Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bar Dining @ Quince

A couple months ago, we had an amazing meal at Quince (at the bar, but we dined off the main dining room menu).  It was one of the top meals of the year, and I've been eager to return ever since.  If you read my blog, you know that I've been on a foie gras quest lately, consuming all of the foie I can before the ban goes into effect.  And you also likely know that I adore custards, both as desserts and in savory forms.  At my previous visit to Quince, I had a fantastic uni crème brûlée.  So you can only imagine my excitement when I saw that the lounge menu had not one, but two foie gras preparations on it, including a foie gras creme brulee!  I knew that I needed to return, stat!  And … they are open on Mondays!  A great restaurant, open on Mondays?  Yes, please!

So when Monday rolled around, we headed to the Quince bar, to get our daily dose of foie.  Unfortunately, the menu was out of date, and the crème brûlée was no longer available.  We still had a great meal however.

We intended for this to just be a quick, small bar snack, as I'd had a bunch of food prior, and Emil had dinner plans later that evening at Alexander's Steakhouse.  So we just ordered two small items from the bar menu.  However, Quince, being the incredible restaurant that it is, gave us much, much more!  In addition to the two dishes we ordered, we received 3 bar snacks, bread service with multiple breads, 4 amuse bouches, and 6 mignardises.  ZOMG.

The food was all good, and I'll definitely be back.  One thing that really stood out was how well seasoned everything was, particularly the salt level.  I love the atmosphere and swanky feel of the bar and lounge area, and I'll gladly dine there again any day.  I also would really like to have a formal dinner in the main dining room sometime!

Since I've reviewed the bar area before, I'm going to skip those details this time, and focus solely on reviewing the dishes we tried.
Quince Snacks and Bites: potato and jerusalem artichoke chips, pickled vegetables, whipped ricotta with herbs and sea salt, parmesan-reggiano crackers.
To start, we were provided with a trio of bar snacks, standard since we were seated in the bar area (for some reason, we didn't get these last time we were there, but everyone seemed to be getting them this night).

The pickled vegetables change daily, but today's version was carrots and fennel.  They were very crunchy and incredibly tart and vinegary.  Served with a little spear with which to stab them.  Tasty enough, and a unique bar snack for sure, but my second to last savory pick of the evening.

The chips were a mix of potato and artichoke.  They were thin and very oily.  Since I don't like artichoke flavor, and the artichoke ones really, really tasted like artichoke, I didn't really care for these.  Least favorite dish of the evening.

The ricotta was awesome.  House-made, mixed up with an incredible blend of herbs and sea salt.  Tons of flavor in here.  It was served with parmesan-reggiano and black pepper cracker.  The cracker was super crispy and the parmesan flavor was intense.  I was surprised by how well the parmesan and ricotta flavors paired, as I wouldn't normally think of pairing cheese with cheese.  My 3rd favorite dish of the evening, and one I'd gladly eat more of any day.  Since Emil was saving himself for his later dinner, I got to enjoy almost all of this, and enjoy it I did!
Next up came the bread service, which we weren't expecting given that we had just ordered a few bar items.  The butter was fairly noteworthy, really creamy and flavorful, and beautifully decorated with a flower.
Olive buckwheat baguette, parmesan-reggiano black pepper crackers.
The baguette was served cold, but had a nice chew to it, a heartiness from the buckwheat, and tons of flavor from the olive.  Really pretty good for bread.

The crackers the same as what came with our ricotta.
Amuse Bouches: Basil madeline, gougère, chickpea square.
Next, we were presented with a trio of amuse bouches.  This we REALLY didn't expect as we hadn't ordered any items from the main menu.  They were really quite good, outshining our ordered dishes!

The basil madeline was served with burrata to spread on top.  The madeline was moist, with a really fantastic basil flavor, which went perfectly with the burrata.  The burrata was incredibly creamy, nicely oiled and salted.  My second favorite of the amuses, and Emil's third favorite.  My second favorite dish overall.  I could imagine this with some sort of tomato component as well, like a play on a caprese salad.

The gougère was served warm.  Made with gruyere, both in the bread itself and in the creamy liquid filling.  It was deliciously cheesy and quite good, better than the gougère we had at Alexander's a few days before since it was served warm, but not nearly as good as the incredible one we had at Cyrus a few weeks earlier.  A little too oily for my liking.  Emil's 2nd favorite of the amuses, my 3rd, and my 4th favorite dish overall.

