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Clio, Boston


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#1 cabrales

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 04:43 AM

I recently had dinner at Ken Oringer's Clio. The appetizers were good-plus-plus, but the entrees were poor. Overall, the meal was good-minus. As described below, I had my first fresh white truffles of the season during this meal -- that helped the meal to some extent.

My dining companion advised me that she had been denied access to Clio sushi bar dishes in the main restaurant previously. Hence, we arrived about 1/2 hour earlier than our reservation at the main restaurant, to see if we could grab a seat at the no-reservations sushi bar. There is a separate bar area for drinks, but, if there is room at the sushi bar, the receptionists did not appear to object to guests spending time there.

The sushi bar is to the right, after a couple of steps along a downward staircase, when one enters the restaurant. There were perhaps less than eight sushi bar seats, and less than seven tables. The three "sushi chefs" (with all respect; it was somewhat unclear whether the men had been trained as traditional sushi chefs) were busying themselves behind a small counter that did not offer a full range of ingredients. Two of the three were not Japanese in ethnicity, not that that is relevant. The sushi bar menu had some plated/constructed Nobu-type sushi dishes, including O'Toro tartare that my dining companion pronounced to be as good as that at Nobu NY.

(1) Santa Barbara Sea Urchin with Hamachi, Yuzu Vinaigrette, Radishes and Onion Seeds" ($15).

My order of this dish reflected the inclusion of this dish among the appetizers offered by the main restaurant, and my liking sea urchins. This dish was good-to-very-good, with three to four relatively thick, fresh and rather fatty (as far as yellowtail goes) hamachi sitting in a slightly citrus-y (from the yuzu) vinaigrette. The fattiness of the yellowtail was noteworthy. On top of the hamachi slices were perhaps 3-4 boxed sea urchins -- although boxed, they were nice. The Aji Amarillo aspect of the dish was appropriately limited.

At the sushi bar, I drank a "Silk Kimono" (Momokawa Asian-pear-infused sake, midori and orange juice). This drink appeared in a large martini glass, with a bit of reddish color at the bottom "tip", and was a light green color. A nice concoction that I would order again as an aperatif, with hints of apple-ly and perfumed flavors).

(2) Ragout of Calamari with grains of paradise, Argan oil and carrot emulsion ($14).

An interesting dish, and one that transformed the intrinsic taste of carrots (in a good way). The carrot puree had been integrated into a broth containing coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. The argan oil was, thankfully, appropriate limited in quantity. (When I last encountered argan oil in a dish, it was at Gagnaire recently -- problematic) The overall saucing effects were rather interesting.

The calamari had been fashioned into long, tagliatelli-like strands. They were presented in a mound, with strands a bit like pasta strands. Appropriately cooked. Also, the pasta-like effects helped the calamari absorb the saucing. I liked this version better than the calamari-or-squid-like-seafood pasta item at Nobu.

(3) 1/2 Tagliatelli with Fresh White Truffle Shavings ($60 for shared single order; we did not inquire as to the price prior to ordering, but when our dining room team member described it as "very expensive", even though less so than prior years, I was picturing $100. My dining companion and I agreed that, had we known it was $60, we would have each ordered a full serving)

This was the only daily special in place on the night in question. Our dining room team member (whose service was good, until the pitfall regarding the mignardises described below; also an effective French-speaking maitre d') recounted in some detail (in a good way) how Clio always orders white truffles when they become available. He noted that the white truffles in question were from Italy (no kidding!) and that they were fresh and had not been frozen. I observed it seemed just slightly early for white truffles, but ordered the dish with relish. These would indeed be my first white truffles for this season!

The dish arrived at the table -- quite aromatic, with truffle shavings that were nice in quantity, and from a reasonably large white truffle. The pasta had been wound into a coiled mound that was a long rectangular in shape. The saucing had been tossed into the pasta already, being butter-based, bearing diced chives and also having nicely integrated Parmesan (likely) components. This was a good base for the truffles. Also, the amount of pasta and white truffles was rather large. Even with 1/2 helping, I felt the tagliatelle quantity was fine.

(4) Sweet Butter Basted Maine Lobster with Chanterelles, Fava Beans and Vin Jaune 'Arboir ($36).

