Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I love the concept of tasting menus. Since I like variety, I’ve always preferred eating small portions of many different items to eating a large portion of a single item. This is also what compels me to try to sample whatever my husband Rich has ordered, much to his consternation. We’ve had many the fork duels as I try to sneak a taste and he tries to parry my advances. A restaurant which offers a tasting menu appeals to both of us. It lets me try a little bit of many dishes and if we get the same menu, I don’t need to poach from Rich’s plate. At the same time, each dish is freshly cooked just for us and served to us by a waiter, unlike the buffet where you don’t know how long the food has been sitting there and you have to get it yourself.
Perigee, a restaurant in the Distillery District, is the ultimate tasting menu experience. Many of the seats, including the ones we got, surround the enormous open kitchen, full of gleaming stainless steel appliances. Watching the group of six chefs scurry around preparing the various dishes is like having a front row seat to the TV show “The Iron Chef”.
Perigee’s tasting menu is chef’s choice. You indicate whether you want 5, 6 or 7 courses and tell the waiter what ingredients you explicitly don’t want included, and then the chefs take it from there. This gives you a great element of surprise and anticipation as you don’t know what you will get next. We decided to go for broke and selected the 7 course menu. I said I didn’t like any hard beans (navy, lima, kidney , ... yuck) and Rich didn’t like liver. We were open to anything else. Rich then elected to have the wine pairings, where they match wines with the courses.
We started with the most delicious selection of breads and breadsticks, served with a homemade butter, and a duck pate spread. One of the criteria I use to judge a restaurant is by the quality of the bread. Unfortunately I pigged out on the bread with still 7 courses to go!
Next came what is called the “Amuse Bouche”, French for amusing the palette. It’s usually a little mini taste of some delicacy that is offered fancier restaurants in addition to your meal. I got the avocado and lobster taco with tomato and leek while Rich got a mushroom consume with truffled cream froth served in a mini cappuccino cup. Mushroom is just about my favorite food in the world, so you know that I needed to have a little taste. Poor Rich … Perigee is so inventive that we were going to get different dishes for each course! Rather than not needing to taste his meal, I was going to need 7 tastes! Note that we’ve eaten two pre-courses now, and still have not started in on the 7 courses yet. I was going to be in trouble as I was already starting to feel a little bit full!
The courses started to come after this. We waited anxiously before each one arrived, watching the chefs preparing different dishes and wondering if they would be for us. We craned our necks to follow the path of the waiter, disappointed when he walked by us to place the scrumptious looking concoctions on another table. When our courses arrived, the head chef would lean over the kitchen wall and describe in detail what each creation consisted of. It was fun to eavesdrop on our neighbouring diners to find out what they were being served, which was different from what we got.
The food kept coming and coming … it seemed like it would never end! In addition to our 7 courses, we also got a “Mezzo” palete cleanser, a “Pre-dessert” and at the very end, a post dessert of chocolate truffles and petit fours. Including the bread and amuse bouche, that made 12 items for each of us! Here is what we had:
1. Baramuda fish (like Mahi mahi), fingerling potato, tomato & leeks w saffron sauce
Marinated octopus salad w melon & seaweed sauce
2. Goat cheese souffle w pumpkin & sesame seeds and port reduction, asaparagus & leek salad
Duck & Ham tart with peach and cranberry chutney
Wine: Pinot Gris
3. Corn crusted squid with lemon/basil orzo, olives/onions/tomato sauce
Chunk lobster meat w roasted garlic & caramel, basil crisps, fennel/apple curry, basil/lemongrass sauce
4. Veal sweetbreads w rutabagen, bitter greens, fried sage, toasted hazelnuts & dried sherry sauce
Veal sweetbreads w almond meat & sour cherry sauce
Melon & peach w cherry sauce
5. Beef tenderloin, seared fois gras w cherry sauce, seared greens, potato chive rosti
Wild bison, wilted brussel sprouts, cornelle of goat cheese, apple
6. Piavey - Parmesan like with jello, poach pear
Belsum - Cow's milk cheese with proscuitto & melon
Wine: Late Harvest Riesling
Strawberry sorbet w lichee/plum sauce
Chocolate mouse funnel cake (whip cream & cookie crisp)
7.Ganache of chocolate mousse with toffee crunch topping & phyllo wrap, english cream and berry sauce
Orchard berry crumble with cream of wheat sauce and flaky cheese twist
Chocolate Truffles and Petit Fours
It costs $110 per person for the 7 course tasting menu, not including the wine pairings so this is not something you would go to every weekend. But for a special occasion or if you want to make an impression on that special someone, this is definitely worth a try Hey, my birthday is coming up ... maybe it’s time to hint about going again. But next time, I’m going for the 5 course only... I couldn’t eat that much food again if I tried! My stomach hurts again just thinking about it.
55 Mill Street, The Distillery District
The Cannery Building #59, 2nd Floor