Monday, June 14, 2010

A meal strong at the ends and weak in the middle

Saturday night, a group of us headed to Second Empire to try out a place that none of us had visited in years. The strong dinner menu lured us there, as did the presence of a chef, Daniel Schurr, whose work we had somehow managed to by-pass since he took over the restaurant.

The meal was decidedly mixed, though good enough that I will be going back.

Being the piglets and food sluts that we are, we decided to create our own four-course meal with two starters, an entree, and a dessert each. Early in the evening, we even toyed with the notion of adding a cheese course, something we would normally do.

We should have stuck to fewer courses. The starters were quite large; as the menu indicates, a single starter and an entree would be plenty. We never made it to the cheese; none of us had room to accommodate it.

The starters were also delicious. We collectively sampled the pork belly, the veal cheek, a foie option that was not on the menu, the clams, an Oregon mushroom special, and the salad. Though one of the three foies was undercooked, the other two were perfect. The pork belly was excellent, but for my taste the veal cheek topped it.

As we waited for our entrees, our stomachs were stuffed and our expectations were high.

Alas, the main courses did not live up to their predecessors. The trio of phyllo veal cigar, venison saddle, and pork, which had looked so amazing in print, was a particular disappointment. The phyllo had so little meat you ended up searching for some veal goodness, the venison was overcooked to the point of chewy blandness, and the pork was a boring and overdone cutlet. The steak was good but no more. The scallops were very good, but the sauce on them was way too salty. After some discussion, we guessed that the grill station was simply off its game that night.

The desserts, which were rather conventional, returned to the form of the starters: all were delicious. I would have preferred the chocolate cake be a tad more moist, but that's a quibble; we all loved it. The key lime pie and the sorbets were also great treats.

As I said at the start, we'll be going back, but the whole drive there we'll be hoping the person on the grill station is having a good night.

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