Ok - so Toque
- apparently not pronounced like the ski hat - a member of the Relaix and Chateaux gastronomy group. It started out with great potential - but went rather seriously downhill by the end of the evening. Very disappointing when we paid about the most I've ever paid for a meal.
I've grown accustomed to the habit of maitre de's trying to seat two unknown single women in the worst seat in the house - and since it was early, with very few seats occupied, simply redirecting him to the seats we preferred was not a problem.
We had decided on the tasting menu early in the game in hopes of trying a variety of novel and interesting items. There were two options - with and without foie - so of course we wanted the foie. The wine pairings included 'regular' or 'premium' wines - Kelly opted for the premiums - I stuck with water this time around (wanted to keep my photography skills at their best). Of course it was asked if there were any food allergies or dislikes - the only limit was Kelly's - raw onion of any sort (including scallions) was out. It appears that one of their main flavour enhancers is scallion in it's various forms.
The wait staff seemed to be divided into male (who were allowed to take orders and discuss the food) and females (who were allowed to refill your water glass, bring new cutlery and pick up plates). And I must say the female wait staff were dressed in about the most unflattering outfits I've seen in a while.
The amuse for the entire house was Asparagus Milk with Scallion foam. Kelly's came sans foam. Tasty - though not earth shattering.
Kelly's first wine came - a dry Reisling - good but a parsimonious portion given the cost of the wine pairings. It went very nicely with the Scallops with Rhubarb and Wasabi foam - also included - lots of tasty little cucumber bits. It was suggested we just tilt the shell to eat - not a terribly good suggestion given the quantity of ingredient on the shell and the fact that the wasabi foam was preventing everything from moving forward off the shell into your mouth.
Next up - Sea Urchin with radish cream, little slices of radish, scallion oil (olive oil for Kelly I believe) and again the ubiquitous cucumber bits (and the ubiquitous flowers on top). Kelly was brought a glass of SSFW (some sorta french white) - tasty enough with the uni. Lovely combination of flavours - my only objection - the little urchin spines in mine - kind of detracted from the silky creaminess of the dish.
Next up the foie course - this was accompanied by a sweet Alsace wine - didn't taste all that exciting on it's own, but was a perfect foil to the foie. At this point the place was filling up and we were starting to notice a slight disconnect between the sommeliers visits and the food presentation.
The foie was the best dish of the evening by far. Grilled, on a piece of poached daikon, with apple water with oolong tea, honey gellee (yum!) and 'citric' with nutmeg on the side. And flowers! I suspect the grapes were poached in the apple water. I've never had citric acid served on the side of anything - but it certainly worked with the foie.
From here things went rather seriously downhill. The pinot was brought - and pretty much finished, while we waited, and waited for the next course.
When it was finally brought - different waiter this time - he described it as Cavatelli with rabbit, shitaki mushrooms, spinach and parmesan shavings. Now I'm damn sure it isn't cavatelli - but I can't find the name of the appropriate pasta shape this morning. The parm shavings were lovely - the rest - not so good. There was scallion oil on this one too - and they had put it on Kelly's portion as well. The lapin bits tasted and had the texture of overcooked liver. We each ate a small amount and then stopped. About an hour later, when the girl took away the plates - no comment was made on the fact that we hadn't eaten it - in fact in the entire meal, no one asked if we were enjoying the food.
At this point, getting rather hungry, we got into the bread basket and started playing with the food.
The wine came, a tuscan red - again long before the food. When it finally came it was brought by one of the female staff, placed down, described as 'chicken' and with a little circle of her finger - ferns. I think there was some mention of chocolate sauce and maybe morals. It was a little nubbin of breast that tasted lemony, a rolled thigh that was the weirdest texture ever (I suspect sous vide past the point of no return) and a little drum that was so tough I gave up trying to cut it for fear of sending it skittering across the room - and it really wasn't the place to pick it up in your fingers. I did manage to get the initial waiter to stop and describe the dish - apparently there was asparagus in there too. And we identified some deep fried herbs of some sort. The waiter did seem to notice that we hadn't eaten the thigh or drum on this dish.
Next up - the cheese course. The waiter did stop by to see if we wanted wine with it - as the pairings had run out - but by then we were getting rather fed up (but not really fed). Disappointingly the cheese course contained lots and lots of scallions - on both plates. It was described as Charlevois cheese with croutons and caramel.
We explained to the waiter when he saw Kelly's cheese course uneaten and pushed around on the plate, that again there were scallions in the dish. At this point we decided to skip dessert and head out - told the waiter we were ready to leave and waited for the bill. No sign of it - so we got up to figure out where to pay - this put the front desk staff in a tizzy - and while we were waiting - the waiter was seen bringing out 'special desserts' to placate us. He tried to talk us into staying, but by then we really were really tired and hungry and wanted out of there. So we paid the outrageous bill and headed out into the rain to find a taxi back home.
Changed back into jeans, got out our umbrellas (nice hotel - they supply big umbrellas) and headed up the street to get pizza.