Splendid Pre-Opera Dinner
- Randy Salenfriend
La Traviata beckoned but not on an empty stomach. Thus we found ourselves at Absinthe, corner of Gough and Hayes on Saturday. Had been to most of the other spots in this area previously but not this one and so we were anxious to see how it measured up. Quite nicely I must say!!
Arriving promptly (ok, maybe 6:05, we found a parking spot in the alley near Vicolo) for a 6:00 p.m. reservation, we were greeted warmly and seated immediately. I did not care for the two top we were initially led to and requested another. No problem!! How refreshing. The place was packed, ostensibly with pre-event folk. There was another event simultaneously at Davies, lots of people at all the places in the area. No sign of a slowdown in the biz on this night, I wonder what it is like on others.
We had: Caesar Salad. This version was adequate, nice crunchy Romaine Hearts with no trace of the tough dark green leaves. However, the dressing was a little too acidic (citrus or vinegar) for my tastes without the balance of the creamy counterpoint. Not enough Parmigiano even though it did have nice small pieces, not whole anchovies.
Next was a small pizza that really shone. Black mission figs, cheese, teleme I believe and prosciutto de parma. This was a stellar combination, representing all the good things that can come from a simple yet creative pie with superb ingredients.
Finally, we shared a beautiful piece of flased grilled ahi, requisitely rare in the center, with a cumin scented tapenade. This was a little too overpowering and detracted a little from the fish but was easily remedied by scraping off a little of it and then resuming. The fish was served with an interesting combination of fried garbanzos, quite tasty, baby beets with a chived flecked creme fraiche and grilled fennel. A lot of competing flavors on the plate but it seemed to work. In addition, we nibbled on a side order of their fabulous authentic frites, thin, crisp, greaseless and marvelous. They are presented in a cone, with a choice of aioli, ketchup etc. We asked for both. Yumm.
No dessert after all that, no time and really, no room. Nice wines, once again, a place that offers tastes (3 oz. pours as I recall) so that you may try different wines. We had a Cotes Du Rhone, Ribera Del Duero, 1997 Napa Cab (Aetna Springs) a superb Spanish White and a Moshin Russian River Pinot. (3 tastes each) Sorry, not enough details on the wines, I was in a hurry to make the opera.
The tab with tax and tip was about $90.00 for two. I would definitely go back. Enjoy.
re: Melanie Wong
our last meal there( 6 mo. ago probably) was equally wonderful randy. i remember i had some sort of fish with french lentils -not salmon-that was done perfectly, steve's dinner was also great. i had a plum sorbet for dessert made with roasted plums that i drempt about afterward. with the plum tree in the back yard just now getting ripe i may try to duplicate it this year, it was a remarkable treat!
The appetizers and entrees at Absinthe were fine, but never really hit it for me. Nevertheless I love it as a great spot for dessert. I really enjoy going there to wind down after a concert; the rich decor and lively atmosphere are quite a draw. And the desserts are stellar.
Once I got the cheese plate there with matching wines, and found it above average for the price, but nothing special.
I just saw the pastry chef from Absinthe on a FoodTV show last night; it was an episode of "Follow that Food" where they were "following" chocolate from bean, to being made into Scharffenberger chocolate, to being used in all kinds of goodies. The pastry chef (a woman, but I don't remember her name) was making "Satanic" brownies. They had both melted Scharffenberger and chunks. They did indeed look wicked!