interesting, not unpleasantly stringy texture and a nice caramelization.

7. Lobster-Chanterelle. Lobster quenelles (like a dense mousse with very intense lobster flavor) in a lobster foie-gras broth with chanterelles.

M: I was disappointed that this dish was not "real" lobster but it was very interesting, rich, and very lobster-y indeed.

8. Cod Fish. With green olive, meyer lemon, white grits. Unfortunately, the first plates they sent us were overcooked, but they promptly sent us another plate that was much better.

M: It just goes to show that you should not be intimidated about sending something back if you know it's not right. The second rendition was SO much better than the first, I was glad we got the dish the way it should be made. I was just sad that I didn't eat all of the super-yummy grits from the first plate before we complained!

9. Pork Belly. Black truffle sauce, and caramelized potato (see here). Really rich with a very crispy skin.

M: The potato cylinder was piped with a potato cream that was really delicious. And the roasted pork belly, well... it was like a deluxe bacon and Chinese roast pork all in one...

10. Medai. A butterfish served shabu-shabu style with a very intense chicken-kombu bouillon. A very elaborate production.

M: This was really nice, as the fish was good both raw and lightly cooked. The best bite involved wrapping a piece of fish in a shiso leaf and dunking it in the broth for a few seconds. I was sad that the broth was taken away and not returned to us, and confused when the server explained that it only comes back when it is part of the 4-course meal, not the tasting menu. What a strange waste!

Pre-desserts. A chocolate truffle with soy salt (a really nice combo actually), and a canteloupe shaved ice with agave syrup.

M: I. Love. Fruity. Ices.

11. Mango. Sorbet (more like a frozen pudding) above chopped mango with a tropical fruit soup and soft "marshmallows". This was really refreshing and tasty.

M: I. Love. Icy. Fruits.

12. Praline. A ridiculously tall souffle (like this).

M: Swooooon, this was so incredibly good. Light and eggy, nutty and caramelly.

Post-desserts. An amazing pistachio macaroon (the green one in this image) and a chocolate ganache.

I also have to mention their standout bread and butter. Both the bread and butter are made in house, and they offered us 6 different kinds of breads (including tiny little baguettes and a bacon pain d'epi), all of which we ended up trying.

M: I loved all the extras. The breads really were just amazing, both because they were adorable replicas of larger artisanal loaves (my love of all things mini strikes again) and also because they were just plain tasty (there was also an anchovy brioche). And the pre- and post desserts and migniardises were all really good, not just thrown in as filler.

Overall, it was a great experience, but also the most expensive meal we've ever had. The most obvious comparison is to our engagement dinner at Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA, which I've previously described as our best meal ever, but it's a difficult comparison, especially if you consider that Cyrus was close to half the price. The service at Cyrus was much more polished and the individual dishes were stellar, but L2O was certainly more original. Luckily, there's a place for both!

1 comment:

riceandwheat said...

mmmmango. i. love. mango. and also all things fishy. yum.