Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Restaurant Week Reviews

Sometimes I think restaurant week is for food bloggers to come up with something to write about. I've been cooking a lot but the inspiration to actually WRITE about it isn't there. Luckily restaurant week as last week and I was able to take advantage of the generosity of Viridian and Acadiana.

I went to Viridian for lunch last Friday with Auntie Em. I think the theme of this meal was that I ordered the wrong thing. Not that anything I ordered was bad per se but while my dishes were competent, Em's dishes were extraordinary. I loved the decor of Viridian. Concrete floor and clean and lovely lines. The only weird thing was some guy's face blow up to cover half a wall. It was a bit disconcerting. I would highly recommend this as a lunch place because it was only half full which meant the background noise wasn't overpowering. I think with that concrete floor and a full house, the noise would be deafening.

So how was the food? Auntie Em's meal was specatacular. Mine was decent. She ordered the mixed green salad which had the best salad dressing I have ever tasted. The salad was lightly dressed but the dressing clung to the frisee so you had a harmonious blend of fresh, crunchy, salty, sweet, sour. I could have an a meal out of that. My starter was a beet salad with goat cheese. I think the flavor of the beets overpowered the goat cheese. The goat cheese was more textural than flavorful.

For our entree, Em had the gnocchi and I had the smoked salmon reuben and we split the cauiflower gratin. I got a taste of the gnocchi and it was truly divine. The gnoochi was light as a feather and the sauce was delicately seasoned with saffron. The reuben was okay. While the smoked salmon tasted great and had a more subtle saltniess than most smoked salmon I've tasted, the bread was way too dense for me and it took a lot of chewing to eat the sandwich. It was definitely a messy meal. I was somewhat mistified by the side order of potato salad. I kind of felt like it had an identity crisis. On the one hand it was chock full of fresh crunchy vegetables, on the other hand, the mayonnaise sauce didn't taste any different than something you would find in a platic bin at Safeway. And the gratin just tasted, meh. It was pretty underseasoned and I usually hate salt. Once again, the breadcrumbs didn't have any flavor of their own and were primarily textural.

Dessert was a miss for me only because I didn't remember I am a fruit person not a chocolate person. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake while em ordered the citrus cake. The cake is a chocolate lover's cake - dense, fudgy and slightly molten, the chocolate flavor was intense. On the other hand, the citrus cake was light and crumbly. All in all, you need to order with care at Viridian. Some dishes are standsout while others are competent.

Sunday, J and I got together with Rootbeer and Spyrogyra at Acadiana. One thing I will say is how much care was put into everything in that restaurant. Our waitstaff was cheerful and engaging withour being obsequious. The decor combined old fashioned elements like chandeliers with clean lines. And the food was well thought out.

I loved our server who had made a few mistakes in the drink order but cheerfully apologized and corrected them immediately. Take heed restaurants, it's not the perection of the service but the attitude in which mistakes get addressed. Our server was really wonderful in correcting her mistakes and promptly bringing our food. We started with the complimentary biscuits which were buttery and light served with butter that was laced with pepper jelly. Soooo good. Rootbeer, J, and I all got the deviled eggs while Spyrogyra got the gumbo. the deviled egg starter had three kinds of eggs - crabmeat, caviar, and shrimp. I found it funny that each of us chose a differnet fav. J, the caviar; me, the crab; and Rootbeer the shrimp. All of the eggs were divine. I usually hate caviar but the caviar really enhanced the flavor of the egg. Spyrogyra said that the gumbo was well made.

For entrees, Rootbeer had the filet of beef, Spyrogyra had the duck, J had the crawfish ettoufee, and I had the veal. Luckily we are all close enough friends to give each other tastes of our dishes. J's assessment of his dish is that it's hard to be inventive with dishes like ettouffee so the ettoufee tasted like it should. to it's credit the ettouffee was loaded with crawfish. I loved my dish which was with a wine reduction and jalepeno grits. The veal was tender and the sauce was out of this world and I am giving it my highest compliment by saying that if it were socially appropriate to lick hte plate, I would have. I wish the grits were a little more solid so I could taste them separately from the rest of the dish. I also ordered the jambalaya ristto which was a standout. The really got the al dente texture of the rice perfect. I usually don't like al dente rice because I hate having the hard chalky core but the rice here was firm without that awful chalkiness. Well done! The beef was also well done but all of the entrees paled in comparison to the duck. My Chinese uncle says that with duck, the chef concentrates on one of two things, crispy skind of tender flesh. You can't have both in a duck. But on this one, we most certainly did. They cooked the duck with a sweet glaze that highlighted the almost pork like flavor of the flesh and the skin was cripsy and sweet. What was hilarious was that we all kept on getting tastes of the duck because they have Spyrogyra and entire half.

The one disappointment was dessert. True to form, J, Rootbeer and I ordered the bread pudding while Spyrogrya ordered the panna cotta. I was disappointed in the bread pudding because it had so much chcolate (with a chocolate pudding base) that it overwhelmed the flavor of the actual bread pudding and the rum sauce.

Overall the experience was memorable and it's a perfect place for a date.


Dancer in DC said...

How did you feel about the service at Veridian?

I'd eaten there before (thought the food and drinks were pretty good), but I had heard that not that long ago quite a few staff quit, including the head chef. So I wondered if it was still worth going to. Sounds like the food still has promise? (When in doubt I can always escape to Rice which never disappoints.)

Dancer in DC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DC Food Blog said...

I thought it was fine. They were prompt but I didn't have strong feelings about it one way or the other.

Stef said...

I'm not really a chocolate person either. I'd rather not order dessert than have a piece of double-chocolate cake...

But Acadiana sounds really good! I've been trying to find a reason to check it out. I missed RW, too bad. But if you guys ever want to go back there, give me a ring and I'd love to join you! :-)

ScottE. said...

I'm bummed to admit we missed Restaurant Week this go around....things were just tooo nuts!

joyous said...

I agree about Viridian. I was not impressed at all when I took the psuedo boyfriend there for dinner one night. His meal was tasty, while mine was unimpressive. And we think they forgot to put the vodka in the pomegranite martini. When you have to ask for more vodka, it's a sad state of affairs. I'm not rushing back there again.

Jon said...

I had a friend who went to Acadiana and also raved about the buttery biscuits. She liked the chocolate cake, though.