Chez TJ - Anybody experience the new chef?
We went back to Chez TJ for our second visit tonight and it was just as great as the first visit - better even, since the service was smoother on a Thursday night vs. a Saturday night with a big party in the house. We're not big tasting menu fans so we again went with the 4-course menu.
I thought Manresa's Arpege egg might be the best amuse ever, but I think Chez TJ topped it. We started with foie gras macarons! Macarons with extremely good texture and a luscious foie gras filling. Boy, did this amuse us with its surprise and deliciousness!
The second amuse was a Brentwood corn panna cotta with some speck, speck foam (think bacon foam), mission figs, and chervil. Another stunningly good amuse - that speck foam took up a very small part of the amuse but packed such great rich flavor.
The 3 of us each had a different first course. The foie gras neige was as sensuously great as before, though with some different accompaniments (e.g. kumquat filling the role that banana had back in February). The rice-crusted soft-shell crab was delicious too, and my fluke crudo 3 ways was wonderful as well.
All of us picked the scallop second course. Four wonderful Massachusetts scallops were accompanied by some world-class great artichokes and yukon gold puree.
Our intermezzo was a green apple sorbet with a lime-tarragon gelee. These folks really know how to do the sorbet/gelee thing - this was as fine a treat as on our first visit.
The main dishes, veal and duck, were both superb. The veal was cooked sous-vide and then seared; the duck had incredibly rich flavor, accompanied with a foie gras terrine, green tomato jam, and some outstanding radishes.
Througout all these savory dishes there was a great interplay of creative flavors and techniques that all worked well together - no showing off for the sake of novelty; everything in the service of great flavor. We had a Mosel Kabinett half bottle with the first two courses (with the birthday girl's foie gras neige particularly in mind) and a Calera Jenson Pinot Noir half bottle with the third course.
Desserts were good but not on the world-class level of the savories. I liked the sweetness coming into the savories in the amuses, but this trend of savories in sweets does nothing for me. So the multi-layer chocolate gateau was excellent, but would have been even better with a sweeter ice cream than creme fraiche. The cheese platter was treated very inventively, which worked great with the Vermont goat cheese and the French sheep cheese, but not so well with the overly-vegatabled cow's milk cheese.
At this point I think that Chez TJ is outcooking Manresa both in deliciousness and creativity. (Hopefully Manresa's new pastry chef helps; desserts were a particular let-down there on our last visit.) It would be my number one recommendation for a big night out with outstanding food in Silicon Valley, though of course you'll do very well at either place.
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030
938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041