mistral kitchen

Last night was “date night.” And my kind, thoughtful, date used a sure-fire method to ensure he selected a restaurant that would delight: he picked one off my “must try soon” list. Mistral Kitchen.

I liked it. We liked it. It was a really good meal. To be fair, I have to do this as an overall assessment. A chronological review would not go well. Our relationship with Mistral got off on a rough foot. But more about that later. First let me talk about the food. We ordered:

  • kushi and kumamoto oysters with the chef’s preparation (beurre blanc on one and fresh cucumber and something on the other)
  • hamachi crudo with avocado, basil oil and radish sprouts
  • branzino with cannellini beans and black trumpet mushrooms
  • lamb loin with puy lentils, chard, and turnips
  • the ultra brownie with peanut butter ice cream

It was all delicious. Every last bite. The oysters were perfectly chilled and the accompaniments were flavorful. The hamachi was cut a bit thick for my liking, I’m more of a carpaccio-style curdo gal (How to Cook a Wolf!), but the basil oil was fantastic. The entrees were pretty amazing. The lentils, chard, and turnips were perfect with the lamb, and I enjoyed more than my fair share even though at sight I thought it was too undercooked…”eat it how it’s meant to be eaten.” The branzino was superb too, the perfect portion and the beans were marvelously al dente. Dessert was solid, but not that memorable. Our server told us the peanut butter ice cream was “life-changing” but I’m going to call hyperbole on that statement. It was good, but not make-yourself-ill-because-you-ate-it-all good.

But it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some complaints. Like I said, we got off to a bad start. Our server (or the sommelier?) pulled an absurd stunt. I was not impressed. At all. We perused the beer and drink lists but decided we felt like wine, and also thought that would be the most economical option. Drinks were $12 each, but we could get a full bottle of wine for $35. We picked a Willamette Valley pinot blanc that we were sure we’d like. $35. Splendid deal. I have no problem ordering the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu. Too long passed after ordering, and we got to that annoying “where the heck is our wine?” moment. Finally our server came back to report that they were unfortunately out of the wine we ordered but he had a delicious alternative that we would LOVE. He was sure of it. He also slipped in that it was “closer to $50.” We not-so-subtly commented that perhaps we’d get it for the $35 price point. No dice. He insisted it was the best wine ever and everyone loves it, and before we knew it he was pouring. At first, I hated it. It was no Willamette pinot blanc. It was French. And SWEET. We drank it in the end, and it grew on me, but then the bill came and it was actually $55. What!? Seriously!? I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but I just don’t get it. We clearly ordered the chepaest bottle of wine on the menu. Why would you give us one that $20 more and think we were going to be pleased? There were several other whites on the list for $35 or $40. It’s not like we ordered a $100 bottle and he brought us a $120 bottle. Do I look like that much of a pushover that you can play me? Apparently I am. But I didn’t like it. Not one bit.

But I did like Mistral Kitchen overall. But it won’t be making the “love” category. Not with that ridiculousness.

restaurants i wish i could fly to

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an intriguing article: 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride. I must admit, I haven’t been to any of them, although one happens to not require a plane ride for me (just a ferry) and another is within affordable striking distance. Reading the article of course got these restaurants on my radar, but mostly it got me to thinking about what restaurants I wish I could fly to from time to time. I’m certain I’m omitting many delicious eating experiences I’ve had, but here are the places I can’t seem to stop missing despite the innumerable delicious Seattle eating establishments:

I feel pretty strongly that you haven’t truly experienced a breakfast sandwich until you’ve had a bagel-egger from the Bagel Deli: Best. Breakfast. Sandwich. Ever. My preferred order is a bagel egger on poppy seed with bacon and cheddar. Their self service coffee is delish and the donuts make a delightful breakfast appetizer.

Clearly I’m partial to this place, since it was the site of our rehearsal dinner. The atmosphere of this Vermont restaurant is both cozy and classy. The food is comforting (fry wheel!) but elegant at the same time. They change their menu regularly and are one of those great places that has a list the options by course, all with the same price. I love that. I’m bad enough with decisions as it is, let alone when I have to decide if I want the duck $4 worth more than I want the pork loin.

PLAN B – Hartford, CT
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. That pretty much sums up this place for me. We went all the time when we lived in Connecticut. Burgers, beer, and bourbon. Done right. Exceptional tap list and delicious burgers chuck ground in-house daily. They’ve expanded to three restaurants in the Hartford area, and according to their website they’ll be in Boston, DC, Atlanta, and Chicago soon. So many flight options!

1844 HOUSE – Canton, NY
Not a place you’d expect to find fine dining, but this place is a gem. Great service, top-notch food, and an outstanding wine list.

MIAN KU (NOODLE LOFT) – Beijing, China
With two (or three?) locations in China’s capital, this is a must stop right up there with Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. We first heard about it before our 2006 trip thanks to Anthony Bourdain, and had an adventure or two trying to find it (remember, Amber!?). But it was worth all the headache, the Shanxi noodles were like none I’ve ever had before. They’re hand-tossed at the bar. Kind of like pizza is in New York. I haven’t had them in five years (thus the hankering for the plane flight to taste some noodle goodness) but word on the street is they’re still going strong. (Check out this recent blog post at the tiny urban kitchen.)

CHALET LA PRICAZ – Montmin, France
High atop a mountain in the alps, in July 2010, I devoured the most delicious meal I have ever eaten in France. And from a girl who gain nearly 20 lbs. as an exchange student there before college, that’s saying a lot. We celebrated Bastille Day with family following a cousin’s wedding at this restaurant famous for it’s tartiflette.  The owners have a herd of Tarine cows, who make reblochon cheese on location (farm to table anyone?). Tartiflette is a local specialtiy where the reblochon cheese is melted over potatoes and pancetta. Most of the men at the table ate only 3/4 of their individual cast iron skillets of goodness. The ladies consumed 1/2 max. I ate my entire dish, plus the 1/4 Dan left. I don’t regret it one bit. I might never have that meal again. (We were led there by our French hosts, but turns out the restaurant was raved about in the New York Times in 2007.)

Where would you fly?