Cosmos - New Chef Brings the Goods
Celebrated our five-year anniversary at Cosmos this past weekend. I've only had cocktails at the bar, but the space remains pristine. Very easy on the eyes.
I went with the chef's five-course prix-fixe. Wife assembled her own from the tasting portions offered on the menu.
My wife is pregnant, so the waiter swapped up her amuse (tuna tartare with foraged mushrooms... yikes). She loved her play on a ranch salad. I like a bit more kick from an amuse. Reminded me of a poke appetizer.
First course for me was a deconstructed soft-shell crab sandwich. Everything was solid. The marinated tomato led to the disc of bread, which blended nicely with the aioli (which itself was an exercise in restraint... too many aiolis taste like miracle whip). It seemed to be missing salt. More on that later.
Wife had a beet salad. She always orders beet salads, and usually gives me a bite. No dice.
Second course. For me: Rabbit Risotto. For her: Pad Thai
Loved the risotto. Perfectly cooked, nicely chewy, set against a moat of sweet vinaigrette. The rabbit confit was seamlessly integrated.
The pad thai was actually quite good. The noodles were al dente, and the chef was a bit more forthright with the tomato action (literally halved cherry tomatoes). Herbs carried the flavor rather than sugar. Not sticky at all. Maybe this can be an upscale dish.
Third course: For me: Snapper over black-eyed peas w/truffle oil. For her: Spicy basil shrimp
Mine tasted like halibut, but I'm quite awful at identifying fish. Either way, this was the weakest dish of the night for me. Legumes gobble truffle oil the way an overcooked steak eats salt. Everything was a bit dry here, and I wanted a flavor to carry the day.
On the shrimp, my wife noted that it was a marked improvement over the shrimp she had at the Oceanaire. Yep. Very well done.
Mezze tasting: An experiment in molecular gastronomy w/citrus (I cannot comprehend the details). Essentially, the contents of an ersatz gelee (or, if you played 8-bit role playing games as a kid, a jelly) literally explode in your mouth. So much fun. You could tell when the other tables hit this point. I haven't had an experience quite like it. And they say the palate cleanser is dead.
Fourth course: For me: Pork belly. For her: The deconstructed crab dealio
The pork belly preparation was flawless. I cannot remember what else was on the dish. It doesn't matter. If you love pork belly, you owe it to yourself to eat this stuff.
My wife's crab sandwich included a strip of intensely smoked bacon, which had been omitted from my dish. Oh, so it's a play on BLT. That makes much more sense. Other than that, we both agreed the dish was tasty.
Dessert course: For Me: Panna Cotta. For her: Chocolate 47 (or so) ways
I've never met a panna cotta I've enjoyed. It usually tastes like flan: pure sugar; the texture of snails. Oh, so it can be done well. This preparation was surrounded with foam (another thing I typically loathe) but also a carmelized crisp.
The balance of textures was fantastic. It was like a fried ice cream float. Instead of being curdled and nasty, the panna cotta was rich and luxuriant.
Wife largely fended me off from her dessert (I still have the prong marks... Do not challenge a pregnant lady for her sesame crisp), but it reminded me of the dessert boards at V-44 and Travail, but with a bit more focus.
At the end of the meal, we were made aware that the chef (formerly of D'Amico Cucina) had taken over the reigns that very week. At minimum, I'd call this a seamless transition. If he can improve upon what he has going, Cosmos has some special things in its future.
I've stayed at the Graves for the past several years and consequently eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner there and have always been extremely pleased with the food and impeccable service. My feeling is that Cosmos gets overlooked, or the reviews "flavored", by its being a hotel resto.
In the cookbook and at Alinea itself, it's called Black Truffle Explosion. I've had it. It remains one the best things I've ever had the pleasure to eat. One bite with more flavor than anything I can remember.
Cosmos remains one of my favorite dining rooms in town. I haven't had dinner there in quite some time, but I've been for drinks often because it is such a relaxing atmosphere. The prices are a bit high, but that's hotel drinking for you.