Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Iridescence, Detroit MI

On 05/27/08 my mother had yet another birthday and for the first time in my life (yes, medical school takes a tad longer than people think) I had the financial ability to take her out for some true 'fine dining.' As mom lives in Toledo and there is a dearth of quality options available, I told her to browse Detroit and make a selection for breakfast and dinner. For dinner she selected Iridescence at the Motor City Casino. Having eaten at many higher end restaurants, both at casinos and independent, I browsed the online menu and was impressed despite the relative lack of reviews. I was additionally wowed by the impressive photos since the recent move to swanky settings high above Detroit. Reservations for three were made for 6:30pm on a Tuesday.

Arriving early, we decided to check out the MCC first and similar to what I’ve read, we were modestly impressed by the unique setup, but mostly underwhelmed as compared to MGM Detroit or any number of Vegas options. After approximately an hour we asked a security guard how to find Iridescence and were told to head over to the hotel. Arriving at the hotel we were greeted by a young lady who confirmed our reservations on the first floor and were then walked to another individual who guided us to an exclusive elevator that whisked us to the 16th floor of the hotel. Stepping off the elevators we were greeted again by another friendly man who guided us past the beautiful glass bar to the enormous dining area with 40+ foot ceilings and windows, open kitchen, spacious tables, and marble and silver as far as the eye could see. While Detroit may not be the attractive city, the view was almost breathtaking and the ambiance perfect.

Upon being seated at a nice half-moon booth facing the window, one of our servers stopped by with a bottle of Pellegrino and broken-English. When informed that we would prefer tap water, the waiter pressured us and when we declined again simply sauntered off, returning approximately 5 minutes later with water. I do not believe he spoke to us the rest of the evening, but he did keep the glasses filled appropriately. In similar fashion, another waiter appeared with the bread basket approximately one minute later and once again, his command of our language was poor at best. We were each given two options of the six fantastic breads (sourdough, raisin toast, parmesan cheese, garlic herb, 8-grain, olive and rosemary) as well as cold butter and olive oil with balsamic and these were replenished repeatedly after a single request to our main server. Our main server was fortunately well versed in English and pleasant, although perhaps a bit too “professional.” While she knew the menu and was very helpful, I do not believe she smiled during the first hour and a half of the meal, or at least up until she sang Happy Birthday to my mother during dessert.

Menus were soon delivered and much to my disappointment, two of the items from the website were absent: The Cinnamon Lavender Pheasant and the Applewood Wrapped Cornish Game Hen. I realize the menu changes with the season, but I was very much looking forward to the pheasant. Similarly, the Red Snapper listed on the menu (and ordered by my mother) was out of stock and replaced by a Chilean Sea Bass. Similarly, three of the desserts listed on the website were conspicuous by their absence. While these are minor gripes as the replacement dishes were quite excellent, it is my opinion that attention to detail matters. After selecting our appetizers and mains, our server returned with a fantastic amuse bouche consisting of Heirloom tomatoes, brioche, 25yr Balsamic, and onions. Explosive in flavor and pretty in presentation, this item should certainly be added to the menu as a bruchetta on the tapas menu.

Appetizers arrived in short order, along with more bread, and everything was unique, appealing, and plated creatively. For the three of us we shared the Goat Cheese Croquttes with Basil and Oregano reduction, the Study of Crab 4 Ways, Chicken Peanut Sate with Spicy Peanut Sauce, and Soup flight with sandwich consisting of Yellow Tomato Bisque, Lobster Bouillabaisse, Coconut Melon Parfait, and a Foie Gras Panini with Eggplant and aged Balsamic. Standouts included the Spicy peanut sauce, the baked saffron and truffle section of the Crab, the Foie Gras Panini, and most of all the Coconut Melon Parfait which was warm, creamy, and salty sweet in perfect balance. Misses included the Lobster Bouillabaisse which tasted far too briny and the cilantro inundated selection of the crab study. Dunking a Foie Gras Panini in Yellow Tomato Bisque was divine and the leftover peanut sauce spread on the raisin toast would make a great tapas item, as well.

For our mains, I selected the Applewood Organic Chicken with pan sauce, Shallots, Carrots, Parsnips, Beets, Creamy Brie, and Morel Pilaf which arrived in impressive fashion as the server removed a tie from the cornhusk wrapper in which the risotto was baked to reveal the amazing scent of fresh morels and saffron. As expected, the pilaf stole the show and was the best rice dish to ever grace my palate. It truly is unfortunate that morels are only available for limited parts of the year. Like the risotto, the vegetables were delectable, fresh, and expertly prepared while the soft chunk of brie, although out of place, was wonderful both with the vegetables and spread on a piece of sourdough. With all the accompaniments the chicken was almost overlooked, but in reality it was perfect and tender with a wonderful apple tone, but the skin served on the side was a little too salty for my taste.

