Friday, June 08, 2012

Dinner @ Chez Spencer

[ Originally published elsewhere January 12, 2012 ]
Ahh, french food. So heavy, so fatty, and so delicious! Tonight we feasted on butter and egg yolks, served in a variety of ways :)

Chez Spencer was a great experience overall. They have been around for a while, and the menu doesn't change much, so they have clearly perfected the dishes that they do (one diner went there 3 years ago, and the menu was almost identical!).  Service was good.  The atmosphere was nice - upscale casual, great for a small group or for a date.  Sorta open kitchen, SOMA-esque interior with exposed beams, lovely bathroom.

The highlights (totally expected if you know these folks):
Me: the sauces. ZOMG the sauces.
Other dinner: the great non-caffeinated roobios tea he discovered, after talking about how he missed black tea/coffee during the meal.
Emil: foie gras.

See individual photos for full reviews. (Not pictured: crusty rolls with butter, champagne, white wine, red wine, cognac, tea, espresso)
Foie Gras 'Torchon': vanilla-scented blackberry compote, pain de campagne.  $21.
Definitely nice, rich, buttery foie, very smooth. The blackberry compote was flavorful and went well with it. The toasted bread was forgettable but served as a good vehicle for it.

Emil really enjoyed this dish and I think could have easily eaten the whole thing himself :) The other diner liked it, but said it wasn't that much better than "really good butter". I thought the flavors all went together well, but I prefer seared warm foie gras over this style.

Solid, I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but that is just a personal preference.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops: hearts of palm & sauce verte.   $19.
AMAZING. Excellent execution and flavors.

The scallops were cooked very, very well. Lovely crust from perfect searing, but nice and tender on the inside. The spices crusting the scallops were a perfect compliment. The salad and hearts of palm were fine, but forgettable.

But the sauce. Oh, the sauce. Described as just "sauce verte" on the menu, I had to ask what it was. Made of parsley, spinach, and ... beurre blanc. No wonder it was delicious. There was a small amount of truffle in here too, providing a subtle earthyness.

Did I mention the sauce? Seriously, DELICIOUS. I was very glad to have a roll still sitting around with which to continue lapping up the sauce long after the rest of the dish was gone.
Wood Roasted Sturgeon: nameko, honjimegi, chanterelle, pommes crisp & sauce bearnaise.  $32.
This was no light fish dish! Topped with potato chips and served over a bed of assorted mushrooms, surrounded by some sort of sauce, and topped with bearnaise

I think this was my first time having sturgeon. Any fish that can sand up to bearnaise sauce needs to be pretty steaky, and that is exactly what this was. Firm texture, but still soft and flaky. Sorta a cross between chicken and halibut?

The mushrooms were fantastic. Super hearty, meaty, and just prepared amazingly well. I didn't know mushrooms could taste so good. I have no idea what they did to them (I'm guessing it involves butter), but they were honestly mind blowing. I apologize to the rest of my dining party that I was sharing with, I definitely had way more than my share of the mushrooms!

The fish itself was good, the sauces were good, but I wouldn't go out of my way again for those components. But I would for the mushrooms!
Wood Grilled Filet Mignon: morels a la creme & truffle butter.  $32.
More amazing sauces and mushrooms. Filet mignon served over morels in a crazy morel cream sauce with truffle butter (on the side, since one diner is anti-truffle).

The steak itself was well seasoned and cooked, but at the end of the day, it was just a steak.

The morels were awesome. They'd clearly been cooked in the cream sauce and were infused with creamy goodness. This sauce was the best of the night, sooo creamy, so mushroomy, soooo good. Again, very glad I had bread around to keep soaking up the sauce.

The steak was fine, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get it. But I would go very far out of my way for the morels and cream sauce. ZOMG. I'd actually love that sauce over some pasta ... mmm.
Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake, flowers of the alps tea anglaise.  $9.
Decent warm chocolate cake, the inside definitely could have been more pudding/molten.

Whipped cream on top was kinda boring.

But ... the tea infused cream anglaise ... delicious! Lovely tea flavor, not too sweet. Yes, we ate all of the cream anglaise left over by the spoonful once the rest was gone.

The chocolate cake was fairly forgettable, but I'd gladly drink the angalise!
Champagne Strawberry Granite: champagne sabayon,pistachio sable cookie.  $9.

Definitely the lightest thing we ordered, which is funny, as it involves a butter cookie and sabayon :)

The pistachio sable was very buttery, had a nice pistachio flavor, but wasn't all that interesting on its own. Just not my sort of thing (although, I am the one who ate the whole thing, dipping it in the sabayon once the waiter took my spoon away and I had no way to scrape the edges of the dish clean!)

The strawberry champagne granite was refreshing and flavorful and a nice texture. Not too sweet, although I didn't get much champagne flavor.

The sabayon was lovely and went very well with the granite. Creamy, custardy, how can you go wrong? A spoonful of both sabayon and granite was a match made in heaven :) Even non-dessert liking Emil enjoyed this.

This isn't the sort of dessert I normally order (I'm usually more into chocolate, mouses, warm tarts/pies, cream brulees, etc), but this was really, really nice and has definitely opened my mind up to the possibility of not getting a baked good or super sweet thing for dessert!

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