Sunday, June 29, 2008

Umami Rendezvous

After sitting down at 9 pm in a warm little wooden booth that compared quite favorably with the one at the IHOP in the burbs earlier in the day, the Wind-Up crew took some time with the wine list. Are we supposed to recognize these wines by name? Or is everyone just guessing like we are? We decided on red from Spain, eliminated the more expensive ones, then picked a grape none of us had heard of before, monastrell. (The Web tells me today that it’s also known as mourvèdre.) I don’t have the vocab for describing wine but I really liked this one; it was good to drink on its own and then held its ground against our decadently salty, fatty, earthy, spicy appetizer selections.

For my appetizer, I had umami pillows. I mean potato gnocchi with sauteed morels and maitake, black truffle and piave cheese (not to mention a rich, earthy broth that gets no official billing). I’ve had the gnocchi at Rendezvous several times before; they change it up all the time. After my first bite I was a bit disappointed, but then I figured out I needed to get a bit of everything in each bite. As you can see from the photo, it was quite a homey dish (except for the truffle shavings.) Ewen’s charcuterie plate was beautiful. Capers and cornichons stood up like transmitters, antennae, and skyscrapers on an alien planet admidst islands of fatty meat. A dollop of chicken-liver mousse looked like a Saarinen building and tasted like licking Cheeto dust off your fingers, but sweeter.

Our entrees were on the whole a bit lighter so we picked a Cote du Rhone for the next bottle. It was good for drinking with a meal but didn’t make much of an impression on me. Nor did my shrimp. At previous meals at Rendezvous I’ve had those tiny, tiny sweet shrimp local to New England, covered in chili powder and lime juice. These were larger and also quite sweet but ever so slightly overcooked. That shouldn’t happen at what Gourmet dubs one of the best restaurants in the country. But I loved the bed of black rice below them and ringed with butter that had a hint of spice and a hint of shrimpiness. The nutty arroz negro valenciano has a large amount of anthocyanins and of course there are a lot of nutritional claims about them on the Internet. What’s cool about anthocyanins to me: they’re in berries and blood oranges and experimental organic solar cells. And they stained the inside of my mouth. Angela ftw with the toasted orechiette and meatballs, for sure. (She had a head start on us all though, having outgeeked us by studying the menu and selecting her dishes before we even got there.)

The best thing about dessert, which I hope someone else will describe, were the thin, crunchy slices of macerated rhubarb and the rosemary ice cream plated with the polenta cake. The evening ended on Ewen’s roof amidst the orange-mist-shrouded chimneys of Inman Square with tiny sips of Old Chub. And then I floated off to sleep on an umami pillow...

1 comment:

Angela said...

There's a new commercial for Kikoman soy sauce that is using umami as it's main selling point.