Monday, November 27, 2017

DC's SIREN serves up spectacular seafood and service (11-25-17)

Siren by Robert Wiedmaier opened earlier this year in  the spanking new Darcy Hotel off Scott Circle at 1515 Rhode Island Ave, NW (www.sirenbyrw.com) and I had planned to get there earlier in the summer, but was waylaid by an ill client. Since our son has gone vegetarian on us, seafood is on his no go list, so as soon as he ran off for a sleepover on Saturday, Will & I headed downtown for an adult night out with the fishies!
The space is comfortable and simple with lots of nice d├ęcor touches and many curtained booths, but after a while we had to move due to cold air from an overhead vent. We settled in at a warmer spot where we could also see a lot more and enjoy the space. While the restaurant is co-owned my Chefs Robert Wiedmaier (of Marcel's fame) and Brian McBride (original chef at Blue Duck Tavern), the kitchen is under the supervision of Chef John Critchley (previously of Brine, Bourbon Steak & Urbana) whose resume indicates he is most worthy. we had met Chef John many times before and he came out to greet us as did Chef Brian and they cheerily headed around the dining room when spotting other regulars or friends. It did feel like family. Our server Eddie made several excellent suggestions as did the chef and we settled in with a bottle of Halcon Vineyards "Prado" Rhone Blend 2013 from mendocino, Ca suggested by GM Todd Salvadore who knew his wines and what goes well with the seafood. Creamy and rich, it was ideal with every bite we had all night. Top this off with my favorite sparkling water, Badoit, and you have me reined in.
My starter was the Japanese Sea Urchin with Edamame, Blue Crab Custard, Arctic Surf Clam & Galil Spice Oil (which I discovered online is indeed an Israeli product from the Galilee--Galil is Hebrew for Galilee). and the flavors burst all over the place with the creamy custard and pops of earthy urchin. I would call it a clod seafood stew of types with a custard base and it was indeed dreamy (see FB fotos). Will had the Grilled Fish Causa which I would describe as a variation of the Puerto Rican Mofongo, but here with a Yukon Gold Potato shell stuffed with a fish melange, Peruvian Pepper (getting ready for our trip in less than 3 weeks), Aleppo Pepper Oil & Flying Fish Row. Again flavors bursts here, which indeed was the signature of every dish all night: novel, exciting and flavorful.
Before our main course arrived, Eddie brought out some superb amuse-like treats:
Grilled Cuttlefish with Spaghetti Squash in Vegetable Broth with Thai Basil Vinaigrette was tender and tasty and was followed by
"Almond Cake" Duck Liver Mousse with Verjus Gelee which was a complex yet teeny two-bite foie gras treat.

We asked about bread and Eddie explained it comes just before the main course, and it did in the form of Soft Lavosh (more like a light pita) with a Tuna spreak topped with Red Pepper Puree. We had noticed the large oil containers on the table with spices and assumed it was for the bread and when one of the servers brought the spread, he quickly announced he would drizzle the star anise oil over it. OOPS! We smelled the intense licorice before we could stop him, so that went back to the kitchen and another oil-less plate emerged quickly. It was tasty and simple and filled a space, but I would have loved some real bread to mop up that stew broth at the end.
Main courses here shine just like everything else with Will's Poached Alaskan Halibut with Mishmish Spiced Octopus, Sobrasada(a type of chorizo adding flavor) Emulsion, Almond Milk and a divine Farro Grano Arso (which upon checking is a burnt grain apparently originating in Puglia; we must have missed this when there this past summer!). I may have found a new favorite seafood dish in the amazing Fisherman's Stew, which Chef John explained, has been evolving since the opening. I love it just the way it is with large pieces of crispy seared Royal Bass, Diver Scallops and Squid Ink Brittle which melts as the broth is poured on tableside. The two winning ingredients of the dish, however, are the three Middleneck Clams piled with Sea Urchin and topped with French Trout Roe which totally blew me away. I can't recall such an amazing combination of flavors. Beside these were Lobster & Shrimp Dumplings, which I can only describe as matzo-ball like in texture and floating in the seafood/fish broth. I had to save the last bite from one of these tiny treats.

