Wednesday, September 30, 2009

La Mer

So, it was Monday, and we had arrived in Waikiki. We didn't get to the hotel until about 3PM, as I recall, so we just relaxed and checked out the beach, picked up a few items for the room, and got ready for dinner. We had reservations at La Mer, the ultra-lux French restaurant in the Halekulani hotel.

First, you have to know, I made Todd schlepp a jacket all over Hawaii just for this. La Mer requires gentlemen to wear jackets and dress shoes to dinner, no jeans, no sandals. I brought dressy clothes too, but you know, womens dress clothes are much easier to pack than mens. He actually carried or wore the jacket on the plane, as the easiest way to keep it from getting wrinkled. It was a royal PITA, but he did it, all because I wanted to eat here. The punchline is, however, we walked to the restaurant, sat down at the table, and the hostess came over and said "It's very warm this evening Mr Dutton, would you like to take off your jacket?" So he carried it on 7 airplanes, for 4 weeks, in order to wear it for about 10 seconds...great, huh?

I made the reservation for 7PM, but we wanted to watch the sunset from the hotel, so we went early with the idea of having a pre-dinner cocktail at the hotel's well known bar, House without a Key. We arrived at 6:15, only to find there was a 25 minute wait for a seat for a drink! So we decided to head up to the dining room early. Fortunately, they didn't bat an eye and just led us right to our table. And what a table it was! We had a fantastic view looking out over the Pacific. The waiter comes over and pours us some complimentary champagne, and offers to take a picture of us, as we toast:

(omigosh...I just posted a picture of me....I think that's breaking the fourth wall or something, isn't it?)

Okay, at this point, I'd like to invite those of you who are bored with food descriptions and food pictures to stop reading. What follows now is pure food porn. So if you don't like reading about what we ate, move on to my next post, its probably going to be about Pearl Harbor.

We decided to go with the Chef's 9 course tasting menu. This is because we're insane. The courses are really small, of course, tasting menus are supposed to just be tastes. But they always have more courses than the menu says, and they are very rich, so its a ridiculous amount of food. And of course, we have a ridiculous amount of wine to go with it. The fun thing is you get to try all kinds of different things, and try some items you probably wouldn't order by themselves. Its an adventure. Fortunately, the staff did give us a copy of the menu, which I require to remind myself of all the different things we ate, so I can write them down for you (and for myself to remember in the future, of course).

We started with the champagne, and an amuse bouche of caramelized onions in puff pastry. Then folllowed a second amuse bouche which was a small cup of yellow tomato vichyssoise. This was particularly tasty, very light and slightly frothy. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, and amuse bouche is a very small appetizer that is served to all guests. its not on the menu, and its not counted as part of the 9 courses. its a little unusual to get 2 of them).

So now the lighter courses begin. The first one is Spiny lobster in aspic with gold leaf, with something called Salade "Victoria", which is a lobster salad. I like the flavors, but I have to say, aspic is more about looks than taste. And gold leaf is definitely more about presentation than flavor. It IS a very pretty dish:

Next, sweetbread a la king with rice pilaf. I actually like sweetbreads when they are well prepared, though I never order them. Too rich to eat a full plate of them. This is a tiny plate, just a few bites, with some mushroom sauce. Its good, but I've had better. They don't have quite the sweet, nutty flavor I expected.

Next is a fish corse, Dorade Meuniere and Oyster in thermidor sauce. I tasted the oyster, but Todd loves them so I let him finish it. The fish is terrific though. This is really, really good:

My favorite course of the whole meal follows: its filet of sole with tomato and mushroom hollandaise.

The fifth course is fois gras poached with vegetables and duck consomme. Like the sweetbreads, this is something I like in small courses but rarely order. Its just 2 bites of fois gras, but its wonderfully creamy. The duck consomme is a little bit salty, but I like it a lot.

We switched from white wine to red about now. I shall have to ask Todd to remind me what wines we drank so I can add it to this description.

Course # 6 is squab on braised cabbage with pork belly. This sounds weird, but its really good. The pork belly is just tiny bits of what seems to be bacon. The squab is boneless, and served quite rare:

Next up, Tournedos of beef "Arlesienne style with classic Chateaubriand sauce. This is my 2nd favorite course, although I'm getting very full at this point. But the meat is so tender, and flavorful. There is just a touch of sauce, but it doesn't need more than this.

Next up, the cheese course. We select several cheeses from the cart, generally the most interesting and stinky cheeses they have :) There's a very ripe triple creme, a blue of some sort, a goat cheese, and one more I can't rememeber. It's a nice selection.

Now, course number 8 is dessert. This is actually 2 desserts, since it comes on 2 plates. One of them (on the left in the picture) is a poached peach on pistachio ice cream with rose syrup, and spun sugar on top. On the right is a small pastry, with a bit of vanilla gelato and basil foam. The peach is much better.

Then, another extra course, they bring us a small piece of a chocolate pastry, with a candle in it. We've told them it is our anniversary, and this is too celebrate.

The final course is just some sweets, a couple of small candies or cookies,
"Frivolitees" according to the menu. As if we needed more sweets at this point...

Of course, we top this all off with a bit of brandy for Todd, and port for me. It was a fantastic meal.

As good as the food was, I want to say the ambiance and the service was even better. The service was nearly perfect....they were very attentive, friendly without being obsequious, professional without being pretentious. It was remarkable really. I think its hard to be omnipresent, and yet still let the diners feel like they are alone, and yet the staff did this beautifully. They really should be commended for how well they work together.

All in all, it was a fabulous evening.

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