after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Call Me Abe

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t says: bw hit up Solomonov’s latest restaurant, Abe Fisher, and volunteered a beautiful review.  Let’s see how he liked it!

bw says:  As I was the first to arrive, I had to wait at the bar until everyone else got there, which gave me time to survery the terrain, and to see that Solomonov himself was there overseeing the new place, heightening the expectation for the food to come. The wine list had a nice selection of different varietals. However, all of the wine was $12/glass! While there are times where I’ll spend that much for a glass, it’s nice to have options in the $8 or so range. Knowing some of the wines on the list, I knew they ranged between $8 and $16 per bottle, so having a few on a lower price range didn’t seem too unreasonable.

As more of our party arrived, it became apparent that our table wasn’t going to be ready soon. In the end we ended up waiting half an hour for our reservation, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except that we all had to get up early the next day and so were fading by the hour. I attribute the delay to it being a new place crowded for restaurant week, and the staff still trying to figure out how long each table would linger, with the result that tables were booked to close together in time. The staff was very nice with multiple people coming up to apologize including the manager. In these conversations, it seemed as if they were going to offer us something on the house, but they didn’t which meant the conversations sometimes ended with the awkward thought of “but…”. In the end, they gave us an extra dish as a suprise in the middle of the meal, which was very nice, but we didn’t know that at the time.

Eventually we did get seated, so now we can talk about the food. The menu is set out as three sections (veggies, fish, and meat with five options in each catergory), and you select one item from each per person to be shared amongst the table. So, with four of us we had everything but one from each set. Note that our menu was subtly different throughout that than which was online (perhaps the one online was a preliminary one). The meal starts with a selection of savory rugelach, which I was pleased to see as a baking fanatic and lover of rugelach. There were three options with a different topping (poppy, sesame, and caraway) and filling in each. I can’t remember the fillings as much as they were pretty subtle (with the taste being dominated by the topping and the dough), but I think they were prune, chicken, and fish. Even though the fillings were playing only a supporting role, the dough itself was a perfect rugelach texture with a crisp exterior and soft interior.

The first round (vegetables dishes) then came out. First was kasha varniskes, which were basically ravioli, their soft texture contrasting nicely with crisp peas. Next was borscht tartare which was juliened beets with a roe topping. The beet flavor was good, but at first there wasn’t much to distinguish these from other beets. For the second spoonful though, I sampled them with a piece of the hard-boiled egg which was on the plate seemingly as a garnish, and this extra element really elevated the dish by adding a second texture and a nice smooth undernote of egg flavor. We then got roasted brussel sprouts, which were accompanied by a nut (which I think were marcona almonds, although this dish isn’t on the menu posted online, so I can’t confirm). Again, the brussel sprouts themselves weren’t any better than those that seem trendy on many menus now, but the contrast between them and the nuts and cream sauce was nice. The last course was roasted carrots which soon made itself apparent as the “dark horse favorite”, possibly the best carrots I’ve ever hard. They were cut into small chunks and had a nice soft exterior, a firm interior, and a hint of char. Served with pumpernickel croutons that had the just the right combination of crunch and chew and topped with gouda, this dish was the stand-out of the vegetables.

The fish dishes started with a raw and marinated duo of bass, which was good, although not really memorable. Next up was a gefilte fish (which was trout stuffed in trout), which was also good, although I can’t conjure up the particulars. The smoked sable cake, was SMOKED. It had a nice contrast between a crisp crust and a soft fishcake middle, but the smoke taste was almost too overwhelming. We then had a grilled salmon over corn and tomato slaw. I’m not a salmon fan, so I was hesistent, but this dish is how to convert people to salmon; by far the best salmon I’ve ever had, with the salmon-ness not being too overwhelming and a great gradient between the side on the grill and the other. Then, they brought the shrimp fried rice, which we hadn’t ordered, but was on the house to compensate for the delay. It was a firm rice patty topped with shrimp, pastrami, and a barely poached yolk (which was a little “food trends of five years ago” but did add a nice note to the dish). The rice was nicely done, however I think the shrimp and pastrami got a little lost. This dish probably would have been great when shared between two people where each person would have gotten more of the two meats, but split amongst four, they went a little thin.

By now had become apparent the one flaw in the service. We were still using the same plates we started with (and would the entire night). This (along with pacing) is a quandry that happens at every tapas-style restaurant. Amada always seems more interested in giving you ten items at once than they are at making sure you’re able to eat them all at the their hottest and freshest. There the plates can become an issue too, but at least enough of the items are served on toasts or don’t have sauces, that your plate doesn’t become too messy and they just change it once in the middle. But at Abe Fisher, every dish needs to be spooned onto your plate while sharing, and all of them have sauces or toppings. So, your plate quickly becomes a mess. It’s then a shame that all of the flavors can get mingled together and degraded as the meal goes on. I wish they had changed the plates after each flight of courses.

Corned pork belly led the meat courses out. This was thin slices of pork belly topped with a raisin chutney and little challah. They all went really well together, but once the bread note ran out (as their wasn’t much) you were left with the thin pork belly, and although the contrast of the fat and corning rub was nice, the actual pork flavor seemed to get pushed to the side. Up next were the veal schnitzel tacos. These almost didn’t make the cut of the dishes we ordered, but they were the universal choice for the best dish all night. The veal was perfectly done with a light breading providing a good crunch and a radish salad on top providing a crispness. We then had the sweet and sour meatballs, which had a lot of flavors going on that all melded very well together. Unfortunately, there were very few meatballs in the dish and it was mostly zucchini, and as someone who doesn’t like zucchini this meant that I didn’t get very much of this dish. Last was a Roumanian skirt steak that like all the meat was perfectly cooked. It was another standout which was harmed only by the broccoli topping (which was very flavorful) being slightly overcooked.

Next came dessert. These we essentially got individually, but I first got a little taste of the black and white cookie cheesecake ordered by someone else. I can’t remember the flavor of the “black” side; “white” was lemon. Both were tasty with a nice texture that was softer than what I would have expected from a classic cheesecake. My main dessert was an apple strudel, which was overall phenomenal. It didn’t get to the apple-pinnacle attained by “apples for Olivia” at Pomme in St. Louis, but it was an amazing apple dessert with apples baked into a nice thick caramelized crust and topped with walnuts. While I loved the hearty thick chewy crust, it meant that when baked into a muffin shape, it had structural integrity problems, in that it was hard to cut off pieces without crushing the whole thing. It might have worked better in a more traditional flat strudel shape.

So, overall, it was a great meal worth the hype and the wait. It had some of the same strong northern European spice notes as Noord, but whereas there they tended to dominate the two dishes you would order, at Abe Fisher there was more of a contrast across all of the many dishes so that you could get the strong notes of such things as caraway without them overwhelming the palate. And even though as is evident above, some of the dishes were less memorable than others, almost everything was perfectly cooked, and each dish offered a unique contrast of textures. In addition to the tapas-style menu perused above, the menu also offers two larger dishes in a Hungarian Duck and Montreal-Style Ribs. Our waitress described the ribs to us, and although I can’t remember all the specifics of the preparation, they sounded amazing. I definitely want to go back to try them (be forewarned: they take 45 minutes to prepare to order, so call ahead).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 September 2014 at 12:10pm

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