Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Restaurant Zoe Revisited - Seattle

It has been a while since we last visited Restaurant Zoe - but it is still as much fun and as good as ever. Zoe is among only 7 traditional restaurants Zagat's rates 27 or above on food quality in greater Seattle- a very good sign of quality. Zoe has a really great atmosphere, fun but sophisticated. Their drinks menu is very good and somewhat unique to them. When you arrive you get prompt and friendly service and a nice plate of bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We started off with a shared appetiser, not on the regular menu, of a torchon of fole gras with figs. The torchon is pure, raw foie gras compressed into a roll, seasoned, lightly poached and, in this case, rolled in pistachio nuts and cut into rounds. The figs were lightly poached too. It was beautiful and delicious. The brioche was perfectly toasted. It went beautifully with a rose cremant from Burgundy.

We were then brought "spoons" of candied fennel bulb, onion, and peppers as a complimentary amuse bouche. Again, pretty and tasty.

Our next course was a dungeness crab salad for me and ricotta gnudi for Cindy. Again beautiful and of high quality.

Before our main courses we were given another complimentary course which was a small bowl of gazpacho that was creamy and light. Coincidentally I had just made this last weekend Thomas Keller's Sun gold Tomato Gazpacho from his Ad Hoc At Home cookbook. Zoes version was almost identical with the addition of a hint of melon and some creme fraiche on top. It is very refreshing - made with tomato's, onion, cucumber, and olive oil blended very, very smooth.

So far the meal was impeccable. Our mains we excellent but both suffered a bit from what I consider design flaws in the dish composition and presentation. We were debating between the Whole Hog which is not really described on the menu and the Poached Salmon with corn and Chantalle's. Our friendly waitperson described the Whole Hog accurately and Cindy ordered that. It is basically a shredded pork timbale - yummy parts of the pork braised to perfection, rolled in a breading, and stuffed into a mold. It is then unmolded and deep fried to give a crispy exterior and a shredded pork interior. The mold used was a basic rectangle so the timbale looks like a small brick. It was served on a flat plate atop a very nice complex, saucy endive salad. The design flaw, in my opinion was that there was no sauce on either the interior, or at presentation under the timable so it was a little too dry - though delicious. It's shape was very unfortunate as well and served as a "brick"atop the salad on a flat plate it was really extremely unappealing looking. A concave plate with a pool of sauce on the bottom and a meatball shape or else a rounded mold would have worked from a texture and presentation viewpoint much better. Or using a gelatinized sauce on the interior of the fried timbale would have provided the moist sauce without impacting the delicious and crunchy exterior.

I ordered the Poached Salmon which our server said would be served medium rare which was really not accurate missing the mark in both directions. the Salmon, possibly one of the best tasting and wonderfully textured and sesaoned I have ever had, was poached using a very low heat sous vide method I am almost certain. The result was that the fish was fully cooked through, not rare, and was firm and flakey with a mere touch of the fork. that is as good as it gets for anyone eating a fish. I have had many a rare salmon that had some inedible and tough raw interior parts which is the usual price paid for a perfectly cooked exterior portion. Sous Vide allows the fish to be exactly the same perfect texture all the way from surface to middle. Fortunately her diescription of rare would stop many folks squimish about raw fish from ordering the dish. This is good because using the sous vide method the fillet appears visually to be completely raw - as in totally uncooked. The long low heat ina vacum allows for this. It looked like a big thick piece of lox. Chefs like to provide drama and surprise with a meal but when that plate was put down the surprise was not appetite stimulating. As I said it was fabulous and fully cooked but I could not get Cindy to even take a bite. This dish needs to be described better so people know that are not about to be served raw fish. Or, it could have been lighly sauced to disguise the raw apperance - which would have been the better dish design appraoch in a mainstream restaurant.

We had to run to the theatre so were not able to fit dessert into our time frame.

Hopefully, my "complaints' won't disuade you from visiting Restaurant Zoe - it really is a great evening and a great meal.

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