July 10, 2012

Seven Course Tasting Menu at Bibou

As we get older, it seems we have less of a reason to celebrate our own birthday with anything more than a nice dinner (or lunch, as we did this year), and thankfully other friends enjoy celebrating likewise.  One of our good friends recently turned a year older and planned many months in advance to check out the tasting menu at Bibou.  I've enjoyed the heavier fare of winter at Bibou before, but it was an extra special treat to eat from  the summer menu with a small group.  The tasting menu is typically reserved for a two-seat counter overlooking the kitchen (and even this is not advertised), but can be requested for larger groups as well.  The $70 seven-course feast worked its way through much of the regular menu- a great deal for Francophiles.

Unfortunately, we were initially turned away by a waiter- our table was not quite ready for our 7:30 reservation.  The space is tiny so there is no real option besides to stand outside on the sidewalk.  Eventually we settled into our table and commented how nice it was not to have to make any decisions regarding food- always a struggle for us!  We started in on the same thinly sliced, crusty French bread and unbelievably creamy butter that I raved about last time.  I actually tucked the butter remnants into my purse for future at-home consumption...

Our first course was a chilled melon soup, a refreshing way to cool off and ease ourselves into the meal.  The pureed soup included a sphere of sweet canteloupe, but had a savory red wine and basil base- a unique twist on a typically one-dimensional soup.  The addition of a splash of vinegar and some sort of a citrus juice gave it almost a "sweet and sour" element- a well-balanced, interesting, and weather appropriate soup course? We were off to a good start.

Keeping with the light and summery feel, the next dish out of the kitchen was the salade de crab.  A beautiful cylinder of juicy watermelon was nestled atop a pile of a creamy crab meat salad, both of which were wrapped in an impossibly thin slice of cucumber.  Avocado two ways adorned the dish- a plain avocado puree piped onto the watermelon, as well as dollops of "avocado cream"- just a touch of richness to round out the dish.  A small pile of viniagrette coated microgreens accompanied the crab- the dressing on this was so pungent (in a good way) that I thought it distracted a bit from the delicate crab meat.

 Also from the appetizer menu, the escargots is probably Bibou's most recognizable dish.  Served in a curlicue of a plate, these oversized snails matched their firm fava bean counterparts in dimensions.  I honestly enjoyed the sauce the most- a rich, meaty broth full of tiny mushroom cubes and with a slight aftertaste of cinnamon. The escargots themselves were much larger than other snails I've tried, and therefore had a bit more chew and a much earthier flavor.

Our seafood course was an Idaho rainbow trout fillet- a perfectly crispy skin covering perfectly tender flakes of white fish.  This was one of the table favorites during the meal- an impressive array of flavors and textures to pair with the impeccably cooked fish.  A creamy sweet pea and lemon puree was topped with crunchy kernels of yellow corn and blanched green beans- summer vegetables at their finest. The sauce was reminiscent of a piccata- lots of lemon and capers and a touch of dijon mustard.  A brief toast enhanced the nuttiness of a few sliced almonds, which still seemed to work amongst this conglomeration of ingredients.

At this point we jumped directly off the "light and fresh" boat into the "rich and heavy" waters below.  A duo of foie gras consisted of two shared bowls of foie gras custard drizzled with a cherry compote as well as individual foie "steaks" seared and served with poached cherries, a crispy cube of pumpkin bread, and a duck jus.  The custard seemed almost like a creme brulee, and the sweet cherry juice amplified the "dessert" aspect of this half of the dish. Meaty dessert?

I much preferred the savory hunk of foie in its glazed and crunchy on the outside and drippy buttery on the inside glory.  The sweet cherries made a feeble attempt to balance the dish out a bit, and the pumpkin bread- though a fun touch- seemed out of season.  However, you could have just plated the foie alone and I would have been happy.  Everything else is just accessory.  Thankfully nothing distracted from the pure intensity of the liver.

Another hunk of offal was served up next- one of the biggest pieces of sweetbreads I've ever eaten.  Unfortunately the thickness of it made it slightly dry, but a dollop of sweet potato puree and a smoky veal sauce added a little juice.  A tiny pile of sauteed baby spinach provided a ray of green in a sea of brown.

At this point we had already tasted six courses and knew dessert would be coming out next.  It seemed odd to end with sweetbreads, but the kitchen sent out a complimentary (thanks to our wait) plate of cheese to help us make the transition to sweets. An interesting array of sharp, soft, and moldy cheeses- when eaten with a bit of baguette made me feel like a true Frenchwoman.

Our dessert course was slightly overwhelming.  Most of the dishes were shared, allowing us to try several different things but at a rapid pace to ensure we each got a bite of everything.  The creme brulee, which I loved last time I dined at Bibou, was flat and uninspired.  A chocolate cake with wine poached pears fared a bit better due to its fudgy richness and soft fruit topping.  My favorite of the night was the "floating island"- a pyramid of airy meringue in a thick pool of sweet and spicy egg cream made with goats milk.  Bits of homemade almond praline grounded the cloud of meringue onto my tongue.

I also loved the blueberry and blackberry crumble- these fruits are at the height of their summer season and it was wonderful to see them highlighted in such a simple manner.  A bit of crust and a drizzle of caramel, but mostly sweet bursts of berry.

Of course we finished the meal with complimentary toasted coconut macaroons and crunchy dollops of baked meringue, but at this point of the lengthy meal they were more of a formality than a delightful surprise (though this did not keep me from enjoying a bite of crispy coconut).  The chef himself also made his obligatory stop at our table to hypnotize us with his wonderful accent and genuine gratitude.  I also think he gives the world's best handshake- anyone else?

The tasting menu was a great way to celebrate a birthday- I certainly couldn't dine on this every week.  Although only one or two of the dishes really "Wow!"ed me, I felt that the (mostly) seasonal presentation of French cuisine was a tasty experience, enhanced by great company and a cozy environment.

BYOB & Cash only

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review and pictures! Charlotte @ bibou