February 19, 2010

Eighty One

Amuse Bouche of Celery Root Soup

Dinner at Eighty One

Champagne, compliments of Eighty One via Blackboard Eats

Petit Fours

I apologize for not writing for awhile! For the past week, I've been stricken with a nasty cough (residual of a cold) and haven't been able to put my thoughts together. Today, I'm feeling a lot better. At least good enough to finally review Eighty One (from last Friday).

Instead of going to A Voce for Valentine's Day with B, I switched my reservation over after seeing this inciting Blackboard Eats promo for Eighty One. This arrangement worked out quite nicely as the restaurant was just one and a half avenues away from my apartment and the quick hand-in-hand walk through the newly fallen snow was an enjoyable one.

We nearly overlooked Eighty One's discreet entrance at first. It was much less obvious than its casual counterpart, the Eighty One Grill. The main dining area was kept in the back, far away from the street where children could noisily stampede through on their trek to the Natural History Museum. This place was definitely not for kids. The decor was very traditional, if not a tad boring.

I ordered a bottle of Spanish Moscatel '08 from the extensive 24 page drinks menu. It was a very pleasant, dry, mouth-filling white wine. It smelled like flowers and honey. It tasted fruity, but wasn't sweet. A nice change of pace from our usual Riesling picks.

The dinner began with an amuse of celery root soup in a extra-miniature pilsner glass. While it was a beautifully pure expression of celery, I didn't really care for its thickness or the sour aftertaste. Next up was the sea scallop ravioli appetizer, compliments of the Blackboard Eats promotion. The entire ravioli was hidden under a blanket of buttery foam, which stirred my curiosity and nostalgia for the slow-cooked duck egg at The Botanist in London. I loved the soft, plump scallop in the chewy ravioli skin. The scallop tasted fresh and was free of rogue sand particles. It was an excellent three bite dish and I wish I could have had six more bites.

For my entree, I ordered the roasted baby pig with a dermason bean cassoulet, boudin noir, and boudin blanc. Boudin noir, or blood sausage, is one of France’s oldest sausage making traditions that dates back to over 2000 years! Boudin blanc is a white sausage made without blood, but usually includes pork liver and heart meat. Tasty! I really enjoyed both the boudin noir and blanc. Each one, as you can imagine, had its own personality. The boudin noir was fragrant, fatty, and dissolved into granular bits in my mouth. The boudin blanc was pleasantly gummy, but had much less flavor. I detected a familiar taste of bone marrow and wondered if it had been braised with it. The roasted baby pig itself was incredibly tender and juicy. Each cut was then further enhanced by its thin, crispy skin. In my mind, the taste was on par with the Berkshire Pork that I had at Blue Hill.

B ordered a filet mignon, served rare. Unfortunately, it came out a little wonky. Half of the filet was rare, but the other half was overcooked to medium. I suspected that there was something crazy going on with the heat source.

To finish off the meal, we shared a selection of five cheeses and two glasses of champagne (also compliments of Blackboard Eats!) The cheese plate was accompanied by warm cranberry-walnut bread wrapped lovingly in a white cloth napkin.

Now why couldn't they have served bread like that with dinner? All we got were these cold, hard-as-a-rock dinner rolls that were probably from a bag of 100 via who-knows-where. The bread server actually made three or four attempts to try and pawn off the rolls; he really wanted to get rid of that stuff! I don't blame him. In my mind, there's something to be said about quality bread service. For a high-end (Michelin star-awarded) restaurant, I would have loved to enjoy some fresh, homemade bread with my dinner.

Before leaving, a plate of petit fours was put in front of our full bellies. I managed to eat the chocolate puff pastry and the crispy peanut butter ball. They were tasty, but nothing extraordinary.

While the main dishes were fantastic, the details weren't completely there. Most of the time, I was too involved in my conversation with B to notice. It wasn't the most romantic place for a Valentine's Day dinner, but we had a great time nonetheless. I guess that's how you ultimately know when someone is right for you: you don't need to be in the perfect venue and have the perfect meal to be happy.

More pics can be found here.


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