Sunday, April 11, 2010


Yikes, has it really been almost 2 months since my last post?  Sincere apologies, as the month of March was a bit crazy, and then, well...I guess I just got a bit lazy about catching up.  To make up for it, here's another restaurant review.

For my birthday last month, Troy took me to Abacus for dinner.  We've always heard fabulous things about it but had yet to go there, so I was very excited to try it. 

We got there early so that we could relax and have a drink at the bar.  Troy had the "Big Daddy" martini and I had the pear martini, which was fabulous.  Sweet and tart, but not too much so.  I think I could have easily drank 2-3 or them.  But I downed that first one a little too quickly and opted against another for fear of being too drunk to enjoy my food. 

After Troy made the reservation, I had perused their sample menu online and was pretty certain that I wanted to do the 9-course tasting menu.  A bunch of friends had raved to me about the lobster shooters there, which I really wanted to try, but ultimately, we decided against it because we knew it was just going to be too much food.

Normally, I feel too self-conscious to take pictures, and I also don't like having to disrupt our meal and conversation either.  But for some reason, I decided to bring my camera this time, just in case I felt like using it.  I used my 50mm lens, because it was the smallest and also because  I refuse to use flash in those situation.   I just quickly snapped one photo of each course before digging in.  So some of these may be dark, slightly out-of-focus, etc.  Sorry.

Troy and I both really liked the ambiance there: modern without being too trendy and weird, and not so loud you couldn't have a conversation.   Each table was individually lit so you could see your food (I hate eating in the dark), but the room wasn't so bright overall as to be overwhelming.  It had a nice sense of privacy, but then, we did sit in the corner, so not sure what it would have been like sitting elsewhere.

So as I mentioned above, we opted for the nine-course tasting menu.  Many were mini versions of menu items.

No amuse bouche, which I left me a little disappointed. :(

IMG_1227 by you.
Artisan bread basket - rosemary olive foccacia, apricot wheat(?) bread, sourdough, mini biscuits, and what I think were cayenne flatbread crisps or crackers.  Clearly made in-house.  Or if it wasn't, I want to know where they bought it all because it was fabulous.  I'm not normally a fan of olives, but they were really delicious chopped up on top of the foccacia.  The only real miss for me were the mini-biscuits, which were a bit bland and seemed like they didn't really belong there.  Pretty sure the butter was homemade as well.

1st course: Tuna tataki in ginger-scallion ponzu sauce
 IMG_1226 by you.
Lightly seared tuna, totally rare inside, thinly sliced and arranged in a circle.  The sauce was beautiful - perfectly salty and tangy and just the right amount of ginger - and really complimented the flavor of the tuna.  One of our favorite dishes of the evening.

2nd course: Hawaiian walu fish in chili lemongrass sauce/broth with Kobe beef mini-dumpling, baby shitake mushrooms, sugar snap peas, & red peppers
IMG_1228 by you.
Troy and I thought this was the best dish of the evening.  The fish was cooked absolutely perfectly, the veggies were a good complement, and the sauce was amazing - tangy & slightly spicy.  I thought the Kobe dumpling was a bit of an odd addition since the richness of the beef threw off the lightness of everything else.  Troy didn't have a problem with it.

3rd course: King salmon on pepper jack grits with jicama slaw, pepita pesto and cayenne tomato butter sauce
IMG_1229 by you.
This was also excellent.  Again, the fish was cooked perfectly.  I thought the cheesy grits would be weird with the salmon, but the flavor wasn't so overwhelming and I liked the contrast of textures.  I also liked that the slaw had strips of tortilla chips in them, which gave ti a nice crunch. 

4th course - Sangria sorbet with a golden raspberry (forgive the extreme lack of focus)
IMG_1230 by you.
I thought this was a bit of cheat, calling a palate cleanser the fourth course.   The flavor was nice, very much like sangria, although it was a little bit sweet for my taste, especially after being dusted with powdered sugar.  Also I hate to nitpick, but the texture was a lot rougher than what I'd expect from a sorbet.  I'm not sure if the runner who served this mis-spoke or not, but I'd say it was more like granita.

5th course: Seared foie gras over duck confit blintz with madagascar vanilla sauce
IMG_1231 by you.
This was my other favorite dish of the night.  The foie gras had a gorgeous seared crust to it which really gave it a nice texture.  I was a bit wary about the vanilla sauce since I generally feel like vanilla belongs in dessert, but it actually went nicely with the richness of the foie.  There was another flavor in the sauce that I couldn't quite make out.  I thought it was pear, but it turned out to be granny smith apple!  The duck blintz was also very good, but I thought it didn't go as well with the sauce.

6th course: Venison with butter poached potatoes, pearl onions and duck(?) confit
IMG_1232 by you.
On this dish, my memory has failed me a bit.  This had a lovely sauce on it, but I cannot for the life of me remember the description.  I want to say it taste like some kind of wine reduction, but I could swear that the server said something about cherries.  Also, I'm fairly certain that he also told us this had duck confit, however the version on the menu said rabbit.  We weren't entirely sure, even as we were eating it. 

Again, this was beautifully cooked.  I can't say there was anything wrong with this dish, but it didn't really knock my socks off and make me want to lick my plate.  The butter-poached potatoes were probably my favorite part.  Also, they were a little inconsistent in plating as I had WAY more confit on my plate than Troy.  I think he also had cherry tomatoes on his plate, and I did not.

7th course: Antelope with Gorgonzola fingerling potatoes, demi glace sauce
IMG_1233 by you.
I loved the gaminess of the meat, and the contrast of the sauce to cut the richness, but the potatoes were weird.  I absolutely hated the gorgonzola - it was way too overpowering.  I also found it odd that each of my three potatoes was different.  I'm not sure what I was supposed to get out of that.

8th course - cheese course
IMG_1234 by you.
Again, apologies for my failure to write down the names of all the cheeses.  Basically, the only one I really remember is the semi-soft pictured to the left was a Chimay.  On the right was an aged cheddar, and in the center, a blue cheese.  The cheeses were served with a small tumbler of wildflower honey, quince gelee, spiced nuts, artisan bread crisps, and thin slices of apple.

I really enjoyed this course.  All of the cheeses were quite different and delicious.  I also really liked the cubes of quince gelee.  I do wish there were a few more bread crisps though.

9th course - Dessert
 IMG_1237 by you.
Berry galette with goat cheese crema and lemon curd ice cream over mixed berry sauce
We were told this was a bit off the usual tasting menu; apparently these was made as testers for a dessert special but were too small, so they gave them to us instead of the nutella & kitkat concotion we were supposed to get.  I was very glad for it.

I loved the galette, especially with eaten in conjunction with the goat cheese crema underneath.  In fact, I wish there had been a little bit more of that.  The ice cream also very good but was already almost totally melted when it was served. :(

IMG_1235 by you. 

All-in-all, this was a very good meal that fell just short of being great.  I felt like every dish had one element that just didn't belong there, like the beef dumpling, or the Gorgonzola cheese.  Troy says I'm overcritical, but my big hangup is that everything should all taste good together.  So if you put a bunch of different items together on one plate, I should be able to put a little bit of each item on my fork, take one bite and not be like, heh? Is that too much to ask?  

I was a little bit surprised that with all the sushi on the menu, there wasn't any sushi as part of the tasting menu.  However, I will say that the seafood courses were far and away the strongest part of the menu.  

They do have happy hour specials, so I'd definitely like to go back sometime to hang out at the bar and nibble on appetizers.