This weekend, my anniversary weekend, the Spousal Unit and I had a bit of a getaway to the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. Splendid place, extraordinary style. We had the most exquisite meal I've had in a very long time.
The Unit, of course, works in the food business and we've been foodies for a long time. But since she's such a great cook, we don't go out to restaurants as often as I imagine other couples do. Plus, when we do go out, we're mostly just satisfied, but very rarely thrilled. This time we pulled out all the stops and actually did get astonished.
Whist is the restaurant.
Here follows the best I can do with words to describe what we sampled. We stared off with a nice bottle of Veuve Cliquot which is just about the only champagne I like. Our appetizer and first course was a quail & fennel affair in a tiny pile on top of a cucumber slice, dotted round with a green olive oil. Delightfully light and playful flavor.
Next came a perfect square of melt in your mouth savory foie gras complimented by a bracingly fresh persimmon and raspberry chutney. Now I was getting revved up. What could they possibly do to outdo what they've done?
The Sous Chef, Kelly came out with the next course which was a special from the kitchen, and it was an absolute marvel. Tasting this next dish has me thinking that there's something I am just learning that chefs can do, that I couldn't imagine. But here you have these monstrously meaty prawns atop a bed of frisee and they are grilled to perfection. But let me describe this sort of perfection. The edges of the prawns are crisp and in the insides squish with all the flavor plus what tastes like a splash of the ocean. What I am tasting is perfected ocean in the middle of a giant jumbo shrimp. Still, it took me a couple minutes to get to that because on the right of the very same plate is a tiny cup of butternut squash bisque with a square of brie floating on the surface. It was, by far, the greatest soup, chowder or bisque I have ever tasted, which is saying a whole lot considering the corn bisque at Bambara in Salt Lake and the lobster bisque at the Plaza Hotel in Boston. One spoonful transports you instantly into the warmth of a ski lodge fireplace. The texture on your tongue is just fabulous and you know within seconds that you are eating in a way that you imagine you would like to every day if you were incredibly rich. This is just not food you can get anywhere. It is completely other, and magnificent.
I have another slice of the delicious rosemary bread and as much as I want to savor the prawns and squash I just cannot eat it slowly. A mountain of flavors are mixing in my mouth with the velvety warm squash and the sea-frothy prawns with savory little cubes of pancetta and the bitter accents of the frisee. It's really miraculous.
On to the next course I hardly know what to expect, but sure enough there's more wonderfulness. This time it's a delicate flute, which is a fish like a flounder. In flavor it's light and would be very much like your standard Chilean sea bass except you don't butter it down and it's got more texture. It's somewhat more firm that trout and yet still flaky like sea bass. With sweet carrots and spinach. Very nice.
Right about now I'm filling up, but wait there's more. This time yet another exotic. Venison chops with cherry glaze and risotto. Bam, right down to earth. I got a bit overly dramatic since this was my first taste of venison and made a big deal of the first bite, which was a mistake because I chose the more well-done of the two chops and I don't like my meats well-done. So I got a bit more earth than I bargained for. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that doing venison right is pretty difficult, but I caught on finally to the direction they were going with the cherries. There should have been yams instead of risotto if you ask me. A righteous yam with the right spice would work that venison into a good combination.
Now I'm full, and dessert is coming. I can only take a few lush spoonfuls of the pumpkin trifle and I'm done. But I manage to get down a fresh cup of joe and sip on their deliciously complex 2002 Kracher Beerenauslese.
The service was top notch of course, and the ambiance was just right for fine dining. If you've got a few extra bucks to drop and you want to try some truly unique and splendid dishes you definitely need to head to Santa Monica and check out Whist.