A plate of Lamb Shoulder Cannelloni with Braised Leeks and Lamb Jus emerged as a postlude and while we had intended to try and keep this meal mostly meatless, we could not give in to the rich treat.

Desserts here should not be missed and while they sound large and complex, they are indeed not huge or too filling for each to have his or her own. Will went right for the Key Lime Cream with Passion fruit, Graham Cracker and Orange Blossom ice Cream which he loved save for the very soggy graham cracker which marred the dish. My Coffee Mousse & Gingerbread was a holiday treat with Hazelnut Sponge, Gingerbread Ice Cream and Crystalized Hazelnuts. I was totally happy and even happier when the macaroon, , Gelee and Dulce de leche cream mignardises arrived. 
Chef Robert Wiedmaier has been around DC for decades now and indeed has amassed a talented staff in his kitchens but also in front of house and Siren surely offers exemplary service and superior seafood. Siren is perfect for families (as it is in a hotel), romantic evenings, or just a night out, and as we were leaving the jazz combo was setting up, so that's also an option from 9pm (I believe on Friday & Saturday).
Check it out and enjoy!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

NYC's MAS(farmhouse) fully satisfies (11-24-17)

We always try to do a fine dining experience each Thanksgiving trip to NY and while I had been to an enjoyed MAS(farmhouse) in Greenwich Village before, I knew they would be able to cater to Samuel's vegetarian experience fullfold and I was correct.
When we arrived at 630pm the small cozy and comfy dining room was empty, but within 90 minutes it filled up as they generally do one seating per table each night.
We ordered drinks and Will had what was called Grapefruit while I had the Oaxaca Negroni.....I totally failed to note the ingredients, but they were superb. We went on to an excellent Saint-Aubin white (the wine prices here can get crazy): Domaine Paul Pillot 2015 "Les Charmois" 1er cru that was creamy and rich and paired well with the starters. An amuse of Golden Beet Terrine with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts arrived and was nice, but won no awards. Hildon sparkling water from the UK is used here.

Sam started with the Yams, Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate, while and I were both enthralled with the excellent Roasted Chestnut and Porcini Mushroom Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Caramelized Fennel and Preserved Fig (which looked like a swirl of balsamic in the soup--fotos on FB!!)
Next for Sam came Kuri Squash Risotto with Mushrooms and he could not rave enough about the flavors. My Poached Lobster with Kuri Squash Butter & Preserved Lemon, Quark Spatzle and a brown butter watercress puree was dotted with yummy Hon Shimeji Mushrooms. The dish was excellent and a divine pairing with the Burgundy Chardonnay, but the lemon was so intense in a couple of bites, it almost tasted salty, which was odd, but not bad. Will chose the Roasted Local Cod with Crispy Spaghetti Squash, Blood Orange, Capers, Brioche Crouton and Kohlrabi. Not a complaint there.

We moved on to a Jean-Luc Joillot 2005 "Les Rugiens" Volnay also from Burgynday which was one of the funkiest noses I have ever smelled and quite earthy in the mouth. While delicious, it really needed food. Again a divine pairing with my Roasted Rettland Farm Duck Breast with Sunchokes, Beluga Lentils, Macerated Cranberries and Cabbage Wrapped Duck Confit Leg. Will had the Violette Hill Farms Chicken Breast stuffed with Apricot Sausage, Smoked Cheddar Braised Beans, Glazed Broccoli and Maitake Mushrooms while Sam adored his Beet Ravioli with Trumpet Mushrooms. As you can see the name (farmhouse) means a lot as the ingredients are local and fresh year round which makes this place such a treat.
It was a cold night and the wind did come down the entry at times when the door was opened, which made a chill, but the place was warm and full so no more chills after 730!
We shared the Cheese Plate of Cricket Creek Maggie's Round, Old Chatham Sheepherding Ewe's Blue and Haystack Peak, all of which were superb and served with pickled pear, pickled apple and walnut crackers.
For dessert, Samuel chose the Warm Upside-Down Cake with Huckleberry Compote, Quince, Pink Pepper Anglaise & Buttermillk Ice Cream.
Will went for the Pumpkin Mousse with Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream, Almond Crumble, Cardamom Milk Chocoalte & Pumpkin Tuile, while I adored the Caramelized White Chocolate Cheesecake with Blistered Grapes, Peanut Butter Cookie, Lemon Confit and Concord Sorbet
They were all amazing and tasty desserts that totally filled us up, but not enough to skip the Lavender Marshmallows and Pecan Squares. I was happy for the latter as we didn't have pecan pie the day before and when we asked if the marshmallows had gelatin(for Sam) they immediately came out with some chocolates for him.
This was an evening of fine food, fine service and justa  nice family feast.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Candle 79 in NYC is a vegan/organic place you have to see (and eat in....11-22-17)

