November 18, 2021

There are certain go-to ingredients that scream luxury. I call them the "Luxury 5": wagyu, uni, caviar, foie gras and truffles. I am always impressed when restaurants avoid these ingredients and still manage to deliver world-class cuisine (see: Binkley's). Wagyu is only amazing...it's just a question of how amazing. All of these ingredients start at delicious and only go up from there. They can be elevated to an even higher level (see: CTBF) but often feel like the restaurant is pressing the easy button: expensive, luxurious ingredients that don't require much cooking skill to taste amazing. 

The Reserve Old Town fell into this trap. Sure, this was some serious cooking. And a few dishes really stood out as brilliant. But for a young chef that came out of Inn At Little Washington - a place known for creativity and out of the box thinking - I was surprise at how straight up the middle this meal was. Really well done, but uninspired. Like watching a fantastic movie with a plot you've seen 1000 times before: super enjoyable, but lacking imagination or a unique point of view.

Two exceptions were adding cotton candy to the soup and using olive oil cake to offset the gamey foie gras. Really creative and both concepts worked perfectly.

The Chef visited the table throughout - kudos to him. His manner was a bit awkward - he clearly hasn't found his comfort level there. But he seemed genuinely interested in feedback, and as I chatted with him in his kitchen after the meal, his exuberance for the food scene was clear. He is delivering a standard luxury meal - and doing it well! - but has yet to find his own voice. Completely fair for someone so young and likely in his first head chef role.

The restaurant is worth its (exorbitant) price point from the ingredients alone. The setting is perfect and inspiring. Service was solid, though a bit more informal than I would have expected from a restaurant like this. No regrets going. It would be a terrific first experience for someone new to the world of fine dining.

I won't rush back...though I'm guessing that in 3-4 years, this restaurant will change a lot and/or the chef will have moved on elsewhere.

Oyster, seaweed & nopal cured persimmon, buddha's hand, citrus begonia. Soil underneath was delicious - toasted amarinthe (ancient grain) and seaweed
Royal osetra caviar, smoked potato, pomme paillasson, preserved meyer lemon, herbed merengue...
Served with a a snazzy hashbrown, which was yummy.
The plate the caviar was served on was so beautiful.
Celery-apple-fennel veloute, aple cotton candy, hazelnut, country ham, fennel pollen. Cotton candy in a soup? And it worked! See the next video.
Red snapper, leek, fried egg vinaigrette, petite lettuces, cucumber, shoyu. Broth made from snapper bones and aromatics poured over seaweed to enhance the dish (see next video)
Corn pudding, lobster tail, vanilla, parmesan. This was delicious and a very smart dish - using parmesan as both a flavor offset (to a lot of sweetness) AND a texture offset (to the smooth ingredients)
Again - the dish this was served in was incredible.
They bring this box of truffles to the table for the next dish. I begged them to leave the box with me. They didn't.
Huitlacoche tamale, truffle, chanterelle mushroom, chicarron, salsa verde
Yuzu sorbet, sakura, gin, tonic, jasmine rice - a play on a gin and tonic. The rice was infused into the sorbet itself - very unique idea and totally worked.
Short rib cappelletti, goosberry, mustard seeds, sesame, mole, cress.
14 day dry aged squab, olive oil cake, foie gras, butternut squash, kumquat, armagnac. Wow. Really creative and intelligent dish.
Miyazaki A5 wagyu, root vegetables with...
A candle made of wagyu fat. They encourage you to dip the rosemary in the candle and brush your A5 with it. This may be the most embarrassingly over-the-top-luxurious dish ever created. It was delicious, but a bit embarrassing, to be honest.
Chocolate torte, pistachio, cherry, brandy.
Treats in a super cool box they unfold in front of you.
The interior was just beautiful
The setting - outdoors. Just gorgeous. That's my table right at the bottom.
Beautiful placesetting, with a custom welcome card.

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Replying to Steven Smith