Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The St. Regis' ADOUR displays Ducasse amazing talent

Last night four of us spent several hours at the new ADOUR in the St. Regis Washington Hotel where superstar chef Alain Ducasse has positioned chef Julien Jouhannaud in the kitchen and they are indeed turning out some pretty delicious meals.

I have to admit that I miss the voluptuous elegant Empire furniture and setting, all that remains is the gorgeous emblazoned dark wood beam ceiling. There are white leather chairs, crisp linens, well-spaced tables and around the wall tall curved banquettes of brown and black that make quite a cozy setting for two, although we had two of the white chairs at ours still giving us lots of privacy. The St. Regis bar is separated from the restaurant by a glassed-in wine cellar which runs the width of the dining room. In its previous incarnation, Lespinasse may have been a bit stuffy, but Adour is less so; a bit formal, but also casual with excellent friendly staff as well; our server KYUNG had worked there some 12 years I believe!

I expected the wine list to be severely inflated, but sommelier Ramon Narvaez (who came from Marcel's) has been very careful and still allowed many lower-priced wines that are good deals to find their way to the extensive list. We first chose a MARCEL DEISS 2003 Pinot Gris "BEBLENHEIM" and since Ramon was out, the assistant wine steward mentioned that he needed to chill the bottle. I tasted the wine and it was room temperature, so I asked what temperature the cellar is kept at. He told me 55 or so, but that it blew a fuse earlier that day! OOPS! He quickly rectified this by offering us a complimentary bottle of ALAIN DUCASSE house champagne from Lanson which was very nice and very cold (while the Pinot Gris chilled). I should mention that the house sparkling water is BADOIT, my favorite on earth (even at $8)!

Our friends arrived and we all quickly decided on the 5-course $95 tasting menu, which is really the best way to sample what the chef has to order as well as taste multiple items at a reasonable cost. It is indeed quite a filling meal as well.

First came some Emmental GOUGERES which had coarse salt on them and BOY, were they salty, but yummy. Next came an amuse of PUMPKIN VELOUTE with Ricotta Cheese RAVIOLI and Creme Fraiche which was quite excellent. We tasted the Marcel Deiss again and it was sublime with (as Deiss does) an amazing terroir and a slight hint of sweetness, like a German Riesling, yet creamy and divine with loads of minerals from the "Beblenheim mountain" where the vineyard sits. It was the more than perfect accompanying wine for the first course DUCK FOIE GRAS CONFIT with Pineapple Chutney and Dried Pineapple Wheel. This was indeed a rich thick creamy torchon and I felt the use of "confit" on the menu as opposed to torchon or pate made me expect a warm dish. No matter it was sublime and came with yummy brioche and French bread toasts. One of us asked to substitute the HAMACHI with green apple and was also brought a glass of wine to pair with it as well!

We knew gnocchi and fish were coming, but really felt like red wine, so Rigaa, who also assists Ramon, recommended a NUIT SAINT GEORGES 2004 "Les Fleurieres" from Jean-Jacques Confuron which is also offered by the glass. It was a traditional Burgundy Pinot Noir with some depth, but not too intense and again a perfect pairing with the two courses to follow:

RICOTTA GNOCCHI with Sauteed Lettuce, CRISPY PROSCIUTTO & CHANTERELLES Mushrooms & Sauce. The gnocchi were light and almost floated above the sauce, and the large piece of crispy prosciutto was fun and added a dash to the simpler tastes of the dish.

BAKED HALIBUT with CHESTNUTS, Button Mushrooms, Mizzuna came in an ARBOIS WINE Sauce and again I was reminded how much I adore this fish. I asked where it came from at this time of the year, since we usually see it from Alaska in the summer and discovered it hails from the North Atlantic.

Our final wine of the evening was a 2006 CHATEAUNEUF du PAPE from Domaine LAFOND "Roc-Epine" which was a bit young and tight when we first tasted it. Rigaa proceeded to decant the wine into a clear wine-bottle shaped decanter with an odd looking breathing device (apparently both created for the Ducasse kingdom) and believe it or not, the wine opened up quite fast and within 2-3 minutes and a big swirl in our Schott crystal glass it was perfect with the ROASTED PENNSYLVANIA RACK of LAMB with EGGPLANT CAVIAR, APRICOT CONFIT and Creamy QUINOA. The highlight of this dish was the beyond superb QUINOA that blew my tastebuds away! The lamb was rare and tender and tasty, the eggplant divine (and I don't usually like eggplant) and the apricots were simply cooked a bit to tenderness (so why confit?), but a nice touch.

Dessert on the tasting menu was GIANDUJA "Sable" of Milk Chocolate with orange Zest and Marmalade Sauce, but two of substituted the GALA APPLE SOUFFLE with Granny Smith Compote, Calvados Lady Fingers and Vanilla Ice Cream that was perfectly prepared. Fruit filled souffles, are NOT easy, and this was light, fluffy and tasty with the fruit floating within and not weighing down the egg custard at all.

Additional macaroons of Raspberry or Gianduja came to the table as well as a plate of chocolates(milk, passion fruit and Adour dark), just in case you needed more!

I can safely say that we all adored every bite at ADOUR!