30 August 2008
A while back,
I went for a mother-daughter double date with my best friend to a beloved restaurant with which you'll quickly become acquainted if you have any plans of reading these blogs even just fairly religiously: Lilette. The ambiance is that of a clean, happening Parisian bistro; the feeling is very clean -- the main restaurant is one big room, tiled, a former drugstore from the 1800s. Whenever we go, we sit in rich cream leather booths. At this particular dinner, Jenna serendipitously discovered that even the tables are cushioned at the bottom -- a nice little luxury for diners' knees was the only purpose we came up with.
I mention this occasion because it's among the best, most memorable meals I've ever had. All four of us had made up our minds for both appetizer and entree (after a good deal of agonizing, I might add) when the waiter came to us and elaborated on the specials. Our previous reassurance was shot to hell: how could we possibly pass up a Kobe beef New York strip with diced roasted potatoes and flash-fried gremolada? Remaining buoyant, my mom piped up with the solution to all our problems. "This might sound appalling and piggish," she said diplomatically to the waiter, "but we'll start with the Kobe, cooked however the chef would have it, with four plates, please." And then we went on our merry, meal-ordering-as-usual way.
The steak was phenomenal, cut in impossibly thin strips that divided perfectly between the four of us, but the potatoes, too, were not to be outdone (which is saying a lot when they were alongside Kobe beef): delicately, perfectly crisp on the outside and flaky yet creamy on the inside. Altogether, not too much, not too little -- just a perfect amuse-bouche, we all agreed.
My appetizer salad of shaved fresh Hawaiian hearts of palm with parmigiano reggiano, lemon juice and olive oil was nothing short of gorgeous in its simplicity; each bite was a multi-faceted little gift- tart, smooth, hearty, and fruity, in perfect succession. Mom's chilled corn soup with crab and avocado bucked every ounce of my skepticism with its comforting/novel/summery-fresh hybrid of inspiration- I'm sure there's a psalm written about it somewhere. Holly got sweet-and-sticky fried short ribs with a lime-ginger vinaigrette that stole the show (though in truth, there weren't enough short ribs for me to take what most normal humans would consider a "bite," so my assessment may not be fair). And, of course, Jenna got the classic grilled beet salad that I've only recently been able to quit: dense, sweet, rich purple beets, grilled and served in a little puddle of olive oil with walnuts, mouth-watering goat cheese, and a few chives for kicks. What it lacks in originality, I can assure you it boasts in angel-chorus-caliber heavenliness.
But truly (and if you know me, you could've predicted this), the lifeline of this post is surely the Alaskan king crab claws, which come in a pool of none other than the passionfruit butter that inspired this blog in the first place (if you could've heard the gleeful squawking that ensued after my first bites of this dish, you'd understand -- but I'm jumping ahead). As someone who always likes a challenge, I took well to the crab, which was truly a labor of love, as a tiny fork was my only tool of defense against the rock-hard shell that encased the crumbling, velvety, snowy-white meat. To the enchantment of my tablemates, I intrepidly approached that crab with full intention to extract every last morsel -- and I did. Though my obsessive nature triggered this spree, I quickly reaped the benefits, as each little bite that I postponed was bathed in that delightful delicacy that is Chef John Harris's rendition of passionfruit butter. Needless to say, the minute I was sure that both claws had been thoroughly drained, I shamelessly devoured my meal, torn between wanting to share this newfound bliss with those loved ones around me and wanting to hoard it selfishly in the realm of my own shallow bowl. So as those around me delighted in roasted chicken breast with balsamic-glazed onions, mushroom vinaigrette, and only the most delicate outer leaves of baby brussel sprouts, my crab and I loved with a love that was more than love, with a love that the winged seraphs of heaven coveted it and me...