Clary’s Tasting Menu

 Last night for Sarah’s birthday we went to Clary’s for dinner. The restaurant was fairly slow on a Monday night, and as such the service was almost annoyingly attentive. We decided that for the birthday dinner we would do the chef’s tasting menu that Clary’s offers with a small modification — Sarah’s not a fan of gumbo or the soup they had last night, so those were traded for crab cakes.

The amouse bouche of the evening was a  sweet potato chip with a smoked salmon mouse. It was quite tasty, but after having discovered the joy of smoking my own fish the mouse was a bit lacking.

 Each course of the meal was paired with a two ounce pour of an appropriate wine. Only one of which I didn’t like. I’m not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, I always think it tastes flat. The rest of the wine was very good and matched well with the food. We were served two different ports with the first dessert course, one that was a late bottle and the other that wasn’t. The late bottle port one out handily.

The food was exceptional, although Sarah and I think we probably could have split the tasting menu. I was also disappointed that the tasting menu featured smaller portions of regular menu items. In my  mind a tasting menu should showcase the best of what is available and should change more than once a season. Thomas Keller’s restaurants write a new tasting menu each day.

Our menu was a slightly modified version of the Winter 2005 tasting menu:

Madeira Braised Mushrooms – These mushrooms were served over a  garlic toast in the brasing sauce. This was probably my favorite course of the evening.

Crab Cake – The crab cakes at Clary’s are thick, moist, and nicely crisp around the edges. Probably the second best I’ve ever had – coming in second to the fresh dungeness crab cakes we had on the Oregon coast.

Pepper Seared Tuna – This tuna served with shallots on a bed matchstick french fries was good, but the first indication that the tasting menu would probably be sufficient food for two people. It was essentialy a sauceless steak-aux-poivre made with tuna – a dfferent but good taste. The fries were a great combination. 

Filet – The filet was the most disappointing part of the meal for me. Mine was a bit fatty and cooked slightly under what I would call a rare steak. This was also the part of our meal where our waiter couldn’t be found – and we were without steak knives. The filet was served with roasted green beans and brussel sprouts and a potato gratin with a smoked cheese (I’m guessing fontina). The potatoes were the best part of this course. Sarah ended up bringing half of her steak home (keep in mind this entire meal is smaller than menu sized portions – but the filet was probably 4 oz).

Chocolate peanut butter cake – This mini muffin sized cake  is gooey in the middle and tastes of peanut butter. We had them box one of the cakes and just ate one, waiting for the souffle.

Souffle – Last night’s souffle was amaretto flavored. I’m going to make souffle sometime soon, this may be one of the first flavors I try. I almost like the custard that is served with the souffle more than the souffle, but I’d feel silly just eating a bowl of it straight.

Overall this was an excellent meal. I wish the menu changed more regularly – this was clearly a winter menu. I also wish the portion sizes were just a bit smaller on some of the earlier courses. I was a bit disappointed that we ended up getting shorted the salad course of our meal. We traded soup and gumbo for the crab cakes but ended up not getting the salad that should have come before the tuna. I say this not because I really needed more food, but because I did think the meal was lacking in vegetables and I really like the salads at Clary’s.