This dish was fundamentally flawed, and an assessment of poor (instead of poor-minus or very poor) might have been unduly generous. I ordered this dish because the butter basting reference brought to mind T Keller's butter poaching of lobsters (I think the poaching method is essentially used by Orringer for this dish) and because the combination of vin jaune (yellow wine from the South of France) with lobster is a signature dish at a Parisian three-star. However, Clio's lobster dish was unappealing. First, the Maine lobster utilized lacked the delicacy and flavor in its flesh of Brittany lobsters. While the Clio lobster had an acceptable texture (slightly "crisp", in an appropriate way), the flesh lacked a true lobster flavor. Second, the lobster was presented deshelled and whole (or cut into no more than two pieces for the whole lobster). Third, and crucially, the kitchen had cooked the yellow wine to the point where its predominant mark on the lobster dish was its sour and acidic aftertaste in the saucing. This was a fundamental flaw in the dish. The fava beans were limp and unattractive looking, and the chanterelles fared little better. For some reason, they seemed to be stubby, very short-stalked chanterelles that were not particularly tasty to begin with, and that had in addition been overcooked. A dish that, through its pure misguided effects, highlighted how wonderful the dishes on which it may have been predicated actually are. :wink:

I sampled meaningful amounts of my dining companion's Roasted Suckling Pig and Spareribs with Young Turnips, Kohlrabi and Honshimiji Mushrooms. This dish was not particularly good either because (1) the significant amount of crackling included had literally no fat associated with it and seemed to lack lusciousness, (2) the suckling pig (belly?) meat was too soft and lacked real flavor, and (3) star anise had been utilized with too severe a hand by the kitchen. :sad:

(5) Mignardises.

We were too full for dessert, and ordered only espresso. Plus, I have been attempting to diet for several weeks now (unsuccessfully). When the four small pieces of mignardises arrived, our dining room team member literally indicated the following (or something very similar): "Our pastry chef didn't want you to go without anything, and is offering these mignardises for your sampling". Perhaps those were not the words, because the clear implication of the normal reading of the member's literal words would have been that the items offered were being offered *unusually* and free of charge. I replied, amusedly: "I was hoping to receive mignardises, as they are routinely offered here and at comparable establishments."

The dining room team member was a bit taken aback (by the substance, although not the method of expression, of my remark), and muttered something to the effect that at Clio, people sometimes send back the mignardises on account of not having ordered them. What sort of guests is this restaurant attracting, I asked myself? Clio is one of the more high-end restaurants in Boston, and caters to what I believe would be a reasonably informed crowd.

Interestingly, the table next to me did not seem particularly informed. Immediately upon being seated, the man at that table asked our dining room team member whether Clio offered wines by the glass?! First, I wouldn't have asked that as my first question to a dining room team. Second, there are always wine by the glass at restaurants like Clio (query depth and quality -- but they are always available). Interestingly, that table ordered a la carte like we did, and received a complimentary appetizer when it did not order one. Generous of the chef, but perhaps rewarding the non-ordering of appetizers by that table, relative to our table, which, with the sushi bar orders, had ordered 2.5 or 3.5 appetizers per diner. Note I am not unhappy with the free appetizers received by the other table (they were actual appetizers from the menu, in full size, as my dining companion had ordered the same thing). I am merely observing that the restaurant, despite solicitous treatment of us by the maitre d' and dining room team member, was perhaps more generous to diners who were evidently budget-conscious. That could be taken as a positive for a restaurant, I suppose.

The mignardises were appropriate, particularly the small kiwi gelee cube. However, there were a total of four pieces for two people.

As always, I note our bill. It was $340-375 after tax and before tip, with a $85 bottle of 1998 Chassagne Montrachet, Chateau de la Maltraye included. The bottle of Chassagne Montrachet, Ramonet, and the white Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape on which I had my eye from the restaurant's indicative wine list on its website were not available.

A final note. Orringer uses more Asian spicing and other ingredients than I had previously thought (yuzu; radishes; sea urchin -- which also appears in the appetizer of Cassolette of Lobster and Sea Urchin with Yuzu and Japanese Pepper; lychee -- which accompany a roasted Muscovy duck, etc.)

#2 anil

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 07:27 AM

It is very difficult to handle lobster without botching it - A common flaw is to
douse or supress the flavor f the meat with the sauces or spices. One of the reasons that Maine lobsters in a roadside lobster-shacks work is the simplicity.

My experience (one meal) was opposite of yours. The apps. were weak and the entree (tuna) was excellent.
anil

#3 ajay

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 08:22 AM

As always, an excellent report, Cabrales. One quick question: what was your impression of this year's truffles? As I recall, Robert Brown, and others commented that last year's truffles were not particularly good. The only time I sampled white truffles last year, I reached the same conclusion. So, if you can make a comparison between this year's truffles, and last year's I would be much obliged.

Also, is there a restaurant (in the US, preferrably though not necesarrily in New York) that you favor for taking in truffles?