Since Sam entered his vegetarian stage over a half a year ago, I thought it would be nice to try one of NYC's top veggie dining spots this time around, so we headed to the Upper East Side and CANDLE 79 (154 E 79th St. www.candle79.com). It was nice to escape the holiday masses in midtown after our spectacular matinee of Hello Dolly starring Bette Midler and head uptown with a friend and client to the oh so quieter East Side.
It had become windy and bitter cold, so we were thankful for the cozy warm feeling we encountered as we entered. There are two floors and our table was near the street window so we could see the passersby while keeping toasty warm. A long bar (where folks can dine as well without reservations) was along the side of the room and there were cozy booths on the other. Upon entering my first remark was, "well how bad can vegan food be if they still have wine and booze?" Some of the nearby guests laughed and we settled in for a super fun evening.
I do have to say I like it when a restaurant offers a choice of white or black linen napkins so folks don't have lint all over their laps when they leave. Our guest asked for a black napkin, as so many folks do where black in NYC, but alas white was the only option; I too had on black pants--just a thought. We ordered some super fun cocktails (see FB fotos for them and all the food):
Mar "Tea"-Ni was EG Earl Grey Tea & Sage Vodka with lemon, chamomile agave & lavender bitters and was slightly earthy and tasty but I adored my super spiced
SPICY SENORITA (I called it a spicy senor) with Jalapeno Infused IXA Silver Tequila, Agave, Combier, Carrot Juice & Lime with a slice of jalapeno on the rim....just in case.
Samuel had the organic Q Cola which reminded me more of Ginger Beer than cola and we all agreed was super tasty.

A nice, but unamusing amuse arrived in the form of a cucumber slice with a dab of almond "cheese" which to me was more like a thick nut cream (think thinner  and lighter than almond butter).
The menu wasn't huge, but it was very hard to decide. We all chose some starters and agreed to enjoy those and then see what mains we might or might not want:
Fried Artichokes came atop a stew-like composition of chickpeas, and zucchini in a tomato-cashew sauce and while delicious, I had thought all the veggies were fried, so wanted some more crunch.
The Housemade Live Cheese Plate has a truly interesting name not only because cheese is not vegan, but live seems an odd choice. The name is used a lot here and simply means "raw." We had already tasted the almond cheese on the amuse, but here the plate was loaded with various items and flavors:
Pepper-Macadamia Cheese was more like a paste and loaded with flavor, while the Almond Cheese tasted very different here almost the consistency of goat cheese with a similar flavor and requiring spreading on the tasty Brown Rice-Kale-Chia crackers. The Herb-Cashew cheese was also delish. Dates and Apples adorned the plate in a beautiful presentation.
Fried Dumplings are made from seitan, which our server explained was a wheat derivative, with a Sesame-Ginger Soy broth and crunchy broccoli. They tasted quite meaty inside, but we weren't totally fooled.
Empanadas were two huge pastries with Chili-grilled Seitan, Oyster Mushrooms, Zucchini, Escarole, Tomatillo Sauce, Guacamole and Almond Cheese (they like this stuff) and were bursting with flavors from all the various ingredients and definitely made a hit. The Mezze Platter was also a good choice for variety with Smoked Hummus, Eggplant Caponata (I never found this), Olives, Slivered Almonds, Almond Tzatziki, Babaganoush, Grilled Paratha Bread(we needed more for all the tasty spreads), roasted garlic cloves and red pepper oil.
The star starter was the Guacamole Timbale simply made of guac layered over with Chipotle Black Beans packing just enough spice, Pico de Gallo and layered with huge fried thick Plantain Chips for dipping and covered with a kicky Ranchero Sauce.

