Clary’s Valentines Dinner

Sarah and I went to Clary’s for our Valentine’s Day dinner this past Saturday. We got a gift certificate there for Christmas and Valentine’s Day seemed like a good time to use it (thanks Uncle Charlie). Clary’s is the only restaurant in Springfield that serves prime beef.

We had 8:00 reservations and when we got there at about 10 till it was packed. We found out that some people were still waiting for a 7:30 seating. It appears that the tables weren’t turning over quite as quickly as the reservation takers had hoped; we were seated at about 8:20.

Before I talk about what we ordered I want to say that everything we had at Clary’s met or exceeded our expectations. People talk about the food that comes from James Clary’s kitchen and they are right to do so.

We both started with Clary’s house salad. It’s a mixed green salad served with some type of pate that I couldn’t identify (although there certainly was some bacon involved).

Sarah had the seafood crepes which were very good. The crepes are filled with a mixture of fish and shellfish with a tomato cream sauce. The crepe itself was perfectly light and the filling, “mmmmm.” I ordered the prime filet which is served with potatoes, a fresh vegetable, and a gorgonzola mushroom ragout. If you’ve never had a prime, dry aged steak before you owe it to yourself to eat one — it is like warm, meaty butter. The steak would have been perfect without the ragout, but the tanginess of the blue cheese adds extra depth.

Our dessert was the Clary’s souffl which has to be ordered with your main dish. Saturday’s flavor was Grand Marnier which matched perfectly with the vanilla custard served alongside the souffl. I love a good custard (and Clary’s lives up to my own).

There were a few problems with the meal (although I think they can be attributed to the staff being completely swamped on Valentine’s Day weekend). The mark of a good restaurant isn’t whether or not there are problems (some are unavoidable), but rather how they get handled. While we were dining it took quite a while to get the wine we ordered (I had a Spanish cab blend and Sarah had an albario — our honeymoon wine) and they brought me the wrong steak. We didn’t even really have to complain, just mention the mistake and it was taken care of — and we were brought additional wine on the house while we waited.

James Clary takes the time to come out of the kitchen and talk with his patrons — he personally apologized for the steak mix up. It’s also obvious that as the executive chef he is very hands on (something Fish could probably use in the opening months). James cares about the experience people have while dining. Clary’s is a class act.