#4 cabrales

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 01:03 PM

ajay -- The truffles I had at Clio were good -- nice aroma and sufficiently large. Also, I like the way the truffle shavings curled upwards in some places last night. However, due to this having been my first sampling of white truffles this year, it might be premature to arrive at a conclusion on a comparison to last year's crop. Also, I am of the mindset that a strong restaurant can utilize an ingredient, even one that is typically shaved on without cooking, to advantage and it is the cuisinier (rather than differences in the quality of the ingredient over time) that can elevate the product. :wink: Also, sampling white or black truffles in Europe might offer different conclusions that tasting them in North America (?).

As for appealing places to sample white truffles in NY, that's a good question. I'd be interested in soliciting member input on it as well. :blink:

#5 MartyL

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 01:34 PM

Although I ordinarily think of Le Cirque as a bit overrated, touristy and boring, I happen to have had a wonderful dish there around this time last year---a simple appetizer (not on the menu but proposed by our waiter) of creamy scrambled eggs topped with copious shavings of white truffle. This rated quite high on the deliciousness-meter.

#6 Schneier

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 01:54 PM

I had the tasting menu at Clio a couple of weeks ago. The courses are not described on the menu, but the restaurant promised to email it to me. That took longer than I expected. So I didn't take detailed notes because I expected to receive the menu, and now I don't remember a lot because I didn't take detailed notes.

1. "Tomato Water Martini": In this case, "martini" means "served in a martini glass." What it is is tomato pulp strained through a very fine cloth so that it no longer has any pigment, and then spiced up with a splash of basil oil, some tiny bits of jimica, bits of chive, and a caperberry. This is one of the nicest palate cleansers I've had in a long time.

2 "Chilled Kumamoto Oysters with ponzu sauce, red ginger, and caviar": Two oysters on the half shell. The "red ginger" is reg ginger vinaigrette. I wrote nothing about the caviar in my notes, which implies to me that I didn't get served any. "Light and delicious" is what I wrote.

3. "Uni Spoon with quail egg, Ossetra caviar and yuzu": This is a pretty Japanese-ish dish. It's a single soup spoon with uni, a quail egg, caviar, yuzu, fleur de sel, and chives. A single, refreshing, bite.

4. "Shirred Egg with anago tempura and green tea salt": A scrambled egg served in an eggshell, also served with yoghurt and chives. This was only okay.

5. "Crayfish Bisque with coconut foam": This was served in a demitasse cup. "A little smokey" is what I wrote, and I don't remember if that was good or bad.

6. "Brandade Broth with toasted garlic and black truffle": My notes exactly: "salt cod and potato broth, toasted garlic, black truffle vinaigrette, Meyer lemon air -- served in a beaker. Okay, not great."

7. "Sautéed Frogs? Legs with wild herbs, marcona almonds and crispy potatoes": I wrote a big star in my notes, so I must have liked it. "Mild and tasty" is what I wrote.

8. "Diver Scallop with morels, bacon and wild leeks": The dish also had sweet peas and lemon/thyme foam. The lemon note worked great, and the whole dish was delicious.

9. "Sweet Butter Basted Maine Lobster with chanterelle mushrooms, fava beans and 'vin jaune d?Arbois'": "Major yum" is what I wrote. I also called out the "sea beans," which I guess were also on the dish.

10. "Lacquered Foie Gras with yellow peaches, Sauternes and hibiscus": The foie gras came with peach puree, hibiscus sauce and a flower, bee pollen, and a hint of lychee. Tasted as good as it sounds.

11. "California Squab with black truffles, yellow beets and sweet peas": This was a perfect dish. I like little birds, and this one was cooked perfectly. Served with it was pea puree, black truffles, potato, sauteed sorrel, and gold beet puree. Nice flavors.

12. "Reblochon with armagnac prune."

13. "Strawberry Cornet with strawberry sorbet and orange": This came with both fresh and dried strawberries.

14. "'Assiette' of Apricot with lychee juice and lemon scented herbs": Apricot everything: fresh, dried, sorbet, and coulis.

15. "Frozen Raspberry Timbale with framboise toffee and chocolate sorbet": My notes are illegible.

I enjoyed the meal, which lasted just under three hours. Kenneth Oringer is a good chef, and I like the Japanese accents he's playing with. I had some wines by the glass with the meal, all of which were uninspiring.

Bruce

#7 agbaber

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 02:09 PM

I'm a bit confused, did you sit at Uni or Clio? (cabrales)
Andrew Baber
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to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check
If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?
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#8 Schneier

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 02:20 PM

I'm a bit confused, did you sit at Uni or Clio? (cabrales)

Clio. The sushi bar was over to the side.

