Since the announcement that Graham Elliot would be closing after its service on New Year’s Eve this year I was sad that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to dine at the Michelin two-star restaurant before it was gone forever. (Though all official reports indicate the restaurant will be reopening at a different location “in the spring.”) I’m still kicking myself for having never dined at Charlie Trotter’s.
So how happy was I when a friend said he wanted to dine at Graham Elliot before it closed? Very.
The fourteen-course tasting menu began playfully with a quenelle of popcorn ice cream topped with a generous slice of black truffle and a chive garnish. Even more playful was the “ foielipop,” foie gras with watermelon Pop Rocks served atop a stick.
Thereafter, the courses were a bit more traditional, albeit usually with a twist. Caesar salad had all the flavors and elements of the classic in a different form: the romaine lettuce lent just its crunchy ribs compacted into a dense piece of roughage pie topped with a single anchovy fillet. The beef carpaccio was kobe topped with an aioli and assorted greens.
Our first hot dish was sunchoke soup. The soup bowl arrived at the table with a composed “salad” of marshmallow, bacon, crisp sage, sunchoke morsel. The soup was poured and we incorporated all of the ingredients to a wonderful, creamy result.
Then it was cold again: pumpkin sorbet with pumpkin tuile and candied kale. Knowing what I know now, the sorbet was a palate cleanser to get us ready for the meat-centric courses to follow. Of course I know that meat was sure to come eventually, but I had lost track of the courses by that point in the meal. Did I mention that we opted for the wine pairing?
Crispy sweetbreads with sasify and cranberry and oyster sauces gave us leave to look up what exactly sweetbreads are. Tasty is the answer. The fish course was a fun play on bagel and lox with sugar-cured salmon, an everything bagel, caviar, and dill.
Of course there was a foam, since all restaurants must have foams. It sat atop the braised pork shoulder which was served along with brussels sprouts and pumpernickel. I was so happy the fowl was something other than chicken, and while I love duck, it tends to get overused. Guinea hen, however, does not. It was served in a mushroom risotto with celery root and shaved celery. Having made risotto, I very much appreciated that this version was light and not at all gummy.
The final savory course was another “unusual” protein, venison, which was served with berries, turnip, and barley. The chewy barley was a nice foil to the very tender and perfectly cooked meat. The meat courses were quite good, if a bit expected.
And then dessert. Or, rather, desserts. Three courses of dessert. This is not a complaint. The first dessert was a very interesting cheese brûlée with candied pecans and quince cooked with apple cider. Since the cheese was not sweet but for the melted sugar topping, this dessert served as a nice transition from the savory to sweet courses.
Then another cold dish in the form of apple cider sorbet. The accompaniments – all apple – were a demonstration of how versatile an apple can be, from a gel-like paste to a dehydrated apple chip.
Finally. the chocolate course. Chocolate ice cream, chocolate “ladders,” and parsley panna cotta. Along with the wine pairing – which included both Old and New World wines and even a beer (something I do not normally drink) – this was a very fulfilling dining experience.
The meal began with fun, veered to somewhat expected from a restaurant of its caliber, and finished sweetly. I’m glad I had a chance to experience Graham Elliot before it closes. It may or may not be back in the spring at a new location.