Tardy Tale from Lapis (long)
Ok, Wendy urged me to post following our dinner @ Lapis on Saturday but business commitments delayed me until today. On the whole, we really enjoyed ourselves and found the food and service to be solid, with many more hits than misses.
We met our friends Dan & Lisa in the bar, they had arrived shortly before we did. They had ordered cocktails which had just been served. At that point, we were asked if we wished to be seated and we allowed that we did.
Interestingly enough, a prior review of Lapis had indicated that one should settle one's tab in the bar prior to being seated as they do not like to add the drinks to the dinner bill; this was noted with a degree of criticism by the reviewer. Just as I was recalling that, the server appeared and Dan requested that the drinks be added to the bill. "Sorry, no can do", she said and left us there as she addressed another party's needs. Dan wondered aloud as to why they could not simply accomodate him but this did not cause any real trauma, we simply waited, paid and took our seats.
Dan had brought a bottle of 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou and it was placed on the table. The server asked about opening it but Dan declined, she persisted, "sure you don't want to let it breathe"?? Dan declined again, informing her that the last time the wine was enjoyed, it went downhill some time after it had opened.
Following some catching up, (which bye the bye, included a lengthy discussion/explanation of Chowhounds)it was time to eat and drink. I had been craving something other than wine to start so I chose a single-malt scotch from the cocktail list. This list was well conceived as there were several to choose from. I selected a Lagavulin, 16 year old served neat.
Beautiful sherry nose with a nice thick peaty finish, lovely.
It was now time for appetizers, a consensus was reached on the mussels and the flatbread with three dipping sauces(thanks Wendy)while the independent streaks of the party were manifested in other orders, e.g. Lisa and her gazpacho, Kathleen and her Bibb and Radicchio salad, Dan and his Wood Grilled Pita Bread Salad and I with my Moroccan Crabcake.
The mussels were fabulous, probably the best dish of the evening. Farm raised, plump and fresh, they are served in a spicy romesco sauce, with large chunks of homemade chorizo and potatoes, something for everyone in each bite. The sauce had a nice level of heat without overpowering the other flavors, this dish rocked. The flatbread was another winner, complimented by the dipping sauces, one a raita-like one, very cool and cucumbery, a hummus version that was nice but pedestrian and a baba ghanoush with a slight sweetness from tahini I believe. The bonus here was having extra bread to sop up what was left of the romesco sauce from the mussels. I saw the gazpacho, it looked beautiful, I did not taste it.
I then nibbled at my other guests' selections, the wood grilled pita bread salad was quite nice, with feta, roasted peppers and a light viniagrette but I did not care for the bibb and raddichio salad as the tahini and lavender honey dressing was much too sweet for my taste. At some point in this scene, we had ordered a bottle of Chablis, sorry, cannot recall any details except from the 1999 vintage, good one for White Burgundy and it had spent about 50% of its time in oak, a little different style of Chablis. Very enjoyable, creamier than most but with enough acidity to make it a good food wine.
Next, the entrees appeared. Lisa had Lamb Chops, they looked beatiful, she liked them, I did not get to taste them. Kathleen had the Pancetta and Grape Leaf wrapped free range chicken breast served on a bed of polenta, and garnished with roasted figs and sauteed grapes. The bird was sliced in medallions and was stuffed with a chevre filling. It was tasty but far too rich for me, I mean pancetta, goat cheese, polenta you get the picture.
Dan had the same dish while I had the Confit of Arctic Char, napped on a bed of du puy lentils and accompanied by beatiful roasted beets. In a word, unremarkable. The dish is described as a confit and one of the chefs' signature dishes. He could have not signed the papers on this one. The char was rolled into a pinwheel and was not distinctive at all in its' flavor. In addtion, the lentils suffered from an overt sweetness, something in the reduction sauce. Not bad, I just would not order it again. During this spell, the Ducru was opened. A beautiful Bordeaux, medium bodied with less cedar and forest than many Bordeaux but with some tobacco notes and good stucture. It managed to maintain most of its fruit but definitely would not benefit my much more time in the bottle. We poured a glass for the owner/manager who enjoyed it as well.
Someone not fully exposed to the concept of guilding the lily ordered the dessert. It was a pomegranate sorbet, thankfully, very light and refreshing, a nice palate cleanser.
The night was enjoyed by all. We chatted with the owner/manager and the front of the house person and asked how business had been. They gave the standard response,"we are down, but not as bad as some of our friends in the Hotel and hospitality trade". The restaurant had been perhaps 80% full when we arrived at 7:30 and had emptied significantly by the time we departed.We talked about the empty seats on the airlines, about how people are starting to dine out again and then set off into the warm (I know) early autumn night. I would return to Lapis, it has a certain serenity even though it is by no means intimate. Like many places these days, the first courses tend to outshine the entrees, from our experience.
I didn't know about their "misses" in regards to the bar and wine opening. But then since I don't drink and neither does a lot of my friends, we wouldn't have encounter that problem.
I'm glad my suggestion worked out well. I now remember that one time I did order a seared ahi tuna with preserved lemon couscous which did not turn out to be remarkable either. It sounded good on the menu. I wonder if this is a coincidence or if the chef just doesn't do fish well?