A bottle of Querciabella Super Tuscan 2013 was the perfect red wine on a freezing night to have with all the earthy and slightly spicy foods.
Our biggest complaint was the table size was not being large enough to hold all the various plates and at some times when three starters arrived we had to play musical plates a lot.

Our guest was polishing off the mezze, so the three of us ordered a bit more with Sam having a starter portion of the Wild Mushroom-Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sauteed Spinach, Tomato-Cashew Cream and Truffle Oil which was a hit with him while Will chose the Herb Grilled Cauliflower with Wild Mushroom Squash Risotto, Cashew Cream, Kale-Pine Nut Pesto and Frizzled Leeks. The cauliflower was quite al dente and a bit hard to cut, but it was a tasty, rich and filling dish largely due to the risotto that was intense and heavy. I think the winning main was our waiter's choice and I went for the Wild Mushroom Crepe with Seasonal Veggies, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, Tempeh, Spinach, Garlic Truffle Aioli and a side Arugula & Beet Salad. The salad was nice but won no prize, but I was indeed worried about a rich heavy crepe and I was so wrong as our server said it wasn't heavy. The sauces were light and while the crepe itself was thicker than a traditional (think more like buckwheat crepe) it was indeed just right and bursting with flavors. A side dish of Onion Rings with Chipotle Aioli never arrived and we were told it was sent to the wrong table. I was tempted to cancel it, but really wanted to know what vegan aioli was like, and when it arrived we were all impressed with the crispy rings and the superb slightly spicy aioli which indeed had no eggy mayo flavor that aioli always does as it is made with other ingredients; but still works. Although since they came after we finished, we really should not have been charged.
Will ordered a scoop of tasty boysenberry ice cream which was tasty, but I really would have liked a truly dairy gelato  :-)).

Many of the dishes can be ordered gluten-free as well, so these folks really aim to please and we were indeed pleased and left there totally full....but will of course, indulge again today. HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all!


Monday, November 13, 2017

Another great gourmet gathering at GABRIEL KREUTHER in NYC (11-11-17)

Back in the spring I had an amazing dinner when I first dined at the Michelin-starred Gabriel Kreuther in NYC and knew I would be back soon. This past Saturday night I was able to take a handful of clients for an amazing dinner that lasted over 5 hours and truly will remain in the top dining memories of my life.
I arrived before the other 5 guests and ordered one of the "historical" cocktails from the ingeniously created "Bryant Park Cocktail Menu" designed to recreate drinks that might have passed through the famous park across the street. The Public Promenade is made with Grey Goose Vodka, Cranberry, Allspice Dram, Lemon & Sumac and has an egg white froth dusted with autumn spices such as nutmeg and sumac on top. It's an earthy drink that, while served cold, gets even more warmer as you quaff. Everyone seemed to want one as they arrived! As we pondered the menu we enjoyed a bottle of Saint-Chamant Brut 2005 Blanc de Blancs Champagne from Epernay that was superbly yeasty and tasty.  It took a while for us to settle on the Chef's Menu for all of us and then pass off our allergies and dislikes to our excellent server, Ronald, who noted every need and was there for everything we needed. We dine in many excellent restaurants around the work, many with Michelin stars as well, and the service here is some of the best I have ever experienced, especially in New York when the folks can be a bit abrupt; here it is relaxing, attentive and always top notch.
The Savory Scallion Kougelhopf arrived with its rich Chive Fromage Blanc and I warned everyone to pace themselves and not gobble up all the amazing bread, but this is an exception.
Two plates of Tarte Flambee started us off; one classic with bacon & onion and the other with hen of the woods mushrooms and formage blanc. These too were filling and irresistible, but luckily there was just one small square for each of us from each tarte.
Next was Siberian Osetra Caviar with Quail Egg, Buttermilk Panna Cotta and a Vadouvan Savory Cracker all in an adorable miniature eggshell dish. This was a superb dish and reminded me so much of our late friend Jean-Louis Palladin and his treatments of quail eggs, caviars and mousses for his amuses! Paired with the champagne it was brilliant.
The next plates (photos on FB) arrived with three each amuses and a shot glass on the side:
The glass contained a Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Mousseline and Five Spice Crumble on top which you drank as a shot. It had a nice spicy kick, but that was immediately cantilevered by the Pomegranate Negroni Gelee with Orange Confit. Sesame Marinated Spaghetti Squash came on a Chestnut Cracker with Pickles Asian Pear, and while we all tried desperately to guess what these were, few of us succeeded. The last amuse on the plate was a divine Porcini Mac & Cheese with Tomato Powder.

