Friday, June 29, 2012

Celebration of Foie Gras @ Fifth Floor

I've been out of town for the past two weeks, missing out on a big chunk of the final month for foie consumption!  It has been hard to narrow down which few places to visit for my last foie meals.  When I think about foie however, one dish repeatedly comes to mind: the fried rhubarb pie and foie gras ice cream from Fifth Floor.  We had it a few weeks ago, and it was phenomenal.  And, luckily for us, the restaurant is running a "Celebration of Foie Gras" menu, with that dish as the dessert.

So, Tuesday night, we headed to the Fifth Floor to enjoy a lot of foie.  However, when we got there, our preferred seating venue, the bar and lounge, was full!  Seems like we weren't the only ones with this idea.  Things worked out fine though, and we were able to get a table in the main dining room instead.  I've dined at the Fifth Floor a few times before, but always in the lounge or bar area, or once in the private room for a big team dinner, so this was a bit of a change.  Overall, the experience was pretty similar, so I won't go into general details here, and will just focus on the dishes.

The special foie menu is a five course menu (plus three amuse bouches, bread, and an intermezzo), for $120.  It had a great variety, incorporating several mousses, a terrine, a seared, and of course, the dessert.  Drink pairings were an additional $75, including a foie cocktail.  This price, while a little high, is similar to the foie menu we recently did at The Village Pub, but Fifth Floor's included much more foie and I'd consider it to be a far better value.  Txoko still wins the award for delivering the best valued foie menu, at half the price!

Overall, it was a solid meal, and as in our last few visits, I continue to be very impressed with the amuses and intermezzos at Fifth Floor. I know these are rarely the things to stand out in a meal, but they just do them so well here. Very creative, delicious, perfect little bites. The other standout was the strength of the foie flavors in most of the dishes, particularly the cold preparations. I've been disappointed by many of the cold preps I have had lately, where the flavor just isn't really there, and Fifth Floor really delivered in this area.
Wild Goose Chase: calvados, lemon juice, honey syrup, sparkling wine with foie gras powder rim and foie gras mousse stuffed prune.
Our meal started with a foie cocktail!  It reminded me somewhat of a margarita, sweet, but with a nice tang from the lemon juice, which balanced it out enough that Emil found it drinkable (you may recall, he does not like sweet things).  The rim had both salt and foie powder, which went well with the other flavors.

On the skewer was a foie mousse stuffed prune, that I believe had been soaked in some sort of booze.  The mousse had a great foie flavor.  This was a fun way to start!
Bread and butter.
The bread service followed.  This is the one area where our service was really strange.  The bread guy just brought the bread, and kinda forcefully plopped it down on our plates without a word.  No explanation of what kind of bread it was, no greeting, nothing.  It felt like he was angry at us or something.

Anyway, the bread was served cold, and it was sourdough, so it automatically goes into the uninteresting category for me.  The butter had really nice salt crystals on top though.
Amuse #1: Strauss yogurt mousse, wild rice "granola".
While we were kinda laughing about the strange bread service, our first amuse arrived.  It was described as a yogurt mousse, with granola and peaches.  I instantly imagined this was going to be a little fruit, yogurt, granola parfait like I regularly have for breakfast.  Seemed a little strange for an amuse, but I dug in.

What a surprise!  It was a very savory yogurt.  The "granola" was likewise savory, with bits of crispy onion in it.  The chive blossom on top added even more oniony flavor.  The peach was pickled and tart.  Like a standard yogurt and granola parfait, I loved the contrasting creamy yogurt and crunchy granola.  

This was really delicious, unlike anything I'd ever had before, a fantastic play on a totally common breakfast dish, and very unexpected.  I continue to be impressed with Fifth Floor's creative amuses!  7th favorite dish for both of us, perhaps only because it lacked foie :)
Amuse #2: Duck liver pâté, foie "oreo".
And then, more amuses!

The first was a duck liver pâté, on top of a crispy lavash chip, topped with sherry gel.  The pâté had a great flavor, the lavash was salted perfectly, and the cherry gel was slightly sweet, complimenting the pâté perfectly.  What a delicious bite.  My 3rd favorite dish of the night, Emil's 4th.

The foie "oreo" was tiny shortbread cookies, filled with foie mousse.  OMG.  Now THIS was an even more amazing bite!  The cookie was slightly sweet, the mousse had an incredibly strong foie flavor, and it just came together perfectly.  I've often been disappointed with mousses because the foie flavor doesn't come through very strongly, but this one was clearly loaded up with foie. Awesometastic.  My second favorite dish of the night, but Emil's 8th.
Wellfleet Oysters au Gratin, foie gras béarnaise.
Next up came the first dish from the actual menu, a pair of oysters with foie gras béarnaise, perched on top of some seaweed.

The oyster was creamy and fresh tasting, but the whole thing was served lukewarm, and it seemed like it may have been sitting for a while.  I didn't really taste any foie in the béarnaise.

I liked the presentation of this dish, but didn't actually like the dish itself.  Least favorite dish for both of us.

Paired with a fairly dry brut.
Terrine of foie gras, turmeric pickled green papaya, rice glass, coconut, thai basil,
The second dish was a Thai inspired terrine.

