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Monday, June 6, 2011

The $350 Dinner Splurge (versus the $3.50 rolled tacos)

I love rolled tacos.  In fact, I've often pondered whether good food needs to be expensive.  Is a $40 piece of foie gras better than chicken livers wrapped in bacon and tossed on the grill?  Is lobster better than shrimp?  It's coveted more, but is that due to price and thus scarcity (meaning it rarely makes my dinner table), or are we all just conditioned to like something that's expensive?

The other week I found myself celebrating a BIG anniversary with no where to go.  The French Laundry was too expensive, the trip to France even more so, so I settled for a trip to La Valencia and the famous Sky Room.  Let's see if expensive food is worth it.

The Sky Room gets great Yelp reviews with people suggesting it's the best restaurant in town, best view, that sort of thing.  With only 11 tables, it's certainly exclusive dining.  We arrived at 645, the only time available, and the restaurant was pretty empty but we still got seated in a table next to the tiny bar.  If I could do it again, I would hand pick my table ahead of time and get a window seat on the north or west side of the restaurant.

The meal started with an Amuse Bouche - a tiny appetizer shot glass of a cold ginger and carrot soup (it's supposed to be cold, I'm not complaining!) and it was delicious.  Clean and subtle, a nice start.

The salad was next - it's a citrus avocado with pecorino cheese, some olives and marcona almonds.  It was superb, and when was the last time a salad knocked your socks off?  It could have been a mite bigger, perhaps twice as large, but this was a tasting menu so I'm flexible.

We did the wine pairing menu and they served the salad with a nice, dry riesling.  Now I know, you're thinking YUCK and sweet, syrupy riesling, but these guys know what they are doing.  The wine was outstanding.

Before we continue, let's check out the view.  Not too shabby. You might be able to see my house from here.  Look closer.  Well, maybe not.

Here's the view in the other direction.  Man, this is some view!  I love this town!  But forget the view, let's get back to the dinner.

Stop drooling, this scallop is mine.  Roasted asparagus, grapes (of all things), walnuts, some garlic, this was some tasty scallop!  I wanted more - maybe 5 more, please.  Super delicious.

A nice Trefethen chardonnay, buttery to go with the buttery scallop, a great pairing.  Ahhh, remember when Pizza Nova used to pour Trefethen?  Times sure have changed.

Roasted Sonoma duck breast, Temecula honey, onion filled with farro, cherries, sweet onion jus, all pretty tasty except it needed salt.  Damn, and even though I have no issue asking for salt when I'm at Denny's, I guess I've watched too many cooking shows to know that it's poor form to ask in a fine restaurant.  OK, so I'll come clean... I was too embarrassed to ask.  But I should have.  Did I tell you this was a $350 dinner??

Darn it, a blurry shot of a very fine pinot.  This wine went great with the duck, the cherries in the wine mirroring the cherries in the duck.

This is the "intermezzo", which in Hawaii is called "dinky portion of delicious shaved ice".  It was fresh and citrus-y, very tasty, and if they sold these in the lobby in giant cones they could make a fortune.  

Another Big Wow, as we used to say as kids.  This Charecropper's wine was outstanding.  If you see it, buy it.  And it went so well with.....

Wagu New York, braised greens, mushrooms, melt in your mouth deliciousness.  But.... ummm, pass the salt?  Darn it, the salt monster strikes again.  A bit of crispy finishing salt would have made all the difference in the world on this dish.  But it was very good nonetheless.  The person at the table next to me got the Wagu as her main course and it was a huge cut, so if you like steak (and only want to pay $40 for dinner, cheapskate) it's a good pick.  (tip:  bring tiny salt packets from McDonalds with you).

And finally, the dessert (sorry, too lazy to Photoshop for you).  It's prosecco zabglione, Chino's strawberries, pistachio shortbread, and some other delicious ice cream and tart thing.  I was a bit bummed out that they did not do the "Happy Anniversary" thing on the plate.  I know it might be cheesy, but even Roy's of Hawaii does a great celebration plate so I was sort of expecting it.

As the sun sets, the bill arrives.  Darn, how unromantic!  No, just kidding.  But I thought you should see just how wonderful the view is.

So the big question... WAS IT WORTH IT?

That's a tough question.  I think for overall food quality, George's at the Cove's fine dining restaurant has it beat.  I was a bit surprised they didn't make a bigger deal of the special anniversary - no champagne on the house, no chef coming out so say hello, that sort of thing.  We dined at George's for a recent anniversary and the chef actually made us something special (seriously, no one else got it) and treated us like royalty.  And I didn't really like that they seated us next to the tiny bar next to the extra chairs - not for $350.  And if I'm really going to get picky, the ambiance could use a bit of updating.  But the view was incredible, the food and wine pairing fantastic, and the overall experience very good.  I'd give it an 8, a solid 4 stars on Yelp. 

I don't think I'd go back for the tasting menu, but glad I tried it. I think I would go back for the standard menu, bring my own bottle, and next time I won't be afraid to ask for salt.

Coming Very  Soon:, local music to save the La Jolla Seals

1 comment:

Local Wally said...

Now that some time has passed and the bill arrived, I'm not so sure this was worth it. To be honest, the only real standout dish was the scallop. We replicated this plate at home and it was darn close and we actually got 5 scallops apiece for around $10. And after going back to Roys where they made a huge deal on my birthday, I really think they needed to step it up for a 30 wedding anniversary. That's right - 30! And they knew that, so no excuses. So I'm downgrading them a star and taking them off the highly recommended list and moving them to the "good if you have too much money" list.