April 21, 2022

The dining room at QuinceBefore you read this, take a look at the photo of the dining room at Quince. If you see it as I do, it is elegant, formal, "perfect"...and boring. Or at least, nothing exciting.

That's also a perfect description of the meal.

Quince is a 3-Michelin star, hyper-seasonal restaurant. With few exceptions, I can't fault the food. It was top quality, beautiful and well-made. The staff made no mistakes (except for an awkward beginning). But the entire experience was flat. Uninspired. It lacked character or teeth. It was perfection for perfection's sake, but yearning for soul.

There were a few standouts. And I must confess that in writing this review a few days later, some of the bites did come back to me as truly delicious. The clam broth was stellar, and the granita was top-notch. Their caviar presentation was special. But there wasn't a thing I would urge you to come try. There won't be a dish I remember.

The staff fit the bill. Helpful, friendly, formal. But soulless. I almost wanted to say something outlandish ("THIS DISH WAS AWFUL!!!") just to see if I could break them out of always saying the "right" thing. I'm sure if I had, they would have remained in character and responded: "Very good, sir..."

This is the type of restaurant Michelin loves. Finessed, high-brow, refined. But I wish there was more gut. More heart and more soul. I don't see a need to return.

Opening canapes...spring onion tartlet, farm shallot
Cracker with halibut
Sunchoke chip, tuna tartare
Fennel cream, Saffron sauce, mussel. That saffron sauce was quite delicious!
I added the caviar supplement. This is how it was presented...
Inside: caviar, panna cotta (the white lining the bottom), egg yolk, chives and horseradish. Served with Dom Perignon champagne. The panna cotta was like a nice mayo or solid yogurt with a faded note of citrus. I found this dish wanting some punch until I had it on the...
Brioche it came with. The salt in the bread brought great balance, though I found the brioche overly butter-soaked. Normally I wouldn't complain about that but that fat competed with (instead of complemented) the caviar.
English peas, crawfish, espellet (pepper oil), avacado, almond wood smoke. Flavors here were very interesting - each bite needed some of that espellet. The peas were slightly mushy instead of crisp. I'm not sure if that was intended, though I kept asking myself that with each bite, so... :)
Shaved clam, celtuse, dichon, potato craam. The cream was extra bright with citrus, which perfectly cut through the celtuse and clam. Served with...
Clam tea. Clam broth added to freeze dried wasabi. Wow! Best bite of the night for sure. This was incredibly delicious. But I do love clam broth.
Spanish mackerel, asparagus, coriander blossom, radish, caramelized creme fresche, olives. A beautifully balanced dish.
White asparagus (pulled from a vat of braising liquid in a huge glass jar right at the table), meyer lemon, aromatics, sweetbreads, morels. Supple asparagus balanced by a bright meyer lemon sauce and counterbalanced by sweetbreads (best I've ever had) and morel mushrooms. Served with meyer lemon brioche - I'm not sure what that added. I would have enjoyed this dish more had Lazy Bear not knocked asparagus out of the park the night previous.
Spaghetti in smoked sturgeon stock, with beet juice and yuzu added, served with sturgeon cream. A tad salty overall, but the spaghetti was PERFECT, and the sturgeon flavor subtle but permeating. The caviar didn't add much to this.
Black truffle, potato, green garlic puree. Like a really big gnocchi with truffle, cream and crispy potato. Burrata filling, anchovy under the truffle. My favorite flavors in a single dish. But quite heavy following the spaghetti.
Lamb from Stemple Creek Ranch - all the cuts. Fava bean, fennel in a few preps, including braised in lamb fat. Below the radish was confit fennel. Lamb jus. A lamb sausage was brought to the plate fresh from the grill. (Curious if that was planned or just forgotten.) Solid dish, but nothing amazing. Lamb and fennel work so well together.
Guava, straw compote, granita, tarragon. I lied. THIS may have been the best dish of the evening, though needed after 3 heavy, rich courses.
Seville orange, honey, fig leaf, chocolate. Super bright sugary orange, smooth creamy mousse, sharp dark chocolate cutting through. Orange is a gummy bear consistency.
The dessert cart. By this time, I was ready to kill myself from being so full.
This painting was in my view the entire evening. It was stunning. Chef was an artist before being a chef. The artwork in the room is terrific. He partners with a museum who curates most of it for the restaurant.

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