By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
A simple dessert of juicy, intensely flavored strawberries, raspberries, and boysenberries laced with dribbles of mint coulis plus mango and raspberry sauce was as visually compelling as it was tasty. Accompanied with a dollop of cocoa-berry pot de creme under a chocolate lace cage, the plate offered the stark contrast of the fruit and sauce briskness with the almost choking richness of the pasty pot de creme, a creme brulee-like goop pumped up with cocoa.
The wine list has a good sampling of bottles from California, Italy, and France, plus some good window-shopping selections such as a 1961 Lafite ($2,000), a 1928 Chateau Mouton d' Armailhac ($3,000), and a 1928 Chateau Haut Brion ($3,000). There is also a single bottle of 1899 Haut Brion reserved for New Year's Eve 1999. Sommelier Cesar De Los Reyes says the hotel has had the wine, which lost its original label long ago, for the past 17 years and asserts that it has only been recorked once. No price is listed, but expect to pay $5,000 (about $1,000 per glass) for the century-old drink on that millennium-turning eve.
In retrospect, there really is a floatable Titanic tie-in with the French Room. Built by beer baron August Busch, the 435-room hotel opened in 1912, the same year the great ship went down. Today, Seattle-based Noble House Resorts owns it, one of 14 properties in a chain with eight fine-dining restaurants. The French Room, however, is considered the crown jewel. No mystery here.
But some casual restaurant really needs to do some digging and put together a replica of the last Titanic meal in third class. If Cameron's film is accurate, there was a lot of beer flowing there, and with the Leonardo DiCaprio link, you could pack the place with young women. It's a Dallas brewpub natural.
What's an even better morbidity-marinated event than a reprise of the last supper on the Titanic? Doing it on the anniversary of the ship's premature exit from active duty. Which is what the Pyramid Room is doing April 14 with a nine-course dinner ($129 a head) derived from one of the two surviving menus. You can even arrange for an overnight "stateroom" package that includes a one-hour "captain's reception." In the spirit of authenticity, it should also include a late-night swim in a pool filled with 28-degree water.
But if the regular Pyramid dining experience is any indication of these Titanic events, you would be advised to bring along a palate preserver, because the regular menu is underwhelming, especially when considering the price.
Meals can be ordered a la carte or as a prix fixe menu with a choice of two appetizers, soup or salad, three entrees, and two desserts for $39, or $64 paired with wines.
Thoroughly perplexing was the tempura shrimp in butter-wasabi sauce. The cakey shrimp coating was soggy, and the sauce--actually a beurre blanc spiked with sweetened wasabi--seemed a forced combo. Wasabi is a stark, potent flavoring, ideal for Japanese cuisine because it contains so little fat to transport taste that intense flavors are a must. To pummel it into submission to facilitate a marriage with butter struck me as pointless, and it was difficult to ascertain exactly what the wasabi added. Not to mention that a buttery-rich sauce with deep-fried shrimp is pretty much overkill. A side of carrot-daikon relish provided a much-needed surge of liveliness.
Maine lump crab cakes with a clean, fresh cilantro pesto started out as a welcome surprise. With almost no breading, these thick cakes were composed primarily of coarse shreds of sweet crab. But after plumbing the depths with a few bites, the meat revealed itself cool and soggy.
Lobster bisque--made from a lobster-and-shrimp reduction with caramelized veggies and seasoned with saffron--was overly salted and lacked a cleanly distinct seafood flavor. Equally disappointing was the Caesar salad, which was limp and lifeless.
Between courses, the Pyramid serves a scoop of blueberry sorbet in a tiny cup on a lemon leaf atop a large illuminated ice swan sitting on a folded napkin. Lift the swan, and you'll discover a battery pack with a penlight bulb protruding from its center: a culinary creature teetering precariously between elegance and campiness.
And precarious was the roasted maple leaf duck breast. Slices of breast, pale and cooked medium-rare, were framed with a thick layer of white fat that didn't appear adequately cooked. And the taste confirmed it. The meat lacked rich flavor, and chewy layers of fat unabsorbed by the meat detracted from the dish. Executive Chef John Edwards says cooking the duck long enough to crisp up the fat and render out the flavor would have precluded medium-rare flesh. But to my taste, the trade-off would have been more than worth it.
Herb-crusted rack of Sonoma lamb, beautifully presented, was loose and mushy. Plus, the accompanying demi-glace--a reduction of lamb and veal juices with sweet red wine, rosemary, and other herbs--was mouth-puckering sour and overly peppered, distracting mightily from the flavor of the meat.
The Pyramid's wine list has a good selection of wines, and it's organized three ways: traditionally by country, region, and varietal; by price; and by flavor profile. Cross-referencing back and forth among the categories made for a surprisingly easy and effective selection process. However, our 1993 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel was served warm, indicating shabby storage standards.