Friday, June 12, 2009

About Last Night...

At the last minute CGG and I decided to heed the call that came out the day before...

"Chef Wolfgang Puck will be in the kitchen at 20.21 and a Tasting Menu will be offered"

We didn't need too much convincing really.

As a Chef he is rather extraordinary and the empire he has created is rather impressive as well.

Once you get past the "It's Jack Nicholson with Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent" aspect I found him to be
a relatively regular guy.

I wonder about the number of people he must meet and greet on a regular basis and think that after a while that kind of celebrity status must become exhausting.
At least he wouldn't be tired out by cooking this night.
Nor would the Executive Chef or the Sous for that matter.

So, my tip of the hat goes to the "commis" in the kitchen. Only once did I see Chef Puck go behind the line and that was only for a few moments. I never saw Chef Miller go behind the line and only one of the two Sous was doing any expediting.

Which means that the execution of the five-course Tasting Menu was handled by the regular kitchen staff. Which in turn means to me that this is one of those restaurants where it is not really necessary for the Chef to be "in-the-house".

We started with a rather ubiquitous spicy green bean amuse and then received a starter of "Spicy Tuna Tartare". Topped with a little shaved Bonito it was creamy and delicious, That was followed by a "Tempura Softshell Crab". Perhaps the best soft-shelled crab I have ever had. It was enormous and perfectly prepared. I admit I'm a sucker for a soft-shelled crab in any format and this was truly fantastic.
The fish course was a "Miso-Sake glazed Black Cod" that was beautifully cooked and presented with a chilled noodle salad. A Miso vinaigrette accompanied the dish very nicely. Onward to the main course which was a "Szechuan Style Prime Beef Tenderloin". Spiky peppercorns provided some heat but, really more of a textural element I thought. This dish was also cooked perfectly and arriving at our table, it was served hot and not the lukewarm it could have easily been.
The dessert was a "Cherry Truffle Cake" and while tasty, was simply a hot chocolate cake, (with a gooey inside) served alongside a shot-glass of cherry sorbet that had had some champagne poured in as well.

Really an excellent meal.
Made a bit more impressive by having Chef Puck visible for most of the evening. He stopped by our little two-top twice and was really quite a warm and congenial fellow indeed. He graciously signed our menu and and thanked us for coming.
A nice touch coming from a man who must be constantly pulled in every direction in order to meet the needs of the many who require his presence for everything from television shows to fundraisers to book signings and everything in between.

I think another visit to 20.21 is in order for a... Tuesday night...
You know, a regular "weekday-walk-in-without-a-reservation" just to see if the commis can do it again...

When Chef Puck isn't there to provide the moral support necessary for a truly great meal.

And for tonight?
Since D'Amico Cucina is closing very soon, we managed to get invited to dinner there this very evening!
I expect great things from them.
We will soon see...


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