Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Supporting sustainable, local foods = Deliciousness

I've been dying to go to Solstice Kitchen for quite some time.  Solstice is a product of the same masterminds behind Columbia favorite, Mr. Friendly's and Hungry Lady favorite, Cellar on Greene.  Because of this, I had high expectations going in.  I was most definitely not disappointed, and was even pleasantly surprised at some points.

As usual, I roped R into going to dinner with me.  He took care of making our reservation, which we almost weren't able to get.  I forgot that it was both graduation weekend and Mother's Day weekend, add that to the fact that it was Saturday, and there wasn't anything available that night.  We were able to get in after a someone cancelled on Thursday.  To whomever cancelled your reservation, allowing me and R to get into Solstice, you have my eternal thanks and gratitude.

Let's start with the restaurant itself.  It is tiny and dimly lit and understatedly elegant.  They have a large bar with a few tables in the area and then the main dining area.  There may have been a larger room in the back, as we saw patrons coming from the back, near the kitchen, but I didn't go exploring.  Because of the dim lighting, I'm going to apologize in advance for the quality of my pictures.  I didn't want to use the flash because we were seated in a pretty open area, and I didn't want to be obnoxious.  My dear friend B did his best to edit the pictures for me, but unfortunately, he didn't have too much to work with.  My thanks, B!

Cool bottle, very simple.  Excellent taste.
As always, we started with wine.  The wine list is insane.  I relinquished all wine choosing duties to R, and he finally settled on a 2009 Pinot Noir from Chime Wineries.  I loved it.  It went surprisingly well with our food, despite the fact that we ordered things that you would typically associate with whites.  At least that's what my limited wine experience tells me.  It most definitely paired well with the sourdough bread basket that we were given while waiting for our food.  Not only did it come with regular butter, but also garlic butter.  Superb.

While we were trying to decide what to order, our absolutely wonderful server, Allen (Allan?) brought us a complimentary amuse bouche.  It was a watermelon, mango, and prosciutto skewer, and it was delicious.  The saltiness of the prosciutto nicely offset the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit.  At this point, I knew that it was going to be an incredible meal. Such a pleasant surprise when you have pairings that you never would have thought would work.

Most definitely a great start to a great evening.
We finally got through the menus (Solstice has a regular menu and a daily specials menu), and each settled on an appetizer and an entrée.  We both ended up ordering solely from the specials menu.  Thankfully we had some wonderful advice from our spectacular server.  He advised on everything from his favorites to the best way to order the fish to all of the various local ingredients (YAY!) used.  His expertise was invaluable, and I'm positive that our experience wouldn't have been quite as good without him.

Moving on.  R decided to start with the Housemade Pate of Duck & Foie Gras.  It was served with strawberry jam, toast points, and a pickled asparagus and onion relish.  This was the first time I'd tried pate, and I can safely assure you that I will never eat it again.  Most definitely NOT my thing.  And not because it was bad (R assured me that it was some of the best he's had), but because the texture and the taste just did nothing for me.  
Strawberry jam & candied pecans in the back, pate in the middle, relish in the front.
I decided to order the Baked Oysters "Solsticefeller."  Excellent choice.  There were 5 oysters, served on the half-shell, and topped with spinach-parmesan cream, crispy prosciutto, and bread crumbs.  They were fabulous.  My only complaint is that the oysters themselves weren't as prominent as I had thought they would be.  The toppings were delicious, but I think a smaller quantity of them would have brought out the oysters a little more.  I added a little squeeze of lemon to a couple of the oysters, and it was perfect.  I would order these again in a heartbeat.

You can see all of the goodness on top of the oysters.  It was truly happiness in my mouth.
On to the entrées.  Solstice had Striped Marlin on special, so that's what R decided to order.  Neither of us had ever tried marlin (and, btw, this was NOT the endangered variety as Allen was quick to tell us), and so R had to ask for a bit of advice.  Allen informed us that it should be prepared like tuna (no more than medium-rare, and even that might be pushing it) and that it would be thicker, like swordfish.  R ordered it rare plus, and while it was good, I think I would have preferred it to be a little more on the rare side.  The fish was served on a bed of miso butter, soba noodles, edamame, shiitake mushrooms,baby carrots, cilantro, and crispy snow peas.  There was a lime slice on the side that really brought out the flavors.  And the marlin - great fish.  I'm really glad that Allen recommended this one.  It was one of the best things we had all night.

I know it's hard to see, but that's the fish on top.  I would have liked it rarer, but it was still pretty tasty.
I got really excited when I saw pan-seared grouper on the menu.  I love grouper.  I feel in love with it a few years ago in Key West, and unfortunately, don't get to have it very often (one of the drawbacks to not being able to cook).  Naturally, this is what I decided to order.  It was topped with a roasted red pepper and olive tapenade, and served over crab-pesto cous cous.  Perfectly sauteed asparagus completed the dish.  I found the asparagus to be particularly tasty when dipped in the roasted garlic and herb aioli that dotted the plate.  The fish was perfect.  It was so tender that it just fell apart every time my fork touched it.  Grouper is pretty mild, so having the strong flavored tapenade of top was outstanding.  It really just bumped the entire dish up a notch.  The cous cous wasn't too strong, so it was a nice complement to the fish.  I cleaned my plate, and, had we not been in a restaurant, probably would have asked for seconds.  So glad I ordered this because it was definitely my favorite dish of the evening.

The fish is to the left, and the darkish spot on top is the tapenade.  It's resting on the cous cous.
As usual, we closed out with dessert.  R had the caramel-pecan fudgecake.  It was rich and layered, and accompanied by a raspberry sauce.  The pecans were crunchy and the caramel oozed  out of the side with every bite.  I think this should definitely be a dessert to share because it was so rich.  I couldn't imagine eating one by myself, even though it was fabulous.

Not very big, but huge on flavor.
My second favorite part of the evening was the dessert that I ordered.  I had the Pineapple-Passionfruit springrolls.  They were super crispy on the outside, but every time I took a bite, my mouth was just flooded with the tastes of pineapple and passionfruit.  The springrolls are definitely a lighter option for dessert, and the tiny bit of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream served with them are an incredible pairing.  Absolutely incredible.  Unfortunately, the picture I took, even with B's enhancements, is horribly blurry and you can't see anything.  I guess that just means you'll have to go to Solstice and order them for yourself.  I wonder if these are ever made with other fruit combinations.  I would imagine that they would be equally good, and could vary as new fruits come into season.  The only thing about dessert that didn't do it for me was the coffee.  I love coffee, and think it's a great way to end a meal.  But this coffee just didn't do it.  And it could have been because by the time we ordered dessert, it was almost closing time, but still.  However, as the only semi-not good thing through the entire meal, I'm willing to let it slide.  And I'll try it again, hopefully earlier in the evening.

Bottom line?  We had an amazing time at Solstice.  The service was excellent (thanks Allen!), the food was some of the best I've ever had, and the atmosphere was cozy.  The manager came over a few times to check in and see how we were doing.  While I would like to think that's because he recognized me, I noticed that he did the same for every table in the restaurant.  It's nice to know that the staff is dedicated to making sure that everyone has an enjoyable dining experience.  I will definitely be back, and probably soon.  I don't know how long I'll be able to resist the call of the spring rolls.

Final Rating

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1 comment:

  1. Every one of your posts makes me hungry! And now in particular I want to be back in KW, if not on the beach then at that awesome rooftop restaurant we ate at once. Too bad I think it burned down :(