A number of the courses came out with two different plates for the six of, forcing some cross table tasting!
the first pair was Hamachi, Black Truffle & Foie Gras Mille-Feuille with Celery, Grapes & Truffle Vinaigrette which I had back in April and adored. Opposite was the Langoustine Tartare with Flying Fish Rose, Salty Fingers, Cauliflower-Macadamia Puree that had a sweet tuile but chili for spice! The lobster melted in my mouth and paired perfectly with our first white wine "Ohne" Riesling from Ulrich Stein 2014 in the German Mosel Valley that was amazing especially with the minerality in the post-swirl in the mouth. Our sommeilleuse, Kelly, had every wine ordered and poured in time for the food and each of them indeed paired to perfection!
Our third bottle was a magnum (we were drinking fast and this was the last bottlel in the restaurant's cellar!) of Coffinet-Duvernay 2010 Chassagne-Montrachet "Blanchots Dessous" that was also brilliantly paired with the next several courses.

Sturgeon & Sauerkraut Tart with American Caviar Mousseline and Applewood Smoke is presented by the kitchen under a glass dome revealed tableside and wafted up through our nostrils. Chef de Cuisine Joe Anthony was praised by all for everything we had eaten so far, and I commended him on the superb job even though Chef Gabriel was off in Spain for a conference; I would never have known he was gone!
French baguettes arrived (they were really batards) with Valley Milkhouse Farm's Cultured butter, which was funny as the guests were all in the opera business or singers and as such were quite cultured! many laughs ensued especially when I insisted the bread was a batard and not a baguette. (They were later listed on the menu as wholegrain ficelles!)

Anson Mills' Spelt Risotto is a vegetarian's delight with Confit Yolk, Chanterelles, Pumpkin Seed Crumble and Parmesan. This is a heavy grain so not a typical Italian risotto and so novel it really should be called something else; yet so delicious, we did not leave one grain in our bowls.
Grilled Maine Lobster with Toasted Cashews, Baby Carrots, & Jamon Nage was almost like a bisque with a Leek Saffron Puree as well had this shellfish in its sheer perfection and again brilliantly paired with the Chassagne-Montrachet, a Burgundy Chardonnay of true class. One of us did not like shellfish and got the Roasted Black Bass with Olive Oil Breadcrumbs, Garlic Confit & Shellfish Broth instead.
Rosemary Buckwheat Rolls arrived with Whipped Lardo/Chili/Garlic Spread...who could resist that?? I always want to package this spread and take it home....Alas, not as carry-on!
Meat was coming and Kelly suggested a wondrously aged 2010 Cornas from Domaine du Coulet "Billes Noires" that we all raved over with the Berkshire Pork Tenderloin with Berawecka Brown Butter, Sage & Castle Valley Mill's Polenta. I was told berawecka is akin to fruitcake, but not the kind you buy in a package as this butter was divine with the tender pork loin. 

