Bourbon Steak is having a fundraising dinner for Nick Balenger tomorrow night (please click on that link, and follow all the rest of the links – this is as important as anything I’ve ever written about).
As part of the Silent Auction, Tim Carman and I will be hosting dinner for four at Bourbon Steak. So if you’re going to this event, please bid on this generously, and Tim and I will regale you with war stories over our dinner.
I decided also to donate a bottle of wine to the auction: a 1999 Dönnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese, a wine from a difficult vintage that Terry Theise called “perhaps the greatest achievement I’ve ever seen by a winemaker.” This wine, for this auction, should easily command $100. I’m the original owner of the wine, so I can verify its provenance – please bid generously.
Anyway, the other night I went to drop off the wine, and GM Mark Politzer (the husband of our own Rachael Harriman) said he’d like to buy me a glass of wine when I came in for being so involved in the auction. The large bar, early on a Thursday evening, was absolutely impenetrable, with nothing, anywhere, table or seats, opening up for what must have been close to an hour. So while I was standing there, Mark, and AGM Charlie Berg (who, by the way, is leaving soon for Blue Hill to devote himself to becoming a full-time sommelier), were kind enough to offer me a glass of Grüner Veltliner and the perfect dish for someone standing around waiting for a seat: Marinated Nantucket Bay Scallops ($22, but comped) with orange, cilantro, and lemongrass vinaigrette. This was served in something resembling a stemless brandy glass with a spoon (I’m not sure if that’s the normal plating), and the orange and cilantro really complimented the wonderful scallops – it looked like a smallish course, but was quite an ample portion. This is the type of dish you can visualize the taste of (tastualize?) just from the ingredients list, and it was as good a combination as it sounds like because of the quality of the scallops.
Finally, I got a seat, and Charlie asked me if I’d mind if they served me a cheese course. I said I’d be happy to have one, but then later added that I’d like to order (and pay for) something first. (In the meantime, the cheese course came out, and I asked if I could have it placed in limbo until after my meal, so it was taken away and I never did get it back because I was so stuffed after my entree that I couldn’t eat any more).
With what was surely $40 of comps under the bridge, it was time to pony up. I’ve always been curious about Michael Mina’s signature dish: Michael’s Lobster Pot Pie ($68), and decided to go for it. I remember about two years ago, I wrote Mark Politzer about this dish, and said, “Is it really worth the price?” He wrote me back a one-word answer: “Yes!” The pot pie is presented in an oversized, single-serving copper pot – there was clearly a lot of food lurking underneath the browned pot-pie crust which is all I could see. The pot was then taken back and expertly plated, and wow, what a dish. An entire, huge lobster, with the meat removed but the shell included, and brandied lobster cream, baby vegetables, and wild mushrooms, all artfully presented with the shell an integral part of the visual component (and also having a functional aspect, keeping the heat in some of the chunks of lobster meat). The brandied lobster cream was bountiful and extremely rich, so there is no way that a single person is going to finish this dish and not be stuffed. It is glorious excess, and might I add that at the bar, I’m sure they’ll cheerfully bring out a share plate for two people to enjoy. At $34 per person, the price becomes much easier to grasp. I paired it with a 2009 Ramey Chardonnay ($20) from Russian River Valley, an exemplar of oak and oodles of butter, and normally something I wouldn’t enjoy on its own, but with this incredibly rich pot pie, the oak was absorbed into the brandied lobster cream sauce, and it was a very good pairing.
Bourbon Steak is frightfully expensive, with eye-popping prices. There is some serious money dining here, and a coat and tie are highly recommended. Surely I received special attention because of my donations, but I observed what was going on around me, and the service is just wonderful, and the bartenders really know how to shake a drink.