I don't think they do the tasting menu at the sushi bar. But, as you can see, there are elements from the sushi bar on the Clio tasting menu.

Bruce

#9 agbaber

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 03:02 PM

The tasting menu at Uni was bar none the best meal of my life, thats why I was checking.

I wasn't aware they did so much from the sashimi bar in the Clio tasting menu.
Andrew Baber
True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me
to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check
If you don't move yo' feet then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck

A-T-L, Georgia, what we do for ya?
The Gentleman Gourmand

#10 ChefGEB

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 12:38 PM

I had the pleasure of dining at Clio back in March, and am quite suprised to say that with the exception of the desserts you described, I had the same tasting menu as you had a few weeks ago. The meal was quite good, but there were some long waits between courses. Alex Stupak, the Pastry Chef, and I had the opportunity to work together at Tru in Chicago. I feel his pastries are some of the most thought out and delicious creations I have come across. Next time you are in Boston, I sugeest you skip dinner at Clio and simply go there for the dessert tasting. You will not be let down.

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#11 Nishla

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Posted 15 December 2006 - 11:13 PM

I'm reviving this thread from the dead with a really long post...

My husband and I went to Clio last weekend, and it was fantastic. They recently got a new wine director, Ryan, and it seems like he's putting a lot of effort into offering wine pairings to go along with the tasting menu. (Previously, we'd had very good experiences ordering a combination of half bottles and glasses to go with the tasting menu, but the pairings took the meal to a new level.)
Overall, the food seemed even more adventurous than on our previous visits. I thought there were a few really eye-opening dishes (for me, at least). Completely new combinations of flavors/textures/presentations that still tasted great.

During dinner, we asked for a list of the courses/wines. They couldn't print it out that evening, but we received a very nice detailed menu in the mail today. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos since my camera is basically useless in low light.

Soda inspired by nature
One tangerine, one licorice. These were nice...the licorice reminded me a bit of root beer. They were accompanied by a caramel pumpkin oil bon bon, and a cheese popcorn cornet (powdered "popcorn", similar to the popcorn envelope at Minibar). The popcorn had a really weird chemical flavor--we were pretty surprised, because in four previous visits we had never tasted anything we considered objectionable.

Tomato water martini
Clio's traditional tasting menu opener, it comes with basil oil, caperberry and a tomato popsicle.

Kanpachi (jackfish) sashimi, with miso vinaigrette, jalapeno and wasabi "caviar"
NV Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut

The fish, miso and jalapeno were great together. The "caviar", on the other hand, didn't really add anything other than a mild wasabi flavor in gel form. Overall, though, the dish was still good.

Live Maine sea urchin
2004 Casa Marin Gewurztraminer

Served in the shell with green apple wasabi foam, green apple sticks, pickled ginger and nori croquant. I loved the foam, which was intensely flavored and really complemented the sea urchin. The nori croquant was tasty, but a bit hard to eat with the tiny spoons.

Yuzu gelee, dried olive, mint and olive oil ice cream
2005 Magito sauvignon blanc/viognier

This was probably the most interesting dish of the night. We were instructed multiple times to eat all the components together, since each individual flavor was very intense. Of course, that meant we immediately tasted each item separately :wink: The yuzu is some powerful stuff, but somehow everything worked together. The dried olive had a great texture (almost crispy) and the olive oil ice cream helped to blend all the flavors on the tongue. Also, the wine was a great match for a tough dish.

Toro tartar with sushi rice sorbet
NV Gosset rose brut

Another really interesting dish. The sushi rice sorbet was AMAZING. It had the flavor of perfect sushi rice, in a slightly sticky sorbet. This was one of my favorite single bites of the evening. The toro tartar came with ossetra caviar, citrus "rice" (frozen individual pulp pieces) and nori emulsion. YUM.

Two-hour egg
2005 Casa Lapastolle chardonnay "Cuvee Alexandra"

We had a similar dish on our last visit, and this was again one of our favorites. This time, the egg was accompanied by butternut squash, ham foam, black truffle and chantarelle.

Puree of cardoon, bone marrow, foie gras cromesquis and nantucket bay scallops
2004 Mas Cal Demoura grenache blanc

Yet another eye-opening dish. The richness of the bone marrow and foie gras went incredibly well with the slight bitterness of the cardoon puree, and the scallops were perfectly cooked. Thanks to eGullet, we actually tried cardoons for the first time recently, which made me appreciate this dish even more.