Our second red wine was one I had here earlier in the year and adored and is truly a superb red, Mas La Mola 2009 from Priorat was a huge red ideal with our last meat course: 7X Wagyu Beef Tenderloin from Colorado with Roast Salsify, Potato Dumpling & Juniper Jus. The meat was like butter and the dumpling (also made with veal breast) was truly spectacular and loaded with flavor. As if this were not enough, the palte was dotted with pieces of beef tongue as well as beech mushrooms! We were all nearing our limits, but there was more.

Pumpkin Cremuex was a Cider Sorbet with Red Currant Marmalade and Ginger SnapTuile was called a palate cleanser of sort, but was really a pre-dessert that we could not stop raving about. So perfect (as was every dish) for a bitter cold 20 degree winter night. 
Desserts were Decadent - Chocolate Caramel with Mixed MediaCrumble, Chocolate Mousse and Caramel Ice Creamfor three of us and the other received the amazing Harvest - Fig Crumble with Sauteed Fig, Pear Sorbet, Caramel Cremeux and Crystallized and Caramelized Pastry, Pear Gelee. They were both superb, but I have to say I preferred the fruit as I am a fruit dessert guy, but we all shared equally.
Not enough--there were Cheesecake Macaroons and Milk Chocolates with Saffron & Honey served in a Cacao Pod to finish and Chocolate packages to take home.

To quote the song: "Oh What a Night!" Kudos go to the entire amazing staff and team in the kitchen and front of house from everyone who greets, meets and even helps you find the loo, to all the chefs in the amazing kitchen where some of the best food in NY is always found!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fuji Sushi in NYC satisfies once again for a deal (11-10-17)

I wanted a nice bite with a friend before the opera so I headed right to Fusi Sushi (www.fujisushi.com/www.fujisushi56.com) a block from my hotel on 56th Street.
The green tea was hot and warmed by cold hands (it was in the 20's outside) and the superb Tomio Hanaichirin "A Flower" Junmai Daijingo Sake was also quite warming.
My friend has the veggie soup while I enjoyed the always super Seaweed Salad and we went on to share two sushi rolls which were both excellent:
TOKYO ROSE-spicy tuna and cucumber topped with tuna, avocado and salmon to make an almost gorgeous colorful paint palette (see FB foto) and
SPICY CRUNCH which was spicy tuna with a crunchy tobiko top.
The prices for midtown cant be beat and the food quality is top notch. Fuji Sushi is forever in my return list.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It's always amazing at Arlington's AMBAR (10-28-17)

As most of you know we have a few favorite spots we visit more than once, and since our first trip to Ambar just over 4 months ago, we decided to return for many reasons.
We expected the kinds to come and they love the flatbreads (although they both cancelled), it's only $35 per person for as many smallplates as can possibly consume, and I think the 6 of us must have downed over 30 for sure (so the math tells me that we paid under $6-7 per plate, if not less and the unique Balkan wines are pretty good as well.
We ordered two Macedonian wines to start from Stobi: a superb Rose($30-s range) with hints of lemon and tartness and a full bodied red Vranac Ventas(about $60--too high!) which still was not as good as out third wine, the 2011 Bulguriana Cabernet/Syrah blend from the Thracian Valley which was jammy and full bodied and rang in at way under $40 a bottle. We had to order some of the fabulous dishes we had last time that we adored (many are pictured on FB, along with some fun photos of our group featuring the two tenors and a travel agent with spouses!):
Almond Chicken is always a hit here as are the Kebabs with their pile of spicy paprika for dipping. The spreads are divine as are the breads, but we didn't get those huge fluffy pita-like breads this time. the spreads on the chef's three choices are a beet tzatziki, urebnes cheese and lamb pate (very reminiscent of rillettes).
Meat pies  are fab as are the Stuffed Sour Cabbage with melting Pork Belly comes with creamy mashed potatoes with chives, but don't skip the super veggie salads such as Quinoa/Broccoli and Slaw.
Steak Tartare here is done well, although I skip the raw onions, and the Smoked Salmon spread was also a super new dish for us. White Veal Soup is creamy and lemony, think the Greek Ovgolemono with meat base instead of chicken. Flatbreads seemed to come nonstop with just white ones, sudzuk sausage akin to pepperoni, and even one with grilled shrimp which I loved.
Mushroom Pilav treats the rice like a star, but it came with the unsatisfying Beef Goulash (although the spaetzle are nice on that).
If you want fish, the trout is superb with an almost crispy skin atop scalloped potatoes, but the calamari is not a winner, but then not rally bad, just soso. The Grilled Shrimp come over what is called a corn puree and I would simply say its Balkan grits with a hint of that salty feta-like cheese (urebnes, zlatibor or other?).
Veggies here also star with Brussels Sprouts and Grilled Asparagus always winning top honors.
There's something for everyone and nobody goes home hungry for sure, and we were there for over three hours, even though they warned us we could not keep the table over two!
We did skip dessert as they charge extra and we decided last time there were no winners and having more small plates is SO much better!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MUZE makes me muse over the amazing food at DC's Mandarin Oriental Hotel (10-23-17)--oh, and delicious drinks and oysters at Hank's

