Posted on Jul 10, 2012 | 5 comments
The chef approached our table. Instinctively, I sat up straighter, excited, as if I’d been approached by a celebrity (and in my eyes I had). He smiled. I smiled.
“I’m Chef Majid Amoorpour.”
My grin widened as I recalled thinking this restaurant, his restaurant, Bistro La Bon specialized in French food. Not quite (thankfully), despite what the name suggests. I looked up at the chef, still starstruck, as he asked if we had any allergies. We did not. Then he asked if there was anything we generally did not enjoy eating. Immediately, the words “RAW MEAT” scrawled through my thoughts in giant blood red letters, but as I began to relay this tidbit to the chef, I hesitated. Something about him–his warm demeanor, or the way he stood so serenely with his hands gently clasped in front on him, or maybe it was just his easy smile–made me trust him. I wanted to eat anything he cooked. I wanted to go wherever he wanted to take me. I wanted to put the world in his hands.
So, I asked him to surprise us.
The chef nodded then headed back to the kitchen, and I settled into my chair. Jarrod raised his eyebrows and grinned. This would be more than a meal–this ten-course tasting would be the ultimate dining experience.
One by one, the dishes emerged from the kitchen, and we listened intently as our server, Matt, described each in enticing detail.
Course one: salmon tartare with lemon zest, sesame cracker, and fresh dill. My heart sank as soon as I laid eyes on the dish. Though I’d never tried it, I was fully aware “tartare” meant R-A-W. It’s an adjective I’ve purposely avoided on every menu I’ve been presented, with zero pause for consideration. But here, the start of ten courses at Bistro La Bon, I felt venturesome. Jarrod and I lifted the crackers gingerly to our mouths then slammed them down in single swift swallows.
It took me a minute to sift through my thoughts, quit focusing on the word “RAW!”, and think about the taste. Honestly, it wasn’t bad. Surprisingly light and bright, actually, with a lovely lemon flavor. I can’t say I’d ever order tartare on my own, but wasn’t that the point of this tasting? To try new and interesting things? To go wherever the chef wanted to take us?
Course two: fresh buffalo mozzarella with local heirloom tomatoes, sea salt, and cracked black pepper with a balsamic reduction.
This beautiful dish was one of my favorites of the night. I’m a sucker for caprese. Actually, I’m a sucker for cheese, period, and this mozzarella was soft and supple like a freshly poached egg.
I noticed the use of microgreens in each of the first two courses, and learned from our server, that they came directly from Lucky Leaf Gardens in Harrisburg, NC.
Course three: potato gnocchi with browned butter, balsamic, asparagus, parmesan, and a leek and shallot puree. The gnocchi were delicate and the slightest bit sweet. I popped them into my mouth one at a time, and closed my eyes as each piece melted away ever so slowly. The softness of the gnocchi in contrast with the crisp yet tender asparagus made this dish an easy favorite.
Course four: crispy avocado with a sweet balsamic chili sauce. A thin wonton wrapper encased the avocado, which when quickly fried resulted in a paper thin crispy shell. As I bit in, I tasted fresh basil, asparagus, and roasted red pepper surrounded by creamy hot avocado, which had the comforting consistency of warmed cream cheese.
Course five: seared sea scallop with leek puree, browned butter, and microgreens. The scallop was so tender that my fork sliced into it with the ease of cutting cheesecake. The leek puree and browned butter sauce were reminiscent of mashed potatoes and gravy. This course was yet another favorite of the evening, and one that I highly recommend.
Course six: prawn and toasted noodle. This Spanish inspired dish reminded me of paella with its peas and bits of shrimp and andouille sausage swimming in house made prawn jus. The addition of toasted noodles was an inventive twist.
Course seven: citrus foam palate cleanser. Light as air and refreshing as a sweet mandarin orange.
Course eight: Swedish meatball. When I think of Swedish meatballs, I think of bite-sized meatballs coated in a thick sickeningly sweet jelly. Needless to say, I’m not usually a fan, but Chef Amoorpour’s version blew me away. The hearty meatball was large, firm, and moist with visible bits of onion interspersed throughout. The meat was covered with a slightly-sweet slightly-tart Lingonberry sauce, and was perched a top a thick creamy potato puree. It was all that I could ask for in a meatball, and I was a little heartbroken my belly didn’t have enough room for the entire course. I even considered asking for a to-go box for the remnants of my half-eaten meatball.
Course nine: duck breast with parsnip puree. The sweet English peas made another appearance on this plate, adding little pops of sweetness to contrast the tender duck meat. I thought the duck was good, but Jarrod thought it was absolutely amazing. He kept commenting on the surface of the meat–some sort of crust or char that he really enjoyed. In the midst of devouring not only his duck but also most of mine, he dropped a glob of the parsnip puree on the table. Without hesitation, he scooped it up with his fork and shoveled it into his mouth–it was too good to waste. (This coming from the man who refuses to let his silverware touch the table at any cost.) I think it’s safe to declare this course one of his top picks of the evening.
Course ten: fresh strawberries over a rhubarb puree with cream and crumbled cookie. By this course, the last of daylight had escaped us, and after the variety of flavors we’d tasted, this was a perfectly simple and light conclusion to an amazing dinner.
Bistro La Bon hosts these 10-course culinary menu tours every Thursday for $35 per person, and the tasting menu changes weekly. If you are looking for more than a meal–a really special dining experience–please treat yourself to a tasting. Bistro La Bon also hosts a brunch buffet every Sunday, and I have heard rave reviews on their bread pudding and coconut macaroons (I’ll be heading back for these very very soon).
As an added bonus, I’m told the men’s bathroom smells really nice (thank you, Jarrod) .