Chestnuts and Oyster Mushrooms
DonRocks, on 11 Oct 2015 – 2:46 PM, said:
Elli Benchimnol is doing the wine program.
Pool Boy, on 11 Oct 2015 – 7:45 PM, said:
Has Keith already departed?
DonRocks, on 11 Oct 2015 – 8:50 PM, said:
Elli and Keith are good friends. I heard from Elli (Terry Theise is coming into town, and she needed his email), and she said, “When are you coming in to see me at The Grill Room?” (I was supposed to go on Friday, but I have to take my visitors to the airport, so Terry abandoned me!) Anyway, I took that to mean that she was there – but that doesn’t mean Keith isn’t, and it doesn’t necessarily mean she is – they could be easily working in tandem. It’s also quite possible Elli is working the bar whereas Keith is in charge of the wine program.
At this point, you all know as much or more than I do!
Keith is running the wine program, Elli is running the cocktails program.
I stopped into The Grill Room last night, and in keeping with my New Year’s Resolution which will probably last another day or so, had the bartender make me a Non-Alcoholic Cocktail ($8) with ginger and citrus – I was asked if I wanted it neat or on the rocks, and said “however they want to make it” (rocks) – it was really good, and I ordered a second one.
A bread basket arrived with what might (or might not) be Panorama bread, sliced, with good, creamy, salted butter – just right, and with a crunchy crust and mie that did its job in swiping up every drop of sauce in the dishes.
Robert Wiedmaier may want to come here and try the Boudin Blanc ($20), exceptionally wicked because it came with chestnut ravioli, (locally foraged) oyster mushrooms, and celery. It was a phenomenal, treble-spiced Boudin Blanc, but made even greater and balanced by the bass tones of the ravioli, which were not only stuffed with chestnuts, but also had chestnut flour – they were dark brown in color – and the oyster mushrooms were just out of this world. This is the type of dish that you wish you could have about ten of during your Christmas engorgement; as it was, it was amply sized but oh my *goodness* what a tease. Why did it have to end?
Because there was more coming. The Florida Red Snapper ($36) was slow-cooked with bay and cardamom, also with locally foraged oyster mushrooms (getting these in your back yard, Frank?), chrysanthemum leaves, and pickled ginger. Served in a fairly deep bowl (as all Grill Room’s dishes seem to be – Frank is a “brodo guy,” and a self-proclaimed “bread-swabber” – the sauces here are by no means excessive, but there’s generally a couple swipes-worth left at the end of the dish, and it’s a crime against humanity to let it go to waste). A lot of people might see this dish as expensive for the quantity you get – it’s a medium-large piece of fish, but by no means a feast – but the quality was so high that it justifies the price, especially when combined with everything else in the package: the atmosphere, the service, etc. The fish was delicious, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t order it for the oyster mushrooms in order to make a themed meal. I also feel like I now know – really, know – what Florida Red Snapper is supposed to be like, both in taste and texture.
I’d had a couple slices of the bread, a few bites with butter, a few bites with sauce, so I was pleasantly full at this point, but you can’t come here and not order one of Aggie Chin’s desserts (refer to the “crime against humanity” thing up above) – we *must* support such a high level of talent, and so I did when I ordered the “Mont Blanc” ($12 (all desserts are $12)), which I assume is named as such because it’s “part-French, part-Swiss, part-Italian” (the tunnel underneath Mont Blanc leads from Italy to France, but it’s only about 20 km away from Switzerland, and the dessert in its classic form (here, the <<aux marrons>> version) also resembles the snow-capped mountain itself – the highest mountain in the Alps). This is a small, arranged plate of chestnut parfait, chestnut chocolate cream (are you starting to pick up on the title of this post?), milk chocolate ice cream (Switzerland), and chestnut hazelnut cake. Although this dish has been modernized visually, it still clings to its classic roots, right down to the “spaghetti strands” of puréed chestnut on top.
And we can’t forget the mignardises that came at the end: a chocolate lollipop, a pear financier, blood orange mimosa pâte de fruit, a grapefruit-champagne macaron, and the legendary caramel.
Uncertain of the specific criteria the Michelin inspectors in France must check off (they absolutely have a laundry list), I can only guess, but I can safely say that in terms of atmosphere, service, wines, and food, The Grill Room easily merits a Michelin star.