Last night I was invited to dine at MUZE at the Washington Mandarin Oriental Hotel by the MO sales team from DC/NYC and National and I realized I had dined at now closed CityZen there ages ago, but never at the hotel's other spot, MUZE. Mandarin obviously fuses Asian flavors, but also has wonderful local cuisine.
A tuna tartare amuse was okay, but alas the tortilla chip on top was gummy. The Artichoke & Crab dip with crispy grilled bread was addictive for sure, but it was my Roasted Duck Breast with Curried Lentils, Baby Carrots, Smoked Tomato Jam and Curry Leaves that was a perfect fall chilly eve hit. even though it wasn't that chilly. There was a huge amount of confit in the lentils as well as three large perfectly cooked pieces of breast (check the FB photo). A glass of Lemelson Pinot Noir 2014 "Thea's Vineyard" reminded me of the first time I attended a wine dinner at the hotel by same vintner when the place first opened 13 years ago! Even our charming server, who has been there since the opening, remembered that superb wine dinner. Needless to say, the wine was sheer perfection with the duck. Another dish at the table was the sushi platter which went over well, but the most intriguing other dish was the Green Curry Chicken using the Asian influences at their best.
We shared three desserts:
Mandarin Orange in 5 Segments which was a bombe-like chocolate shell filled with orange cream, some foams and more orange segments.
Chocolate Delight was 70% Valrhona with brownie-pecan bar, dulce chocolate cremeux and crispy feuilletine; think dark chocolate bar with milk creamy mousse and crispy pastry layers.
Tops was the Mt. Fuji with Green Tea Meringue, Yuzu & Passionfruit Marmelade, Lime & Yuzu Gelee and aerated white chocolate....what a dreamy dessert, light yet full of flavors.

Afterwards, we headed over to the new Wharf, where huge lines waited to get into the new theater there and many of the restaurants were actually opening for their first night!
We stopped by our friend Jamie Leed's newest HANKS on the WHARF (https://hanksoysterbar.com/the-wharf/) where I nibbled on a 1/2 dozen top quality oysters and we all shared some Hushpuppies as well as novelty cocktails:
The dud was the flavorless "I have Stronger Feelings for Sauvignon Blanc than Anyone I Ever Dated" a blend of SB with vodka that just seemed so bland.
Two Bananas was slightly sweet banana mixed with Glenmorangie.
the winner was clearly my "You Had Me at Beef Jerky" which was Copper & Kings Apple Brandy with Ancho Reyes Reserve(a poblano chile liqueur), Hellfire Bitters, Melon and several shards of spicy tasty beef jerky; what fun and what a kick!
Speaking of fun, what a fun evening it was as it was 70+ degrees and balmy as we moseyed around the quite busy Wharf and soaked in the sites and scenes!