menu mbk -- longish report
I should start this review by saying that I've eaten a lot of Frederik dePue's food over the years. I like Frederik a lot, so you could call me prejudiced. But I have to say that last night's meal at Menu MBK-Kitchen was THE VERY BEST meal I've had in a long, long time. And I've been eating well these past several years!
The concept is simple. Six seats in front of the kitchen, with a five-course menu and, if you like, pairings (which we got). There is a monthly theme, so your shot at the dinner I'm going to describe is going to disappear in a few days, when it will be replaced by a "Virginia" themed dinner. Here goes:
First course: celery root, fois gras, hazelnuts, coffee sauce. I love celery root, but I've usually had it in heavy-ish preparations. This was light. It was a tangle of celery root, shredded so that it looked like capellini, with shavings of fois gras torchon, a few chopped hazelnuts, and coffee extract. There was a very light sauce of something, too, but I really don't know what it was. The whole dish was clear, light, and perfectly seasoned. The pairing was a champagne-like sparkling wine from New Mexico. Who knew?
Second: Rabbit loin, spinach sauce, leek. Another winner. This was a rabbit loin with a pate/forcemeat like surround made from the rest of the rabbit. It had a very light sauce that was basically spinach essence and grilled leeks as an accompaniment. Another absolute winner, served with a truly delicious Languedoc white.
Third: This was maybe one of the three best dishes I've ever eaten. (The others were the Clam Soup at the late, so much missed Jean Louis and the oysters three ways at Guy Savoy in Paris.) Very small flounder meuniere with wild mushrooms and a black trumpet mushroom panna cotta that I'll be dreaming about for a long time. The sauvignon blanc pairing worked very, very well -- I was surprised at how well.
Fourth: Beef tenderloin wrapped in Belgian endive with a cherry lambic sauce and a carrot that was braised in duck fat. The beef was excellent. The carrot was, if anything, even better -- sublimely carroty and sweet. At that point I'd had enough wine so that I can't fully remember what the pairing was, except it was mighty good.
Finally: A deconstructed Dame Blanche -- housemade, slightly salted vanilla gelato over a remarkably light and delicious chocolate crunchy thing, with a cigar-like cookie filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache. A great ending -- and paired with a fragrant and savory gin.
Boy, was it all good. I left out the bacon-flavored buttery Parker House rolls. I also left out part of the fun, which is the chance to talk with the chef and his kitchen band, as well as the very, very knowledgeable and nice sommelier.
I can't wait to go back, and to try the more casual Bistro that is one floor up from the Kitchen.
Before it was Menu MBK, it was Azur. I went a couple of times and loved the seafood joint, but apparently no one else did. So Azur went and Menu MBK came, but the man behind the restaurants stayed the same - de Pue.
So I ordered seafood - fish fries, soft shell crab, and surf and turf. The fish fries were tempura battered smelt (not fish sticks as I had guessed). These little fish were crispy and delicious. The soft shell crab was actually $19, as opposed to $26 on the website. Again, tempura battered and nicely fried, served with a sesame aioli mixed with soy sauce - very Asian in flavor. The only dish I didn't like is the surf and turf - nettle crisp, rabbit sausage, squid ink pasta. There's no sauce on the pasta - nothing that ties the rabbit, nettle and pasta together. So I ate them separately. The rabbit sausage was dry and bland. The nettle was boring. The pasta itself had flavor from squid ink but I really didn't think much of eating just boiled pasta.
I would definitely go back, but the question is will this iteration last until then.