Monday, March 05, 2012

Swedish Dinner @ Jardiniere

Jardiniere is a classic French restaurant, located in Hayes Valley.  On Monday nights they do a special themed 3 course dinner, always $49, INCLUDING WINE PAIRINGS.  The themes vary from ingredients (next week is potato theme), to locations (tonight's was Swedish), to holidays, to concepts (like "breakfast for dinner"). This sounded like a great value and a perfect excuse to check the place out, and when I saw they were doing a Swedish dinner, it seemed like a great opportunity, since one of my favorite dining companions is Swedish, and I thought this might be a nice treat for him.  They also offer a few additional dishes a la carte (but not the standard menu), a vegetarian option for the prix fixe, and do not require everyone to order the prix fixe.  The menus are publish ~2 months in advance, but we found a bunch of changes on the menu we received from what was published online.

The restaurant is lovely!  Downstairs is a large open bar and lounge area, that I'd love to dine in sometime (they serve bar menu or a la carte there as well).  Upstairs is fairly romantic, with an open area down to the bar and lounge.  Nicely decorated, fancy but not stuffy, with a big round dome area with twinkly stars, and lots of mirrors.  Service was attentive but not overbearing, not particularly notable in any way.

The meal was good, but not spectacular.  This was somewhat expected as we were eating swedish food at a french restaurant, on a night where the normal kitchen staff has the night off.  I like the whimsy of themed dinners though and would go back for another when the menu was appealing.
Menu for the evening
Bread and butter
Fairly warm roll, with a crusty exterior and nice chew to the inside.  Butter had large salt crystals on top.  Not particularly noteworthy.
Salt Cod Croquettes, Wild Arugula and Fennel Salad
Paired with Tenuta la Ghiaia, Vermentino "Almagesto" Colli di Luni, Liguria, Italy 2010.

This was a generous sized appetizer!  Three potato and salt cod croquettes, served on top of an arugula and shaved fennel salad, with battered fried meyer lemon slices, and a meyer lemon aioli.  The croquettes were fried nicely, with a crispy exterior and creamy interior.  The filling was mostly mashed potato, with not much fishyness, but was quite salty from the salt cod.  On its own, a bite of this was too salty, but dipped in aioli, or paired with the salad, was well balanced.  The salad likewise was too strong on its own, with too much acid and seemingly overdressed, but again, if you paired it with a bite of the croquette, it provided a nice lightness against the deep fried patty and the acidity complimented the saltiness.  The deep fried slices of meyer lemon did not really do much for me and were just kinda greasy and too much fried, but the lemon flavor in the aioli worked very nicely.  Overall, successful when all the ingredients were combined into a perfect bite.

Our swedish dining companion said that the only thing swedish about this was the salt cod, as none of the spicing nor croquette itself were remotely swedish.

The wine was only ok.  Fairly sweet and I didn't really get the pairing.

Note: The menu online had listed a salt cod crostini, but I'm glad it was a croquette instead.  The menu also listed a totally different wine.
Swedish Meatballs,  Rice Pilaf, Dill and Lingonberry Sauce
Paired with Laurent Combier, Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France 2010.

The meatballs were a combination of veal, pork, and beef, served with a very sweet sauce that was a reduction of lingonberries, veal, pork, and beef stalk, and the water from the rice pilaf.  The three meatballs I received were completely inconsistent: one was medium-well and fairly dry and not very good, one was medium and ok, and one was juicy and more medium-rare.  They weren't particularly flavorful however, but did have a nice crust on the outside.  The sauce was sorta cloyingly sweet when combined with the meatball or rice, but I really enjoyed dipping bread into it once the rest of the food was gone.  The rice was a mix of white and red rice, and also on the plate was some asparagus and arugula, none of which was particularly noteworthy.  The dill was barely detectable.  There were also some lightly pickled cucumber slices that added some acidity and helped lighten the dish up.

The waiter who brought us this dish just set it in front of us with no explanation, which I was a little annoyed by.  I wanted to know what I was eating!  Luckily, I asked our main waiter for details later and he was incredibly knowledgable and happy to tell us all of the details, including the finer points like how the sauce used the water from the pilaf!

Our swedish diner said that this was somewhat swedish, at least in that it was meatballs and lingonberries, but that serving it with rice was not normal.

The wine was incredibly fruit forward, both in smell and taste.  It was 100% syrah.  Drinkable,  but nothing noteworthy.

Note: The online menu listed a totally different wine pairing.
Vegetarian option:Carnaroli Risotto, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano, white wine and truffle nage
One of our fellow diners opted for the vegetarian option.  It wasn't on the menu, so we had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be a lovely risotto, with plentiful mushrooms and asparagus, surrounded in a delicious foam.  From the two bites I stole, I can say that his was tastier than ours.  There was nothing remotely swedish about this.
Napoleonbakelse, Creme Legerre and Tangelo Marmalade
Paired with Royal Tokaji, Late Harvest Tokaji "Mad Cuvee", Hungary 2009.

A deconstructed napoleon, three powdered sugar covered puff pastry squares, spheres of vanilla pastry cream, tangelo segments, and a sweet puree.  The pastry squares were pretty standard and not noteworthy.  The pastry cream was likely pretty standard, not very vanilla flavored.  The citrus was nice and refreshing.

The wine was crazy sweet and was like drinking syrup.  I love sweets so I enjoyed it, but not paired with the dessert.  Too much sweet paired with sweet in a non-compatible way.  One person described it as liquid apple jolly rancher.

Note: the online menu listed a different wine and a completely different dessert.  We were looking forward to trying the swedish cheesecake :(
White chocolate cremeux, black thai tea, pecan cake, meringue, candied pecans, passionfruit
We ordered an additional dessert, because, um, I love dessert.  I'm not 100% sure I got the description correct here, as the menu I received listed "caramel foam", which this dish definitely didn't have.  The online menu lists a "caramel meringue", and this did have meringue, but I wouldn't call it caramel.  And neither menu mentions the passionfruit sauce, which I'm positive they described when they brought it to us.  And they said it was roobios tea not black tea.  Hmm.

Anyway, I didn't really taste any white chocolate whatsoever.  The big snake like thing in the middle (the cremeux) tasted exactly like thai iced tea!  It was kinda incredible how much it reminded me of drinking a thai iced tea, with the tea infused flavor and the sweetness from the cream.  I didn't love the consistency however, fairly thick but not that creamy.  There were a few candied nuts, a few dribbles of passionfruit sauce, and a sweet sugary piece that all seemed like garnish that didn't really add much.  The pecan cake was not particularly interesting nor flavorful.  The meringue was fluffy and ridiculous sweet, a very soft style more like a marshmallow.  It didn't really go very well with everything else, but it satisfied my recent desire for soft meringue, that I've been having since the baked california at Haven (now THAT was good meringue!!!)  Anyway, overall, meh.
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