Last night, Adam and I had the fanciest dinner in our lives. The special occasion was that it was Friday and that someone else was picking up the bill (we’ll leave that person a mystery, ok 😉 ). Let’s just say that we could eat anywhere we wanted and three restaurants immediately came to mind – L’Espalier, Menton and O Ya. Obviously from the title of this post, you know which one we picked. 😉 We live exactly 4 minutes away from L’Espalier. It could have something to do with our decision.
L’Espalier is a French restaurant, with an emphasis on New England ingredients. The restaurant defines fine dining. Everything is perfect. Staff is so polite and aiming to please, I felt like they almost feared the guests. It was a bit awkward at first. We were greeted by at least 5 people before sitting down (the elevator guy on the first floor, the woman greeting us upon our “arrival” on the second floor, the Maitre D that took us to our table, a bus boy that was standing on the way to our table and finally our waiter).
We arrived a little before 7pm (we both got hungry before our 7:30 reservation so we figured we’d just head over there and have a drink at the lounge area if our table wasn’t yet ready – this wasn’t necessary); the restaurant was relatively dead. It’s a good sized restaurant and maybe five tables were taken. I think the staff was close to outnumbering the guests. The music was on very low… it was a strange vibe of zen yet eery. This changed when the restaurant got busier.
After a few minutes of being seated, a runner came over table and offered a few amuse bouche.
Smoked salmon, cheese and prosciutto (?) stack
Goat cheese puff
Both were little bites of heaven.
Adam decided to ask for the sommelier’s help with the wine list. This was the first guy that gave us some personality – he seemed to have a genuine smile and was extremely knowledgeable. He also suggested something we’d never think of – to go with two half-bottles – a lighter Chianti to start and a more full body Bordeaux with our entrees.
Our first half bottle – cheers! 😀
The staff was definitely first-class. I asked our waiter where they source their meat from, and he went through the menu – item by item – describing each farm and feeding process (where applicable) in detail. I really appreciated this information – most of their meats met my humane treatment requirement. We ordered accordingly.
Another few bites, complements of the chef – grilled squid with fennel, cabbage and carrots, finished with a sesame oil vinaigrette
I love when restaurants do that! I feel like we got to taste so much more of L’Espalier’s offerings than just the 3 courses we ordered. I loved the strong aroma of the sesame oil in this little dish but I think there was something oniony about it (shallots in the vinaigrette?) and the squid seemed to be slightly overcooked. Not bad though. Not bad at all. 😀
The most amazing fucaccia bread ever! We could choose from four different breads (fig anise, fucaccia, brioche and soft pretzel) – both Adam and I picked this one and thought that it was just a pillowy perfection.
The anticipation for our meal was definitely building up! Here we go…
First course: fried soft shell crab withe heirloom cherry tomatoes, cucumber foam and house-made relish
This was interesting. The soft shell crab was lightly fried. I realized recently that I should not fear the word “fried” on menus at high quality restaurants. They do it right – it’s never greasy or overpowering. With that said, I think I also realized that I’m not the biggest soft shell crab person. I know you can eat the shell but I’m just not crazy about its texture. This is not L’Espalier’s fault though. Obviously it’s a preference thing and I did order it. 😀 The cucumber foam kind of tasted like nothing and I didn’t care for the tomatoes (they were stewed?). Adam ordered the slow-roasted pork belly that he could not get enough of. In fact, he ate every bite and didn’t stop talking about it until our main courses arrived (and then he couldn’t stop talking about his entree 😉 ).
Our second half-bottle – Saint-Julien Bordeaux – it was very different from the first bottle (a little fuller and more complex) and worked beautifully with the rest of our meal. That sommelier is a genius.
Main course: farmstead Amish chicken with fairy ring mushrooms, native strawberries, and sorrel; smoky bacon broth
See that chicken bacon on top? Very cool!
The spaetzle that came with the mushrooms was a surprise. I love those little guys!
My thoughts on this dish: the strawberries were a necessity here. They broke up the somewhat one-note flavor profile. Chicken, bacon, spaetzle were all in a bacon broth and took on the (delicious but still) same rich and smoky flavors. The strawberries freshened and brightened this dish up.
Once again, Adam’s entree was to-die for. He ordered the duck, which came with a side of duck/cherry lasagna (finished with truffle oil). He proclaimed that it was the best thing he’s eaten in his life (and although he says that a lot, I think this truly was it) and noted the date. June 18, 2010 – best meal of Adam’s life. It was rich yet so well balanced. This was definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life as well.
Dessert time! 😎
Black and white chocolate gateau, cocoa nib croquant, muscat gel and raspberry ice cream
The gateau was fantastic!! It was creamy and rich. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was good and I think I’m pretty high maintenance when it comes to chocolate desserts. The raspberry ice cream I didn’t care for. It tasted fake. Adam’s deconstructed tiramisu was also not my favorite.
Chocolates to finish us off. The white chocolate/raspberry ones had a jello-like consistency (not a fan); the dark chocolates had a creamy center. I was *this* close to asking the waiter whether they make them in-house or whether I could buy them elsewhere. They really were the perfect way to end a meal!
A few photos of me on our long walk home. hehe 😆
We also each got a French macaron on our way out the door (that lady by the elevator has 2 jobs I guess!)
I haven’t tried it yet but I’m sure it will be superb.
Our overall thoughts: L’Espalier is definitely a special occasion restaurant, not just because of the price but also because of the vibe. It is very formal and a little stuffier than we like although you certainly can’t say the service was not top-notch. The whole experience was by-the-book perfect. I wasn’t blown away by every dish but I’m a tough critic and in all honesty after tasting the amuse bouche and six dishes ordered (between me and Adam) it is clear why this place has won numerous awards. I would definitely go back but not for a little while.
How do you feel about super formal, fine dining restaurants?
PS – L’Espalier’s website states that “jackets and tie are most comfortable but not required”; Adam and I were joking that that it should say “Sweats are most comfortable but not permitted.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if it said that? Ok, I think I just lost any credibility I may have had. 😆
… and I’m off to get ready for the American Craft beer fest. Quite the opposite experience. 😉
For other restaurant reviews, check out my Restaurant Reviews page. Have a great weekend!