Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quick Bite at Prospect

I live, and work, right near Prospect restaurant.  I've been to the bar area many times, usually just for cocktails and sometimes bar snacks.  You can read all about my past adventures, and the restaurant in general, in old reviews.  I've never loved Prospect the way some of my friends do, but, they also have gone through several chef shuffles, so I do keep giving them a try.

On this particular visit, it was a random night, on the early side, and I had no plans until later in the evening.  I was really craving something tasty, but was incredibly lazy.  And by tasty, I didn't mean my usual desire for decadent desserts or baked goods.  I had plenty of those in my apartment.  I wanted ... an upscale snack.  I know, really an odd mood to be in, but, luckily for me, I could just venture downstairs to Prospect.

I felt a bit silly, dining alone somewhere nice.  Since it was early, the bar area was not busy, and it was easy for me to get a seat, rather than sit awkwardly in the dining room.  I knew I could order off the full menu from the bar from past experience, and was really much more comfortable there.  The bartender was friendly and polite, and took great care of me.

I enjoyed my "snack" quite a bit, and must remember that Prospect is always there as an easy, although non-traditional, option for me!
Amuse Bouche: Halibut Brandade with Spicy Aioli.
Since I had plans later, I only ordered an appetizer, not a full entree.  And as I said, I was just sitting at the bar, not the main dining room.  So I was surprised when an extra bite showed up.  An amuse bouche, even for a bar patron, who was just getting a single appetizer?  Amazing, and appreciated, but I felt slightly bad.  Did they expect me to order an entree next?  I wasn't planning to have a full meal and felt guilty.

Anyway, the amuse was pretty tasty.  It was incredibly hot, clearly fresh out of the fryer.  It was salty, as it was brandade obviously, but it was salty in a good way, if you like intense salt flavor.  Which I do.  The interior was creamy and moist.  The spicy aioli served alongside was creamy and had a slight tang, a nice counterpart to the hot salty bite.  My only complaint is that it was a bit too oily, I think it probably just needed to be drained for a second longer.

It was also a fairly unique choice for an amuse, hot and a heavier sort of dish than an amuse often can be.  I liked it, and could even see it as a regular item on their bar snacks menu.
Monterey Calamari: Squid Ink Spaghetti, Pickled JalapeƱos, Viola Turnips, Sea Urchin Emulsion. $15.50.

Since I just wanted a small bite, I opted for an appetizer.  I've been craving calamari lately, so I ordered the dish titled "Monterey Calamari".  Of course, I knew it was Prospect and that there would certainly be a twist on what I was expecting.  So I knew for sure that this wouldn't just be a plate of fried calamari, particularly given that the follow up description said there would be squid ink spaghetti and sea urchin emulsion, all things I love.

When it arrived, I did sorta laugh to myself.  Calamari?  Yes, there were a few rings of calamari on the plate, but this was very much a squid ink pasta dish.  The naming aside, this dish really had my name all over it.  I love squid ink pasta.  I love uni.  And, as I said, I was craving calamari.

The calamari were tiny little rings, and honestly, got completely lost in the dish.  When I found one, it added a little texture, but little else.  The rings were nicely done, not rubbery.  Although the calamari is what drew me in, I didn't really mind them not being prevalent, as everything else was fantastic.

The squid ink pasta had a nice chew to it, slight squid flavor.  It was a generous portion of pasta, particularly for an appetizer.  I had obviously expected this to be a calamari focused dish, with the squid ink pasta being a creative garnish component somehow.  But, instead, it was a great pasta dish.  (I do think it would be better with a thicker form factor of the squid ink pasta, to really get more of the squid ink flavor however).

The sauce was creamy, slightly uni flavored, and stuck to and coated the pasta well.  I really liked the heat and vinegar component provided by the pickled jalapeƱo.

But the star was the lobe uni on top.  First, I REALLY didn't expect that.  The description just said "sea urchin emulsion", which certainly describes the sauce, but gives no indication that there would be a chunk of bonus uni.  And it was fabulous.  Creamy, sweet, really really excellent.  The best uni I've had in recent memory, better than even at sushi restaurants where it should be the star.

The only thing that wasn't successful about the dish is that, unlike the amuse, it wasn't delivered hot.  It was kinda lukewarm when I received it.  Still delicious, but unfortunate.

One criticism I've had of Prospect in the past is that it seems pricey for what it is, given the portion sizes (I appreciate the smaller portion sizes, and don't want them to change that, but I always feel things are just slightly over-priced).  That was certainly not the case with this dish.  Only $15.50, for a decent size serving of pasta, delicious sauce, and quality uni?  Oh yeah, and some calamari?  Really quite good price.

This was the best dish I've ever had at Prospect.  I'd get it again, although there were a bunch of other things on the menu I'd also like to try.  I'll certainly be going back!
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