"The Dining Room", Ritz Carleton Huntington Pasadena
Will be dining at the Ritz Carleton Pasadena Dining Room Restaurant (not to be confused with the Terrace Restaurant, etc.) for a special occasion tomorrow night. I would appreciate any input on the menu, specific dishes, and info on the chef Craig Strong.
It's my first time eating here and I'm really looking forward to it.
Thanks in advance!
Happy to report back regarding a sparkling dinner at the Dining Room last friday.
I'm going to cut to the chase and get to the food.
Note: It was prearranged by a member of my party...the restaurant offered 3 appetizer choices and 3 entree choices. Each person selected one, but of course I had a taste of all three.
AMUSE: Herb Ahi tuni (finely minced) on a refreshing cucumber salad. perfect palate teaser.
Heirloom tomatoe terraine w/ baby lettuces balsamic walnut oil vinagrette & shaved aged goat cheese (which happened to be cabecou). this was a solid app, but nothing to get overly excited about especially since this is something one can assemble at home after a trip to the farmer's market.
Sauteed spiced foie gras & pecan mousse, sauterne lacquered peach, onion marmelade and toasted brioche (wow-this dish was sublime. wonderfully prepared foie gras with perfect sweet follies adding texture and dimension.)
zucchini flower tempera stuffed with brandade, baby mixed green salad and romesco sauce
(the brandade with the zucchini flower was such a great melding of textures. wow again.)
Buttered poached lobster, hand rolled pasta, snow peas, peper confit, butternut squash puree and ginger nage. this was the entree I ordered and it was quite brillant. how decadent to have a petite sized lobster poached in normandie butter!
Grilled honey and cardomom squab (so succulent) with moroccan couscous, artichokes, baby carrots and squab jus. another great dish. the only thing that could have made this dish better would be handmade couscous.
roasted veal ribeye with asparagus, chantarell mushrooms, fava beans and cassis veal jus.
this dish was very good, but not quite as interesting and complex as the other 2.
almond financier with a curl of grand manier ice cream sprinkled with wild elderberries.
chocolate coated cholocoate mousse cake with fresh raspberries.
this was a birthday cake that they made and as far as birthday cakes it was very good. textures were bouyant with a deep dark valrhona chocolate. I would have preferred alittle less raspberry swirl, which I found the slightest tad too sweet.
overall the food was incredible. I was thoroughly impressed with the cooking,presentation and all the hot dishes were served piping hot . Yes, the chef came out at the end of the meal. He was incredibly warm and personable. HOWEVER (here it comes), I must say, I was not bowled over by the service. It was good, but not great. Our waiter was very friendly, but lacked alittle confidence and finesse. also, things like keeping the bread plate happy and water glasses filled were alittle slow to the punch. (had to ask for refills on both a few times) I think someone didn't show up for work that evening.
the food was soooo good though, that I'm looking forward to by next visit.
thank you all you devoted chowhounds for your insight and knowledge!
oh, culverjack, your words are so much more poetic and luring than my own. you really summed up what he does well. thanks for the info on the lista di vini. i usually try to arrive early, sit with a glass of champagne and read the wine list like a good novel. but lately, i'm barely getting there on time or i've arranged the wine pairing ahead of time.
ostudio, as culverjack says, the foie gras is always fantastic. if all in your party are players, he'll do something special around that if you call ahead. he makes his own tourchon sometimes.
the menu changes so often and i haven't been since may, so i hope someone who's eaten with craig more recently will respond.
Agreeing with revets2, you're fortunate to have chosen so well!! Definitely one of my faves, period.
I've found that the chef does very well with foie gras, if you like such things, and seafood of any form where he tends to stretch things pretty successfully. I find the apps where he crosses sweet/savory together work very well for him. And is really tantalizing in the form of an amuse or app.
He has a background which includes a lot of time at one of the Ritz hotels in Spain (as revets2 points out), so he does some Spanish and Morrocan tinged fish dishes that are just great.
Regardless of how heavy or light your fellow diners go, I would also urge you to order either the tasting menu or simply go for dishes off of it. Craig has been great about small alterations as you may need them.
I've also found the staff VERY generous with wine pours and they always have some good selections by the glass. Wine list is good overall, not mindblowing by any means. But more than adequate.
I've always enjoyed the patio, BTW. You're practically alone and having San Marino stretch off in the distance over the treetops is really nice.
Enjoy, I'm jealous. Maybe it is time for a visit.
i think craig strong is one of the most talented chefs in l.a. even if every dish is not a home run on my palate, i appreciate the risks he's taking in his kitchen/laboratory to keep the cuisine in l.a. fresh and edgy. this is a hard thing to justify at these prices, but we're so bored with haute cuisine in l.a. we're grateful for someone pushing the envelope and trying to make something soulful, yummy, and memorable.
he's spent most of his time rotating through several RCs, but the most impressionable experience may have been barcelona at one of our favorite hotels in the world, the hotel arts.
he's young, passionate, and he does his own desserts which is very unusual for a chef of this caliber.
i would go for the tasting menu, if it's affordable for you. call and ask them to fax it to you. if you'd like a slimmed down version of that, call him and ask him to do that for you. he will. and he'll be thrilled to do it even if you've not been there before. most importantly, make sure he's in the kitchen tomorrow. i have no experience about how the kitchen executes in his absence and his sous chef has recently gone to mike & anne's.
i don't know if the restaurant has the wine list under control. previously, craig had no authority over the list. some sort of corporate thing. we usually bring our own bottles, so i can't tell you what the list looks like right now.
if craig has engineered a glass pairing, i'd go for it, and if you're driving, he's more than happy to split the tasting between two glasses.
i hope you have a great time and buen provecho.