Foie gras and beef tongue roulade
2001 Chateau la Rame, St Croix du Mont

This came with heirloom apple puree, cranberry vin jus, and grains of paradise--I thought it was insanely good. Lots of ooohing and aaaaahing over this dish. The seasonings in the roulade were reminiscent of hot dog flavors, but better than I could ever imagine a hot dog to taste. We also received a shot glass of a green apple/ginger juice, which went very well with the dish.

Sweet butter basted Maine lobster
2003 Walter Hansel pinot noir "South Slope Vineyard"

The lobster came with carrots, spiced coconut and ginger vinaigrette. I would have never thought of pairing a pinot noir with lobster, but this was SO good. The wine brought out the earthiness of the carrots, and the sweetness of the lobster. Wow.

Slow roasted saddle of New Zealand venison
2003 Paul Jaboulet St Joseph

With red kuri squash, labne (like yogurt), dried olives and cocoa. Delicious. The cocoa and squash were so good with the meat.

Cheese
1999 Hugel gewurztraminer Vendage Tardives

The cheeses were a fresh goat with opal basil syrup and a sheep milk cheese with chestnut honey. Both quite nice.

Croustillant of raspberry, yuzu and pine
Pierre Ferrand pinot des Chaurentes

This was a thin raspberry cylinder filled with a foam/cream of yuzu and a subtle pine flavor. Very nice. The wine also complemented the flavors.

Soft chocolate cream
2003 Clos les Paulilles Banyuls

Served with sugarbeet puree, macadamia ice cream, tangerine foam. I loved the beet with the chocolate, and the tangerine was a nice contrast.

Overall, we both loved this meal, and I think they tried to give us both food and wine that we hadn't tried before. Based on our previous visits, they may have known that we are pretty adventurous diners. The wine director did a great job with the pairings, especially since some of the dishes were brand new to him, and some were certainly not obviously wine-friendly.

#12 glauer

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:32 AM

That sounds terrific and makes we want to go back, I never had the tasting menu there. If it is not too private would you mind sharing how much the tasting and the wine pairing cost. I need to figure out who I could take with me...

Thank you for the nice report!

georg

#13 Nishla

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 06:34 PM

That sounds terrific and makes we want to go back, I never had the tasting menu there. If it is not too private would you mind sharing how much the tasting and the wine pairing cost. I need to figure out who I could take with me...

Thank you for the nice report!

georg

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The tasting menu is now $135, and the wine pairings were $100. It may be possible to negotiate on the wine pairings, though. Perhaps you don't actually want 13 different wines :wink: Definitely not a place we can afford often, but our favorite high end restaurant in Boston. I'd rather pass up a couple mediocre nights out elsewhere to save up for this one!

-Nishla

#14 glauer

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 06:53 AM

Thank you!
And I totally agree with you, rather I spend once 250 for something really exciting than having a few soso dinners for half. And with the current exchange rate to the euro, the US top restaurants have become a relative bargain in comparison to those in France etc. Now if I only were still paid in euro....

Gg

#15 jayvalle42

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 08:16 AM

I see this post has been long dead but I was wondering if anyone has eaten at Clio lately and if so how is it holding up? I am from out of town and have a reservation Saturday night - any info would be much appreciated - thanks - Jay

#16 The Food Buster

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 11:44 AM

I can't really speak about the whole Clio experience, but I did have a chance to try out Uni Sashimi Bar next door, and I'd have to agree with everything said.

I thought the food, especially the signature Uni Spoon, was in general top-notch, but I paid $100 to split 2 dishes, get an extra dish for myself, drink half a small flask of sake, and get one small dessert. Still, for people who can afford it, it is probably the city's most inventive Japanese restaurant. And the dessert (which Clio and Uni share) is some of the best I've had in a Boston restaurant (not a high bar, though).

Some of the highlights:
1) Uni Spoon (caviar, chives, quail egg, sea urchin): Very high-quality sea urchin, with a refreshingly gelatinous quality to it. The quail egg helps to bring everything together, integrating the jelly-like uni and the fine caviar with its creaminess, as well as balancing out the oceanic flavors of the uni and caviar with its richness.
2) Hamachi (yellowtail with grapefruit vinaigrette): Combines yellowtail with just the right amount of fruity sweetness - i.e. the grapefruit isn't overpoweringly bitter as I expect. Very nice play on savory/fruity, with a bit of a pepper kick at the end.
3) Miso Dark Chocolate Cremeux with Banana Ice Cream: Decadent, rich dark chocolate that hits just the right amount of bittersweetness. The banana helps bolster the flavor with a very natural-tasting sweetness.

Really, the meal is extraordinary, but I left starving, to the point that I had to go to Chez Henri to get a Cuban right afterward. So, despite how good it is, probably not the place I'm going back to.
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