The terrine yet again had a great foie flavor and was perfectly salted, but had a few textural inconsistencies, was a little stringy.  The papaya was tart and crunchy.  The crispy fried shallots, as always, were delicious.  The rice glass was interesting for an added crunch, but it didn't taste like much.  The milk gel was similarly lost in the rest of the components.  I am not sure where the coconut was in the dish, perhaps in the gel?  The little thai basil leaf had a ton of flavor.

I loved the strong foie flavor here, and the thai pairing was unlike anything I've had before.  Given all the foie we've been eating lately, it was refreshing to get something totally different.  My 6th pick of the night, Emil's 2nd.

Paired with a really good reisling.
Lacquered foie gras, lamb neck, porcini, fava beans, sherry jus.
And time for some seared foie!

The foie was creamy, flavorful, and very consistently cooked.  We would have preferred it to be more seared however.

I'd never had lamb neck before, and I was surprised by how tasty it was.  Nicely cooked with a great crust on it.  The puree was creamy, made from taro root. The porcini was grilled, had a great earthy flavor, and was a really nice pairing.

I loved how hearty this dish was.  The flavors really came together quite nicely.  My 4th pick of the night, Emil's 3rd.

Paired with a pinot.
Ballotine of squab, foie gras powder, caramelle, peas, sauce Perigourdine.
Hey, we've seen this dish before!  This dish was pretty much identical to the one that Chef Baz prepared at one of the Alexander's foie dinners.

The peas were fresh, tasty, with great flavor.  The pea puree had even more intense pea flavor.  I loved these spring components really just being allowed to shine.

The squab was cooked perfectly, incredibly tender.  It was wrapped with bacon, a perfect pairing with the squab.  I don't remember the bacon on this dish last time, not sure if it was there and I didn't notice it?  Inside the squab was a tiny chunk of foie, not really enough of it to get a lot of flavor.

There was a generous amount of the foie powder.  When I had this dish last time, my criticism was that there wasn't enough foie flavor in the dish.  This time, I was able to add as much foie flavor to the dish as I wanted by dipping bites into the powder.

The caramelle didn't do it for me this time around.  The pasta was well cooked, but they were cold, and there was something I didn't quite care for in the filling.  Not sure what was different this time, as I really liked the filling last time.  They were still adorable though!

I think this is the first time I've really, truly enjoyed squab.  A bite with squab, bacon, and foie powder was pretty delicious.  My 8th favorite of the night, Emil's 6th.

Paired with a really nice Syrah.
Intermezzo: Foie and vanilla panna cotta, strawberry sphere, muscatel granita.
We had a very similar intermezzo last time we were at Fifth Floor, although that one did not have the foie in it.  I declared it one of the best intermezzos I'd ever had.  And this ... was even better.  Take an awesome dish, and add foie?  YES!

This was just a win all around.  Perfect execution on every aspect of it, great flavors.  The intensity of the strawberry flavor in the sphere impressed me yet again.  The panna cotta was the perfect consistency.

I really, really wish you could just order a full size of this.  So much better than pretty much any panna cotta I've had.  My favorite dish of the evening, and Emil's 5th.  This is particularly notable as he doesn't usually like sweets!
Fried rhubarb pie, foie gras ice cream, ginger, creme fraiche.
And another dish we'd seen before, and a very large reason why we choose to return for this menu.  We had this dessert a few weeks earlier, and not only was it the best dish of the evening, it was one of the top desserts I'd had all year.  It also goes down in history as the only dessert that Emil has ever liked.  And not just liked, he raved about this thing.

Our expectations were obviously high going into this.  We wanted it to be exactly the same as the perfect dish it was last time!  It didn't quite live up, but was still very good.

The pie was again served warm and crusty, but this time it tasted a little too fried.  The filling also seemed a little too mushy.  This component wasn't as good as before.

The ice cream however was still amazing.  Creamy, perfect consistency, amazing foie flavor.  Definitely the best foie gras ice cream I've had (and yes, I do have a fair number of comparison points!)

The ginger was in the dish last time, but it came through even more this time, and I thought it was a really great pairing with the rhubarb and foie.

The creme fraiche was tangy, and like last time I liked how it kept the dish from being too sweet.

There was also a pie crust crumble, which was buttery, tasty, and I really loved with the ice cream.  Much better than the crumble that was on it last time.

Overall, very good, but not quite as mind blowing as the first time we had it.  My 5th pick of the evening, but amazingly, Emil's first!  History repeated folks, dessert being his favorite dish?  Do not expect this to happen ever again!

Paired with a delicious Tokaji.
And finally, the migs.  Emil didn't even try any of these, so they were all for me!

The raspberry pâte de fruit was pretty standard, rolled in a ton of sugar, not a whole lot of flavor.  My second favorite of the migs.

The green pea macaron was crazy.  The cookie part really, truly tasted like green peas!  Now, I love peas, I love desserts, and I do like playful savory desserts, but this didn't quite do it for me.  My third favorite.

The canelé was eggy, moist, with a good caramelized crisp exterior.  It was good, but I unfortunately have the downright amazing one from Keiko a Nob Hill as a comparison point, which this didn't live up to.  My favorite of the set.
And finally, the financier. I'm not sure what fruit filling it had.  It was oily, and I didn't care for it at all.  Least favorite.
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