Friday, November 2, 2007

Zee Salt Zat Eez, How You Say, Light Black...


Eating with Mom week (which was actually two weeks) met its conclusion tonight at a newly opened place near my house called Sel Gris. When I first spoke to Ron Dumas, one of the owners, a few months ago when they were just beginning to gut the space (which formerly housed Ken's Place and the beginnings of Kenny & Zuke's), he mentioned that they were planning on doing their own charcuterie in house, which of course immediately piqued my interest. I didn't see any evidence of cured meats being made on the premises this evening (perhaps that'll be coming somewhere down the pike), but there was plenty on the menu that looked to be worth a try. We started out with a shared appetizer, sweetbreads with apple butter and "bacon and egg":


This was quite good. The sweetbreads were tender yet substantial. The "bacon and egg" component, which you see sitting atop the sweetbreads, was an egg yolk lightly cooked inside a ball of a sort of dutch pancake batter, and studded with tiny pieces of bacon. After this, we each had a cauliflower panna cotta with coral gelee and a little dollop of caviar (full disclosure: this was comped to us by chef/co-owner Daniel Mondok, formerly of French Laundry, Carlyle and Olea, who had come over to introduce himself after seeing me photographing his food; but I assure you, the free panna cotta in no way influenced this write-up). It was an unusual and interesting combination of flavor and texture, and served as a nice segue into the entrees:


That's my olive oil poached duck breast with lapsang souchong reduction and thai black rice, accompanied by brussels sprouts, garlic and chanterelles, which was excellent. Mom ordered the steak frites:


This version incorporates hanger steak, caramelized onions, bordelaise and black and yellow potato wedges. The steak was cooked perfectly to medium and was complemented nicely by the onions and sauce. I'm not a huge fan of potato wedges, though, and like to see something more akin to fries or shoestring potatoes with steak frites. But of course, I wasn't the one eating it. Mom liked the potato wedges just fine.

Desserts were excellent as well. These are the work of Steve Smith, also a Carlyle alum. Mom had the triple chocolate mousse, with orange slices and a very tart orange sauce:


I ordered the lychee-starfruit semifreddo:


Semifreddo is something I'd never heard of until not too long ago, and has really caught my attention of late. I've made a vanilla-honey version a couple of times recently (expect a post on that in the very near future) and I'm starting to notice it in restaurants from time to time as well. This one had a mild tartness, which was a nice foil to the creamy texture of this ice-cream like concoction, and featured star fruit, lychee, kiwi and pomegranate scattered about the plate.

The meal was finished with a pair of chocolate truffles, topped with the eponymous gray sea salt.

The quality of the service matched the quality of the food. Brisk yet unobtrusive, cliched as that sounds. Overall, a very good meal and a very good experience (really, I'm not just saying that because of the free panna cotta...). I can definitely recommend the place. Just be advised that reservations are strongly encouraged!

3 comments:

Trisha said...

I can't believe you ate sweetbreads! Ewww!

Anonymous said...

The sweetbreads were right up there with the squid Tommy made me try a couple of years ago, but much better, surprise, surprise. The service really was impeccable and the food delicious! LGS

Sorcha said...

You totally have to try the farm burger on the late night menu. We went there last night and OMG so good. Brief writeup on our blog if you want to read it: http://foodn00bs.typepad.com .