My mother, not normally a fish eater, selected the Blackened Chilean Sea Bass with Asparagus, Crab Grits, and Micro Greens on my recommendation and was very impressed with the dish from top to bottom. Fortunately I was given an opportunity to taste and can certainly say the bass was stellar with hints of olive oil and spicy/earthiness that complemented the mild natural flavor. The Asparagus was similarly delicious and expertly prepared while the crab grits were good, albeit somewhat flavorless aside from the large chunks of crab (not a bad thing, but why not give the grits some potency of their own?) All told, mom was very happy and that is what matters.

My Aunt opted to go with the Iridescence Caesar (Baby Hearts of Romaine, Reggiano Black Pepper Tuile, Fried Quail Egg, Roasted Tomato, Caesar Dressing) and a Jumbo lump crab cake with leek Fondue and fire Roasted Red Pepper Coulis for her main and was thoroughly content with her option. While I am not a Caesar fan, I will admit that the size and quality of the salad was impressive and the Tuile was stellar. The crab cake too was sizeable, delicious, and contained nearly no filler while the leek fondue was perfect and nearly managed to steal the show from the crab with its creative and aromatic presentation.

Feeling quite stuffed already from the impressive portion sizes and number of dishes, we all still made room for dessert and were richly rewarded. While I was disappointed that the Michigan apple dessert and Key Lime Soufflé from the website were absent, there is no doubt that the Iridescence Pastry Chef Tricia Nash has earned her title of 2007 Pastry Chef of the Year. Along with dessert I opted for coffee which I can say without any hesitation was the best I’ve had at a restaurant ever. While the pricetag for the individual French press was steep ($9) the coffee was served with an ounce of high quality chocolate shavings, two spun sugar stirrers, cinnamon stick, and cream. While the coffee itself was amazing, the addition of chocolate and cinnamon was delectable.

The desserts selected included mom’s “The Lantern” with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Mousse, Lavender Crème Brûlée, Champagne Peaches, and Raspberry Sherbet (complete with happy birthday sign and song,) Aunt’s “Iridescence Sampler” with Obsession Layers, Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich, Chocolate Cheesecake Lollipop with Raspberry Sauce, Warm Chocolate Cake, and Vernors™ Milkshake, and my Chocolate Fritters with Marinated Cherries and Peanut Brittle Ice cream.

As we were all quite full, desserts were shared around and sampled by all. The standout items of the desserts were the ice-creams in all three cases, the Vanilla bean Mousse, and the Warm Chocolate Cake. Regarding the ice cream, the peanut brittle version is amongst the best flavors I’ve ever experienced with its wonderful balance of salt and sweet resting atop crumbled nuts. Similar in presentation, the raspberry was served on a bed of crumbled cookie/nuts and formed a frozen cobbler of sorts with a great textural balance of crunchy and smooth. The ice cream sandwich was also amazing and tasted like a frozen Andes’ mint wrapped in a soft cold oreo. The only disappointment of any of the myriad options was the Chocolate fritters themselves which were raved about and purchased on the waitress’s recommendation…I personally found them uninspiring, small, and merely an accessory to the wonderful ice cream and cherries….the cake on the sampler was better, by far.

After the meal we sat, talked, and digested for a while and gazed at the skyline. As I finished my coffee the check ($190 for 3 people, not bad at all) was delivered along with 3 petite fours (Coconut Chocolate cookie, Butterscotch caramel, mini biscotti roll.) Prior to leaving our waitress snapped a family photo with my camera and wished us a wonderful evening and we were escorted out in a similar manner to our arrival.

All said, Iridescence is a 5-star chef and pastry chef preparing meals with 5-star ingredients in 5-star surroundings foiled from perfection by a less than stellar and far too serious support staff, a little too much seasoning in some dishes and not enough in others, and an online menu bait-n-switch (of sorts.) While not QUITE perfect, the evening was wonderful and the vast majority of the foods were on par with any fine dining experience I’ve had. I would certainly not hesitate to recommend this restaurant to anyone in Detroit or visiting for a great meal at a great price in beautiful and elegant surroundings.

