Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beauty Is in the Mouth of the Beholder


Tonight we had one of the most beautiful meals we've ever had. It was a feast for our eyes and our tummies. Thank you, Ortolan.
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It's no wonder that Ortolan earned a Michelin star this year. The food is exquisite, and the restaurant is simultaneously plush and understated, if you can imagine that. My pictures don't do this place justice. I did my best to avoid using my flash, so as not to disturb other patrons.
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I started with a cosmo ($14) while noshing on crispy lavash bread.
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Mr. Monkey enjoyed dipping his sourdough into all three oils on his plate.
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The Monkeys both opted for the Chef's Spring Menu ($125).

We started with an amuse bouche of cold soups. Cold soup is not my thing, but I appreciated the presentation in test tubes with straws. The soups were smooth and had very clean flavors.
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This amuse bouche was accompanied by an awesome "eggplant caviar," which was perfect for dipping lavash. It tasted more like an extraordinarily refined bean dip than eggplant. Loved this.
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Our first course was a Macaron of Foie Gras Confit With Quince Gelee and Fig Chutney. It was almost too pretty to eat. And who knew that a savory macaron could be so amazing? I had all of mine and Mr. Monkey's slab of foie gras.
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Then we moved on to an Almond Gelee With English Pea and Red Bell Pepper Parfait With Tomato Water. Vegetables have never been so fun! I was impressed with the creativity.
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Round three was very interesting and a bit much for me: Egg and Caviar Cooked in Hot Ash With Whipped Cream and Vanilla. This time Mr. Monkey ate all of his and some of mine. Slightly uncooked eggs are not my favorite, but, even so, I recognized how impressively delicate this course was. It was a surprising and wonderful combination of ingredients. I'd never seen anything like it.
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Then the really good stuff started coming out. The Roast Langoustine With Pineapple and Raisin and Puree of Mango With Cripsy Lemon had us oohing and ahhing. Again, the amalgamation of contrasting ingredients worked exceedingly well. I enjoyed this dish immensely. This was my third-favorite out of all of the courses.
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The Roast Scallop With Artichoke Jerusalem and Chorizo, Herb Caviar, and Crispy Potato arrived next. While not as impressive as the langoustine, the scallop was still a winner.
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Dish #6 was the Roast John Dory With Spaghetti, Quail Egg, and Bacon Emulsion. Fantastic! The John Dory was delightfully meaty yet mild, and I was completely enthralled by the spiral presentation of the spaghetti, which you can see in my "deconstructed" picture. This was my second-favorite out of all of the courses.
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It was then time for my favorite dish of the night -- Duck "Laque" With Fennel, Rosemary Panisse, and Kumquat. Drool-worthy. The top of the duck was perfectly caramelized and crisp. I wish I could've eaten another plate of this.
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After the duck, we had Herbed Goat Cheese With Olive Olive Oil with some bread. I may never be able to go back to regular dips and cheese again after tonight. Rich and milky with a peppery oomph. Mmm.
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A Mint Sorbet served as the perfect palate cleanser. And that's high praise from me because I'm not a minty person.
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While in between courses, the Monkeys took turns stretching as high as they could to see if we could reach the top of our gigantic booth. During our calisthenics routine, a passing employee offered to take our picture for us. Can you tell how big this booth was? Ideal for private, tucked-away dining.
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The next big thing was Dessert #1: Panna Cotta With Pear Caviar, prepared with a special message just for me! It was insane just how caviar-like these little pear droplets were. Our server explained the very scientific way in which these bursting bubbles of bliss were born. Molecular gastronomy fascinates me.
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Mr. Monkey savored his French-pressed Guatemalan coffee.
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Our last official course was Citrus in Five Ways: Gelee, Confit, Powder, Parfait, and Sorbet. Very tart, but it made sense. Cohesive and refreshing.
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We concluded our gorgefest with a delicious assortment of complimentary petit fours. I love macarons and marshmallows!
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The check arrived in a wax-sealed envelope.
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Chef Eme visited our table a few times during our meal (as he did for every table), and we had a short chat with him before we left. He even gave us his card and asked me to e-mail him the link to my blog!
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Chef Eme is very approachable and down-to-earth and made us feel so welcome and special, as did all of his staff at Ortolan from the minute we walked in to the minute we left. The service is warm and attentive from bottom to top.

We can't wait to go back again. If you have the time, means, and inclination, you should get yourself to
Ortolan as soon as you can. Adore this place.


  1. You're right. The food looks too good to be eaten.

  2. YUM! this is another one of my mom's favorite restaurants. she and her fiancé just got back from paris where they dined at a handful of three-michelin-star restaurants. jealous!!!

  3. Now that is some gorgeous presentation... And how much do I love that your dessert plate had Monkey written on it!

  4. Wow. All those dishes are so creative and intricate. Michelin star well deserved!

  5. This is on our "Must Try" list. A friend of mine knows the owner and designed their website. She initially turned me on to Ortolan through her design and now I have your AWESOME pictures to push me to visit SOON!

  6. so jealousE! looks like a fantastic meal. tasting menus at nice restaurants are so much fun.

    oh, and you got "party favors" at the end of the night too! ;)

  7. Looks so good! You are a fortunate monkey! I love your food blogs.

  8. everything looks so beautiful AND delicious.

  9. You are unbelievable! How did you remember the names/details of everything? Did you take a copy of the menu home with you??

    Looks awesome. I've definitely heard of this place.

  10. Ohhh, that place looks incredible!! What a fabulous birthday treat!

  11. 1. love my baby monkeys in a giant big kid booth. LOVE

    2. you had me at eggplant caviar. I COULD EAT ANYTHING EGGPLANTY.

    3. Thanks for the Guatemalan coffee shout out!

    4. Is it me or does the chef look a little Gavin Rosdale? yummers

    5. What makeup/hair products you using the last two days? You look crazy sparkly glowy. Me wants some of that pretty.


  12. I love that you're not too PC for foie gras and other amazingly delicious foods.

  13. is it just me or do eat at the NICEST RESTAURANTS EVER?! i'm stoked when i go to Olive Garden, so major props to Mr. Monkey's celebration!
    Happy Belated Birthday...I hope this year is your BEST! :)

  14. HAPPY BDAY! I thought the same thing as California Girl but I peeked at their menu online. If you didn't get it from there, you have quite a mighty memory!

  15. If there was a portal to the inside of your head, I would SO choose you over John Malkovich.

    No competition.

  16. I think I can overlook the restaurant's bird name for that fabulous food! Yum!

  17. Mmm Mmm Good!! I am taking E here for dinner. Beautful restaurant and the food looked amazing :)

  18. That is the fanciest food presentation I have ever seen.


  19. what an awesome meal. i'm seriously just overwhelmed at it all!

    now i know where to ask the hub to take me for our next date. thanks, yo.

  20. Wow. A meal I could only dream about. Not even...I couldn't come up with such pretty food in my dream. I also probably couldn't pronounce most of it or tell you what it was made of without a quick lesson. Ha! ;)


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