Saturday, November 04, 2006

EQUINOX is unequaled

Last night we returned to EQUINOX (818 Conn Ave, NW after a way too long absence and were happy to see some gorgeous new warm decor of a patchwork goldish faux finishing and new metallic artwork as well that complements the room beautifully. Of course, one does not usually dine out for the decor and Chef TOOD GRAY has adjusted the menu to a wide variety of foods and choices and dining options from ala carte to tastings making for a great time for all.

We started with a short glass of bubbly and a gorgeous presentation of three amuses on a glass sectioned plate: A delicious plump Kushi (West Coast) Oyster with Apple Mignonette, A shot of CREAM OF TURNIP Soup with Toasted Almonds and a creamy Fried PARMESAN RISOTTO Ball in Aioli. Our first bottle of wine was a OLIVIER LEFLAIVE CHABLIS 2004 "Les Deux Rives," and while I'm not usually a big fan of Chablis, our server recommended this excellent wine as an aperitif which seemed to go with just everything. It was super with the BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP with Sausage, a seasonal treat, with the SEARED HUDSON VALLEY FOIE GRAS with Red Swiss Chard, Toasted Pine Nuts and Apple Cider Gastrique (if a bit on the rare side), the always excellent salads-here a SALAD or OVALI & ROYAL TRUMPET MUSHROOMS, Mache, Italian Hazelnuts and Black Truffle Dressing. The ingredients just don't get more farm fresh and ingenious than this, even in the salad country of California!

My SAFFRON TAGLIATELLE with BRAISED CUTTLEFISH, Red Wine & Spring Onion was a tribute of how well Chef Gray does pasta (he has always excelled indeed, having worked so long at Galileo!).

A second between course amuse of Cold RARE TUNA, QUAIL EGG and Mayo was a nice treat, but I missed much of the description. We moved on to an excellent Zin blend with the always wonderful PARADUXX 2003 from DUCKHORN Vineyards, which was big yet smooth enough for the delicacies of our entrees.

One of the pricey items on the menu is the GNOCCHI of JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES with WHITE TRUFFLES from ALBA, Traditional Fonduta, Baby Spinach & Truffle Jus. The chef himself comes out to shave the fresh extravagant truffles over the dish, and while it was superb, it has been so long since I enjoyed white truffles, I could not help feeling that their flavor is perhaps a bit less intense this season? Or am I getting older and jaded, and remember those bargain White Truffle Dinners of years past at Galileo!

The entrees were superstars with us all from the GRILLED TENDERLOIN of VEAL with CRISPY SWEETBREADS, Potato Rosti, Braised Local Cabbage & Porcini Mushroom Cream; rich, tasty and everything one could ask for a chilly autumn evening. The superb PAN SEARED BREAST of WILD SCOTTISH PHEASANT with Creamed Chestnut Puree, Braised Leeks & Banyuls Reduction was no less impressive, and also just right for the season; I could eat it again tonight!

We rested before dessert and decided to share two delicious and not overdose items from Pastry Chef MEGAN SEWARD: WARM APPLE-CURRANT SPRING ROLL with Rice Pudding & Chestnut Frozen Yogurt with Caramel & Lemon-Poppy Gastrique was a terrific combination of new tastes and ideas, and the more seasonal traditional PUMPKIN CREME BRULEE with Pirouette Cookie, Cardamom Cream & Gingerbread Croutons, still a change on the standard and a perfectly constructed brulee to boot.

It was hard not to enjoy a small glass of BRACHETTO Sparkling sweet red with the yummy mignardises of COCOA NIB ESPRESSO BISCOTTI, White CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY ALMOND Truffles and Tasty RASPBERRY GELEES. It was a truly happy return to a truly wonderful restaurant.