Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canlis - 41st Anniversay Celebration

Cindy and I had a tasting menu dinner at Canlis last night to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary. It was an amazing window table, service par excellence, interesting people watching, a very adventurous and beautifully presented menu, and a good time on tap for a 3 hours of dishes we would NEVER order individually on a menu.

Canlis was named this week a finalist, AGAIN, for best restaurant service in the United States by the James Beard Foundation. Well deserved based on our experience - a very busy, full, large, restaurant but it seemed there were more helpful, friendly, and always competent staff than there were guests. It was kind of cool.

The restaurant itself seems never changing, in a good way, with architecture, views and decor a classic NW/Asian vibe. After going there for 40 years I can't see anything different about the facility, service, or clientele.

The Clientele of this restaurant has not really changed over the years - we have been going there for 40 years - but that is what is really interesting. Everything else but the clientele in the world has changed dramatically. Today you can go to the fanciest public event or show and the attendees are in sweats and fleece. In this restaurant every guy is wearing a coat or suit, every women a dressy outfit. Really it makes high end New York look casual. There was a pretty good spread of ages, ethnicity's, and table group makeups but they all looked like this meal was, relative to their family wealth, one of the least expensive places in town. Big representation of couples our age hosting , interestingly, mostly adult daughters and their spouses for some celebratory event or another.

The menu at Canlis is extensive, expensive, and a list of classics that are each utterly satisfying in an ala carte format with extensive small plates, hot and cold, and a long list of mains. Over the years we have had most of them and enjoyed them. Last night we were feeling adventurous so we tried the tasting menu which is the polar opposite of their normal offerings. It was beautifully conceived, and presented. It was also quite good. However, I can't say it was really yummy the way most of their dishes are. But that is OK because it is really and adventure outside your comfort range and outside the range of classic dishes.

Tasting menu

Amuse Bouche - White asparagus soup with Olive Oil and grapefruit served with a spoon of Tequilla Sunrise which uses sodium alginate to turn liquids into a big bubble you pop in your mouth and it liquifies - fun and tasty.

Opakapaka - Sashimi with fennel pollen, orange, and a ginger-carrot nage which was surprisingly the tastiest savory course. beautiful and very good.

Scallop Mousse - Michael Richard would have been proud of the faux cannelloni. Alternating stranding of white and black squid ink spaghetti "pasta tube" filled with a scallop cream mousse with a charred (best idea of the evening I will steal for my cooking) cauliflower. It was a little scary tasting until I had the inspiration to put a little fluer de sel on it. The salt allowed the subtle cream and scallop flavors to compete with the squid ink.

Pheasant - An architectural piece of breast wrapped in crunchy cabbage, with a foie gras sauce and hockey puck (the tastiest savory bites of the evening - fried of course) of "dressing". If you have never had it or cooked it Pheasant is the toughest, least friendly game bird you could ever choose to eat - so pretty good is a massive compliment. There is something deep in the American psyche that deems "pheasant under glass" as the most elegant dish possible.

Venison - The second game dish was a dry aged, sous vide loin which was wrapped in a pretty tasty sheet of pine ash (by some magic of molecular gastronomy). In My opinion Venison kind of falls in the four legged camp of Pheasant - Not the meat of choice - but again it was pretty good.

Degistive - Cranberry Fizz - Another molecular gastronomy dish. A really yummy, fizzy, creamy, sweet palate cleanser served as an ice cream soda.

Dessert - Cindy had a chocolate molten cake that was awesome served with a kind of dove bar ice cream on a stick that was caramel covered with chocolate and way too much salt (And I am salt addicted) that somebody screwed up in the mis en place stage. I had the Butternut squash "cheesecake" which is way too complicated a plate to even describe. Beautiful, decent tasting.

Of Course, being Canlis, when we walked out the front door our car was sitting there with the engine running - impressive after all these years.