Tuesday, January 29, 2008

BAR TARTINE Revisited****

Update: Bar Tartine has changed chefs.  The meal below was served when the kitchen was run by Jason Fox.

Nothing is better than having a great meal at a restaurant then returning months later and having an even more impressive meal. Bar Tartine is currently at the top of my list for a fine dining meal. On a Saturday evening, we enjoyed the Sun Marin Farms Shank Marrow and Grilled Walnut Bread, Grilled Sardines over blood orange salad, Roasted Lamb and Duck breast with Foie Gras Agnolotti, Cheese Course and a Lemon Trifle.

The marrow was a dish I had previously ordered and it was as delicious as before. The soft rich marrow mixed with sea salt and scooped onto caramelized walnut bread is something I will likely order every time I come here. M enjoyed the grilled sardines and felt the citrus flavor and peppery salad complimented the light sea flavor of the fish. I felt the fish was not as strong in sea flavor as I prefer, but the salad would be a good as a light starter on a warm summer evening.

The roast lamb consisted of two different cuts of lamb, one from the rib and the other from the loin. They were prepared the same way and in a savory brothy sauce that allowed the natural taste of the lamb to shine through. The two cuts of lamb had distinct flavors. One was lighter and the other was gamier, a very nice contrast that was highlighted by the preparation. I would not hesitate to order this if I found it on the menu again.

That is, if they aren't serving the duck breast with foie gras agnolotti. The duck breast was a cut in the shape of a long roll with the duck skin crisped and covering the top of the meat. It lay on a thin yet rich sauce and had several foie gras dumplings surrounding it. The duck breast was soft and tender while the skin added a crunchy smokey texture. Together with the sauce this would have been a wonderful dish. Then, I placed a dumpling on top of a slice of duck and cut it open. Out oozed foie gras onto the duck and into the surrounding sauce. One bite and I found myself making an involuntary yum sound. I immediately prepared a slice for M to try -- same reaction. Despite the decadence of the ingredients, I easily finished the entire dish. I love this cooking, simple recognizable ingredients, yet luxurious and completely focused. One of the best dishes I've had in recent memory.

We were full and satisfied, but couldn't bear to end the meal. The restaurant is so comfortable, the service friendly and gracious, we went on to have both a cheese course and dessert. The cheese course came with the three cheeses which I failed to note and accompaniments: fuji apple slices, marcona almonds, quince paste cut into triangles and local honey with honeycomb. I particularly liked pairing the quince paste or the honey with two of the cheeses.

We also enjoyed the lemon trifle dessert, but this was the one course that was not a strong as the rest of the meal. Perhaps my expectations are high for desserts, knowing how good the sweets are at their bakery. Or maybe I was just too full to appreciate it.

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