Detroit's Breakfast House and Grill, Detroit MI

Funky and high class at the same time. Upscale "southern" breakfast foods served in a beautiful restaurant with friendly servers and light motown music playing in the background. Interesting varieties of pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs, and fried chicken/pork/catfish. So why only 3 stars? Let me explain.

Plusses: I loved the setting, the seating, the friendly servers, and 3 of the 5 items we selected. I loved the music, the hospitality, and the layout.

Minuses: I hated 2 of the 5 items we selected, it took 14 minutes to get a refill of my coffee and longer to get water refilled, and no corn bread.

Both the Banana's Foster French Toast and especially Franks stuffed toast were excellent. The Pullman/Sourdough was perfectly cooked, spiked with just a bit of cinnamon, and had a heavenly vanilla undertone. The Rum/Maple syrup served with the Banana's Foster was heavenly and the bananas were perfectly ripe while the creamcheese/whipped cream topping filling Frank's Stuffed French Toast was very mild and airy, yet at the same time endulgant and creamy. The apples in the Stuffed Toast....they worked in the context of this dish......

.....utilizing the same apples in on the Waffle, however, did not. Why a nice restaurant would stoop to using canned apple pie filling is beyond me. If they want to hide it in the stuffed toast, that is fine, but to simply glop a large luke-warm portion of it on a doughy and undercooked waffle......poor form. Having had southern style waffles and chicken at Roscoes in the past, I can definitely say that the waffles here were mediocre and the addition of the apples harmed the dish more than helping it. I've had cafeteria waffles in college that were better.

For sides we selected the grits and the Canadian bacon. To be honest, the cheesy grits were legendary and were actually better than King crab grits we had the same evening at Iridescence. The spicy popcorn shrimp and green peppers added an interesting twist to the dish and at $6 the portion was nearly meal sized and wonderfully creamy and savory to contrast with the sweet French Toast.

The Canadian Bacon didn't fare as well, however, as it was vastly oversalted and was barely palatable even with the addition of maple syrup. The price, at $4, was also excessive.

While the food had its hits and misses and I'd definitely return for the grits and the french toast, I likely will never return here for breakfast because of the service. While servers were INCREDIBLY friendly, the owners of this establishment are clearly tightwads (the apple pie filling is one indicator) and make their servers also bus tables and handle refills.......which are handled poorly. If there is one thing that can ruin a breakfast in my world, it is sitting around with an empty cup and I felt like I did WAY too much of this at Breakfast House as my waiter helped other tables, bussed tables, and set up for incoming diners. Hiring a couple busboys who bus tables and refill coffee could do this place a world of good.

Finally, when I go someplace for 'southern' or 'soulfood,' I have an expectation of cornbread. As this place did not have any, I was disappointed. Perhaps that is unfair, but considering the 'southern' nature and focus on fried foods, biscuits, etc.....why English Muffins and no cornbread?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bourbon Steak, Detroit Michigan

There are good meals, there are great meals, and there are meals that you talk about 10 years later with stars in your eyes......prior to yesterday I'd had only one or two of those types of meals at a restaurant. Then Michael Mina added another. For me, the best way to show a customer that you really are a step above other "fine dining" experiences is to go above and beyond not only what is expected, but even what isn't.

Calling two weeks ahead, reservations for two were made at Bourbon Steak for 6:00pm on a Saturday night. As the event grew closer, it suddenly became apparent that not only was this trip going to be special for the food and hanging out with my oldest friend for the first time in 6 months, but also for the atmosphere....Wings in the Finals, Pistons in the Semis, and Tigers at Comerica....for once Detroit was THE place to be. In order to confirm our reservations I e-mailed three days prior to the meal and having read glowing reviews of Mina's famous pot pie in the past I inquired if there was any possibility of ordering this item at Bourbon Steak despite it only being on the Saltwater Menu. Within 45 minutes of my mailing, an individual named Zac responded that not only could they make the Lobster Pot Pie, but they would also gladly provide anything from Saltwater's menu to accommodate our dining experience.

