There was a plan and, had we followed it, it would have required one decision only: “Red or white?”
We were at Le Cordon Bleu’s Signatures Restaurant for chef Yannick Anton’s early-in-the-week special: Dinner for two with a bottle of house wine, a set menu for a flat rate ($110 for two), offered on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings only. The dining room proper was packed, so we were put in the wood-paneled bar and served by a familiar face — Jeff Cearns was long time Service Manager at (the dearly departed) Domus Café, and what a pleasure to see him again.
And though we were two women who had come to Le Cordon Bleu’s dining room with a plan, we were two women who didn’t want a chicken breast. It was the main dish on offer for that evening’s prix fixe. It might well have been delicious, but neither of us could warm to the idea of it. Not when so many other things beckoned.
So we turned to the seasonal menu, spent more than was the plan, but ate splendidly well. Beginning with supple slices of buffalo tataki, nestled on an umami smear of black garlic purée scattered with snappy, puffed barley, and topped with a fennel and micro-greens salad. And then escargots, soft beauties, out of shells and paddling in a pastis-splashed tomato sauce, brightened with a vibrant parsley coulis, and served with a briny squid-ink cracker.
Three thick slabs of Mariposa duck (top photo), cooked to pink rareness, and placed around a green pond of spinach coulis was the main that moved us most. The meat was anointed with a polished jus piqued and sweetened with blackcurrants. Around the plate, looking a bit like fortune cookies, was a trio of open ‘ravioli’ butternut squash, filled with a fragrant squash purée, while tiny Tokyo turnips had been fried to crisp chips and scattered about for crunch. And then venison loin, dusted with ground coffee beans, the flavour bittersweet and subtle, paired with a delicate ground-cherry compote, charred scallions, pickled mushrooms and blood sorrel leaves. The meat was tender, but a bit over-roasted.
Dessert was striking on the plate: a deliciously unsweet goat cheese cake, sweetened with dobs of crème anglaise, a sweet beet coulis, the cake topped with vanilla-scented pickled beets, and paired with an oval of black sesame ice cream topped with a lacey beet tuile that shattered on impact.
Why would we ever have chicken?