The chickpea square was also warm, topped with a tiny dollop of spiced yogurt, purslane, and prawn dust.  It had a good salt level to it, but I didn't like it very much.  The patty just wasn't that great, it was kinda oily, and not very crisp.  I preferred the version we had as an amuse at The Village Pub a few days earlier, as it was crispier.  Both of our least favorite of the amuses, my 3rd to last pick of the savories.

As you may be noticing, a theme to this meal was definitely cheese!  So far, we'd already had: ricotta, parmesan, burrata, and gruyere!
Amuse bouche: chilled pea soup, crab, white asparagus.
And then … we received ANOTHER amuse bouche, pea soup topped with white asparagus foam, filled with crab!

This was fantastic.  The soup was a puree, incredibly flavorful, tasting like the freshest spring peas.  Light, refreshing, delicious.  It had a very generous amount of shredded crab meat in it.  I was really blown away by how much crab they included in this complimentary little amuse.  The crab paired perfectly with the pea.  There were also some chunks of asparagus, and the foamy mousse.

This was both Emil and my favorite dish of the evening, hands down.  I wish I could order a full bowl of it.
Copper river sockeye salmon crudo with cucumber, yogurt and pickled apricot.  $15.
And finally, we reach a dish we actually ordered!

The salmon was thinly sliced, had a good texture, and was a quality product, but it didn't have much flavor.  I was fairly disappointed, as I've had some amazing salmon lately!

It was served on top of tart yogurt, which sounded a little strange at first, but it combined well with the salmon similar to the more common pairing of smoked salmon with cream cheese.

Also on the plate was cucumber two ways: some thinly sliced rolled pieces and some pickled cubes.  These again reminded me of a classic salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber pairing.  I appreciated hte crunch the pickled pieces added.

The pickled apricots added some nice sweetness and tartness, and were the most interesting component on the dish.  The sea beans didn't do much for me.

Overall this dish was a little boring to me, mostly due to the lack of flavor in the salmon itself, but my standards are pretty high for salmon these days, as local salmon season has been amazing.  The salt level and other seasoning in this dish were perfect however.  I wouldn't order again, but it wasn't bad.  $15 was a fair price for this amount of salmon.
Foie gras terrine with nasturtium, radish, medjool date, and lambrusco.  $28.
And, the other dish we ordered, the reason we were there.  The foie!

The foie was a terrine.  It was served very cold and solid, almost making it hard to spread.  It had a very good consistency, was creamy and smooth, but didn't have a ton of foie flavor.  Like most cold foie gras preparations I've had lately, it disappointed me.

Accompanying the terrine were some nasturtium petals, small slices of tart pickled radish, and tiny cubes of medjool dates.  None of these elements really did much for me, they were just kinda there, and easily lost in the dish.

There was also a lambrusco foam, that didn't have much flavor at all.

Overall, not a very successful dish.  Again, not bad, but just not noteworthy.  I wouldn't order again.  At $28, this was a little high compared to similar preparations I've had lately.
Toasted brioche.
The terrine was served with a warm toasted brioche, that wasn't particularly notable.  I think it would have been better with a little more oil or butter on it.  It also had too much crust.

I paired the foie dish with a good, sweet reisling, $18.  I've been into reisling these days, but I haven't really developed much of a discerning palette for it, as I liked this one about equally as the much cheaper one at Baker & Banker the night before.
Mignardises: dark chocolate truffle, mixed berry pâte de fruit, blueberry ginger snap lintzer, passion fruit macaron, cream cheese carrot tart, caramel truffle, chocolate covered hazelnuts.
And because every good meal finishes with sweets ... the migs!

The truffles were fairly standard and forgettable.

The pâte de fruit was a good firm texture, and far less sugary that most, particularly as it wasn't coated in much additional sugar.

The blueberry ginger snap lintzer was my least favorite.  It had a strange bitterness to it, and the blueberry jam filling wasn't very flavorful.

The passion fruit macaron was very sweet, and as I'm not a big fan of passion fruit, I didn't care for it.

The tart was a little tiny tart shell, filled with cream cheese cream that was similar to cheesecake, and then topped with a tiny little slice of carrot.  They called it a play on carrot cake.  It wasn't particularly good nor bad, but was definitely the most interesting.

The chocolate covered hazelnuts were toasted nuts, with a thin chocolate layer, rolled in powdered sugar.  They tasted almost burnt.  I didn't care for them.
Packed up nuts!
I couldn't eat all of the migs at that point, and since Emil doesn't eat sweets, he wasn't going to help me out, so I asked to have them packed up.  This must be a fairly common request, as they had these adorable little boxes to put them into!
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