Offen: Tasty, with just a hint of presumption

Feb. 03, 2013 @ 03:52 PM

I give this restaurant 3.87 stars.

We began at the bar — a long piece of horizontal wood that resembles a bar — with a cocktail composed of Belarussian vodka, lemongrass and old bits of 45 vinyl records, with a hint of cardamom. At least we think it was cardamom since we have no idea what cardamom is. 

The décor was lovingly reminiscent of my parents’ living room in 1957 except for the absence of Uncle Charlie asleep in the recliner, the newspaper scattered over his lap and a cigar burning his abdomen, which at the time we called a stomach.

The dining room was dimly lit and sound levels were generally quiet if you didn’t notice the squalling baby under our table. The aromas wafting in from the open-air kitchen were redolent of chives and pussywillow, with just a touch of after-shave lotion.

For an “amuse-bouche,” which is French for $23!, we tried the ceviche, which was easily pronounceable, although the wait staff curiously didn’t seem to know whether or not it had an accent and where to put it if it did.

As an appetizer, my dining partner chose the dim sum while I, more adventurous, preferred the dimmer sum. I found it both juicy and dry, which may have had more to do with the fact that I was still feeling the novocaine from the afternoon’s root canal work.

For the main course, I decided to splurge on the farm-raised and Yale-educated pork belly braised in sautéed charcuterie with bok choy blossoms atop a sea of micro greens and a dash of slivered persimmon smoked for 24 hours in the Arizona desert under the auspices of free-range chickens.

It was, as you might expect, a mouthful. 

My partner chose the corn puffs, which she described as both corny and somewhat puffy, with an amazing balance of sweet and bitter notes, something like Crest Whitening Paste With Fluoride and Mint.

The wine selection was enormous, ranging from white to red and then back again. To accompany the main courses, we chose a bottle of a silky smooth Chateau Gevalt 2004, a bargain at 2001.

For dessert, we rounded things out by sharing the peanut brittle made from organically grown Brazilian brittles that are now fortunately available locally from J&J’s Brittle Farm and Convenience Store.

I must admit I found the brittle a tad too brittle, although it was a Tuesday and that may have been the brittle sous-chef’s night off.

All through the meal, the wait staff was attentive and friendly, knowledgeable about the menu and informative about why she was thinking of becoming a yoga or Pilates instructor in Venezuela.

We would definitely return — definitely want to try that crab tempura Twinkie with the cold-pressed and humanely harvested rotisseried chocolate chips on a bed of old vintage calendars! — although by then we hope that Uncle Charlie is awake and the squalling baby is gone.  

Neil Offen can be reached at noffen@heraldsun.com or by telephone at 919-419-6646.