Monday, September 17, 2012

Lobster Bake @ Jardinière

By now, you know how I feel about Mondays.  I only go out to dinner when there is an extra incentive to do so, like special themed prix fixe dinners!

On Mondays, Jardinière does a 3 course prix fixe dinner, normally $49, including wine pairings.  We attended one a few months ago when they held a Swedish dinner, in honor of Emil.  We didn't love it, but it was a French restaurant trying to do Swedish food, so I've kept an eye on the upcoming menus, waiting for another one to spark my interest, to try it out again.

I grew up on the east coast, and had just returned from visiting when I saw that Jardinière was going to host a classic New England Lobster Bake!  The menu sounded awesome, particularly given the amazing lobster I'd had just a few days prior to reading it.  I immediately sent out email to my dining group, and was able to gather a rather sizable group of 8.

Since I've reviewed the restaurant before, I'll skip the general details, and just include a review of the dishes we had tonight, and any additional notes.

Service was good, our main waiter was very friendly and personable, and dealt well with our large group, particularly as the night wore on, and the effects of the alcohol consumed started to show through.  There were a few things that didn't flow all that smoothly, like empty glasses remaining on the table, plates not replaced between courses, that sort of thing, but nothing dramatic.

The food was all fine, although not really that remarkable.  I'm not sure I'll go back for another Monday night dinner, as they just haven't been that great.  Perhaps if another menu really jumps out at me, but I'm starting to think it is better to just go when they are doing what they are known for, classic French cuisine.

This prix fixe was $59 rather than the standard $49, presumably because of the lobster.  Still a good deal given that it included the wines, although we didn't really like any of them.
Amuse Bouche: gougère.
To start off, we were given a gougère.  It was slightly warm.  It had an ok cheese flavor, but really wasn't remarkable.  It did conjure up the memory of the downright phenomenal one we had at Cyrus a few months ago, and made me drool in that one's memory.  I'm not sure any gougère will ever compare.
Warm roll, salted butter.
Same bread service we had last time.  A warm crusty roll, served with butter with sea salt on top.  The roll wasn't amazing, but I appreciated having it later on to soak up assorted sauces on my plate.  As always, I liked the sea salt on the butter.
Remember the Maine: Rye Whiskey, Carpano 'Antica Farmula', Cherry Herring, Absinthe Rinse.  $10.
Featured cocktail of the night.  Very bitter, not really my thing, but Emil, who normally shies away from all cocktails, tolerated this.
Charcuterie: ciccioli, tete de cochon, duck liver mousse, lonza, finnochiona.  $18.
Some of my dining companions decided we needed a few charcuterie platers before diving into our 3 course lobster feast.  I knew the lobster bake was going to be more than enough food, and charcuterie isn't really my thing, so I mostly skipped this.

But, there was a duck liver mousse, and I couldn't resist trying it, hoping to find something that reminded me a little bit of foie in there!  It was very creamy, nicely salted, and ... livery.  Not anything I'd rush back to get, but decent.

I also tried the pickled carrots, because I love pickled things.  These weren't remarkable.
Flatbread and crostini for charcuterie.
I didn't try the flatbread or crostini, but no one seemed to finish them, so I'm guessing they weren't a big hit.
Garden Bean Salad,  Sweet 100 Tomatoes, Wild Arugula and Lobster Aioli.
The first course of the prix fixe.  The quantities of the ingredients in this were not quite what you'd expect from reading the description, but it worked.

The beans made up the majority of the salad, and there were three varieties: romano, gold wax, and hericot vert.  All were very fresh and nicely crisp.  The romanos had the best flavor, but there weren't too many of them, although there were far more than the hericot vert, of which I only got 2 pieces.

The second most plentiful ingredient was the sweet 100 tomatoes.  They were fantastic.  Burting with flavor.  Just tomatoes, but damn, when tomatoes are fresh and ripe, they can be so awesome.  These reminded me of how very different tomatoes are when at their peak, compared to the sad excuses of what a fast food restaurant calls tomatoes in January.  They shouldn't even be called by the same name!

Next we had housemade croutons.  These were super oily and crispy, slightly garlicky, and a little hard to stab with a fork, but quite tasty.

There was also some wild arugula, kinda wilted from the dressing.  Unlike a more traditional salad, the greens did not make up the majority of it.  I wished they weren't there, as they weren't very fresh or crisp tasting, and it was a bit of a strange texture to have the wilty greens in there.

