There was a little skuttlebutt about Plumpjack Cafe when Chef James Syhabout decamped just weeks after receiving a Rising Chef award to return to his Manresa alma mater. The restaurant was handed over the Syhabout's sous, Tyson Greenwood, and for at least a few dishes, Greenwood is proving his worth.
I sat down alone last evening, a little overwhelmed at how many dishes I wanted to try. I spied what was described as a caramelized foie gras which sounded intriguing but so did the soup. In chatting with my waiter, he let me know that he would be more than happy to serve me half-portions of both soup and salad and so I ordered the foie and an entree as well.
While the foie was described as caramelized, it was actually two large slices of a thin torchon. Very creamy and well-accompanied with greens, cracked pepper, fresh apple slices, barley, hazelnuts, and a very lightly sweet fruit sauce. I am so used to (and frankly bored with) foie being prepared in an overly sweet manner and this was an extremely delightful start with the barley, nuts, and pepper adding great complementary components to the hint of sweetness in the sauce and perfectly prepared foie gras. This was started with a Riesling Auslese, the name of which I did not bother writing down.
The next course was a pea tendril soup with pickled huitlacoche. It will be absolutely impossible for me to not overemphasize the brilliance of this course. I was completely stunned, first with the presentation -- a small bowl of black pickled huitlacoche served as the waiter poured the magnificently dark green rich soup over the rare offering. I have never seen a green like this before in any food offering. The intensity of the soup was sparked by a spice which, when I asked, was informed to be a Spanish paprika. I can't remember having a soup of this complexity and brilliance before.
Next I had a half serving of salad of wild arugula with Pink Lady apples, Endigia endive & wweet Vermouth vinaigrette. Nice enough for a salad, but hardly awe inspiring.
I ordered a main entree knowing full well I would be bringing it home for lunch. In this case, Sonoma game hen with collard greens and mushrooms. I'm sorry I didn't jot down the mushroom breed as it was a most flavorful component on the plate. There was a sauce of some sort but not enough to add much to the dish. The game hen was well-prepared, juicy, and tender and I am always pleased with the addition of otherwise bourgeois vegetables like collards. Besides, I was still thinking about that soup...
I finished up the meal with a poached pear, honey yogurt, and burnt caramel madeleines. This was paired with a Bonny Doon late-harvest Roussanne. This was a very nice dessert in that -- again -- it was not too sweet. Normally, an ice cream would be served with the pear but the addition of a slightly tangy, obviously house-made frozen yogurt served to heighten the sweetness in the pear. Also, the miniature madeleines were obviously baked immediately upon ordering as they were warm and tender to the touch.
A word on service; as is often true, I was solo and the staff were very accommodating in offering me half-orders on a number of dishes. Also there was something I had never seen before; when I sat in the booth, facing the interior of the restaurant, the empty chair across the table from me was seamlessly removed. I didn't realize it until half-way through the meal but that is actually a very nice touch to not be reminded that one is dining alone.
I have been a few times, most recently about six months ago, and recommend it. The food is very good, perhaps a bit pricey. The menu is available online.
The have a great wine list priced near retail. If you are a wine lover, the wine prices more than make up for the expensive food costs. Service has always been excellent.