Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chez Papa c'est très bon

Dinner and a movie with friends: It's a really good formula to spend a Sunday afternoon. And that's what AG, AC and I did today, albeit in reverse. I'd heard that the new Chez Papa—opened just 2 months prior—was worth a visit and as it was just around the corner from the theater, we decided to do a drive-by to see if we could get in.

We were in luck: Chez Papa had a table for us. Soon after we'd been seated, our attentive waiter took our orders, and we got down to business. We made quick work of the crisp-tender grilled green asparagus spears, dotted with smaller cuts of white asparagus, lightly drizzled in a pleasingly mild Meyer lemon vinaigrette and sprinkled with largish shavings of nutty Parmigiano Reggiano. AC voted that we pair the green veg with the "pommes frites with rosemary aïoli"—who am I to get in the way of a gal with a serious hankering for french fries. I was glad to have obliged as these were some really tasty tubers. Not quite shoe-string, but thin enough to keep them crispy throughout.

As for the entrees? AG and AC both liked the sound of the "slow-poached Alaskan halibut with leek ribbons, asparagus, black truffle emulsion and sel gris." We all really liked the look of it too—with its crazy green mop of deep-fried leeks and foaming fuzz of black truffle. Looks can be deceiving though. Lucky for us, beauty ain't skin deep when it comes to Chez Papa. This dish was full of skillfully controlled flavors—in a word: stupendous.

I was happy to take a bite of each of their dishes, but happier still to dig into my own heart-warming bowl of Châteauneuf du Pape braised lamb daube with baby carrots and turnips and a touch of rosemary oil. I made sure to sop up every bit of the stick-to-your-ribs succulent wine sauce with big hunks of french bread.

And the dessert? Well, the strawberry ravioli didn't quite do it for us. Made of soy gelatin and strawberry sauce, the "pasta" reminded us more of a fruit roll-up than anything else. And here we thought we were ordering a dough-based dessert, either deep-fried or baked a la mini calzones or the like. Well, I'll give 'em points for creativity. The flavor was there; it just wasn't what we were looking for.

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