Finally, we get to the lobster components.  There was a lot of the lobster aioli on the plate.  It really made no sense to me with the salad.  It totally masked the amazing flavor of the tomatoes, was too thick and rich to be a dressing and overwhelmed the greens, and just didn't do anything for the beans.  That all said, it was tasty, and I used some of my bread that I had wisely saved to dip in it, and that was really delicious.  Even though there was a ton of it, I wiped the plate clean.  So, the aioli was great, it just didn't work with this dish at all.  I think it could have been really tasty in a lobster roll or something like that though.  There were also a few tiny chunks of lobster in here, I think knuckle.

My second favorite dish of the evening, although my top bite was probably a spoonful of these tomatoes!

It was paired with Ostatu, Rioja Blanca, Rioja Alavesa, Spain 2011.  The original menu had it paired with a Sauvignon Blanc, which I was looking forward too.  I didn't really understand the pairing, the wine didn't seem to do anything for the dish.  It was a little sharp and harsh for my liking, not sweet, and really not remarkable.
Lobster Bake, Brentwood Corn, New Potatoes, Manilla Clams.
Whoops, a blurry photo.

This was the main dish, the one we had come for: the lobster bake.

For lobster, there was half a tail, a claw, and a few small chunks of knuckle.  All were cooked decently, but I didn't find the flavor to really be there.  I guess I'm spoiled from having east coast lobster.  The claw tasted a little fishy and not very fresh, but the tail was fairly sweet.

The corn was a little hard to deal with.  No one really quite knew what to do.  Did we pick it up and eat it like traditional corn on the cob?  That is what I wanted to do, but it was covered in the broth and would make a big mess, and we were in a nice restaurant.  Some at the table tried cutting the corn off the cob, which was also a bit of a mess.  Anyway, it was just ok.  Over-cooked for my liking.  But again, I'm a spoiled corn snob, who grew up with a family that always got corn from the farm around the corner, and considered corn more than a few hours old not worth eating.

The potatoes were just potatoes, but they soaked up the sauce nicely.  There were also a few tiny pieces of soft flavorful onions that went really nicely with the potato, but not as well with the lobster.  I'm not a clam person, so I didn't really like the clams, they were just ... clams to me.  Meh.

The broth was decently flavorful, and I enjoyed using the remainder of my roll to soak it up.

This came paired with Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon-Villages, Burgundy, France 2011.  It was sweeter than the first wine, with a slight bite to it.  I didn't really like it.  The menu originally had listed a chardonnay, which I was more excited for.
Summer Berry Cobbler with Vanilla Creme.
And finally ... dessert!  The original menu had promised a blackberry cobbler with white peaches and creme angliase.  I was definitely looking forward to this one, although, again, my family grew blackberries and ate blackberry desserts all summer long, so I'm guessing I would have been disappointed.

The dessert was very similar to the one we had at the last dinner, in that it was a bit of a deconstruction of a classic dessert.

Instead of blackberries, we had mixed summer berries: blueberries, strawberries, a few blackberries, and I think some plums.  All were sweet, kinda mushy, a little gloopy, not remarkable.  Something was off in the balance of ingredients here.

This wasn't really a true cobbler, but did include little biscuits.  They weren't what you'd expect to be good - they were not moist, they were very thin.  But, they were soft, had a slight tang from some buttermilk, and big sugar cubes on top.  I actually liked them.

The vanilla creme was thick with a good vanilla flavor.

I enjoyed just eating the biscuits and creme, making this my favorite dish of the night, but it really wasn't remarkable.

It came paired with Zeni, Moscato Rosa, Trentino, Italy 2007.  No one at the table liked this, with most people taking a single sip and leaving the rest unfinished.  It wasn't sweet, it wasn't caramelly, it just didn't have anything going on.  Meh.

Instead, we ordered a bottle of port.  Yes, a full bottle.  For 8 people, but not everyone was drinking.  I didn't catch the name of it, but it was far better than any of the drink pairings we had.

[ Not Pictured ]
Cheese Platter

The same someone who ordered the charcuterie platter, and the bottle of port, also ordered a few cheese platters to go along with our dessert.  I was beyond stuffed and didn't try any of the cheeses, nor write down what they were.  But ... others seemed to enjoy them.
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