As Bourbon Steak and Saltwater are both located within the MGMGrand Detroit Casino, the place was alive, vibrant, and bustling. Having been to Vegas thrice, I must say the MGMGrand Detroit is every bit as "Vegas" as a place outside Nevada can be. Shiny, bright, boisterous, and classy yet accessible.....plus I don't need an aircraft to get there. Arriving at the Mina 'complex' on the casino floor, we were warmly greeted and quickly seated in a private back room in the maze of lattice-worked hardwoods. While it wasn't noted at first, a later look at the restaurant layout showed a large back dining area, open kitchen, and beautiful bar/lounge at the front; everything was dynamic, dramatic, and gleaming while the staff was attentive, well dressed, and smiling at all times. Our server was prompt, knowledgeable of the entire menu (though less-so of Saltwater's menu as she didn't work there,) capable with her suggested wine pairings, and willing to find out anything she didn't know in short order. Additionally the manager, water and bread servers, and even Zac from my e-mail stopped by multiple times to make sure all was perfect.

For starters my buddy opted for a glass of cabernet which he was allowed to sample prior to purchase and we were served the trio of Duck fat fries - Smoked Paprika and Mustard, Saffron and Garlic, and Rosemary and Onion with trio of sauce - Smoked Paprika and Mustard Crme Frache, Saffron and Garlic Aoli, and Onion Ketchup. The fries were perfectly executed with subtle flavors vastly enhanced by the three sauces and crispy on the outside with a baked potato texture within. Our second starter was an absolutely glorious cornbread served in a small iron skillet. The corn was pureed and undetectable aside from the wonderful flavor and we finished the pan before our service team delivered the salted maple butter...thankfully our server was more than willing to bring a second pan, as good as the first, and complimented beautifully by the creamy butter.

For our mains, after much debate (There were 11 options that sounded appealing,) I selected the Lobster Pot Pie from Saltwater's menu while my friend chose the 18oz dry age bone-in Ribeye, King Crab, and Truffled Mac n' Cheese. As the Pot Pie requires half an hour cooking time, we chatted and my friend enjoyed another glass of wine.

Much to my delight, the Pot Pie arrived with a show as the manager from Saltwater came over, chatted with us, and proceeded to cut the top off the pie and rearrange the lobster anatomically on the crust, then ladling the incredible mixture over the crustacean. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video should suffice nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38ms5mCL_fY To call the flavor glorious would be a vast understatement as the perfectly butter poached lobster literally melted in the mouth while the scallions, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, truffles, butter, wine, and crme fraiche formed a complex yet smooth medley on the buttery crisp crust. As the dish is charged at market price based on lobster weight (2.5lbs) the price was the most I've ever spent for a meal, but I can honestly say every aspect of it was worth the cost.

While I was beyond pleased with my selection, my friend noted that his steak was merely okay and wished that he had splurged for the Kobe (which I'd originally suggested anyhow.) He did note that the King Crab was amazing and was gracious enough to allow me to taste the Mac n' Cheese which was absolutely sublime with its mixture of cheeses, al dente pasta, and crispy truffled topping. Portion sizes for all items were larger than expected for fine dining and even before dessert both of us were quite full.

Noting the quality of the meal and the specialness of the day, dessert was not to be missed, no matter how full. Once again, our wonderful server gave us the menus for both Saltwater and Bourbon Steak and my buddy chose Saltwater's Chocolate Molten Cake with Cream Cheese Mousse and Cinnamon Ice cream (devoured quickly and noted as "just enough,") while I chose the Beignets from Bourbon Steak. As the beignets normally come with one of 3 dipping sauces, I inquired which was best and after hearing an explanation still could not decide. It was then that our waitress suggested she could simply bring out all 3 and let me decide. While this invariably led to me eating far too much, I once again have no regrets. While the beignets were soft on the inside and perfectly crisp and sugary on the outside, the show was definitely stolen by the accompaniments - Madagascar Vanilla Creme Brulle, Chocolate Pot De Creme, and Macallan 12yr butterscotch pudding.

The Brulle was good enough to be served on its own and easily the best vanilla version I've ever tasted. The Pot De Crme was incredibly rich with a thick top layer that had cooled slightly and an underlying dark chocolate cream that exploded on the tongue with hints of cinnamon and spice the texture of brownie batter. While those two were stellar, the butterscotch was mindblowing with a thin skin on top of a rich, full, and creamy vanilla butterscotch with tones of bourbon and perhaps honey. Dessert was taken with a stellar Italian coffee service with a thick body, minimal acidity, and rich flowery undertone.

All told, the meal took approximately 2:15 and a hefty hit on the credit card, but every aspect of it was worth the time and expense. The check was delivered with two hand crafted bourbon caramels that melted in the mouth and provided one last exclamation point on a flawless meal. In my opinion, time with friends or family and time with great food and great service is always time worth spending and I am grateful that Bourbon Steak provided such a wonderful experience. Michael Mina is a very established restaurateur and his menu speaks for itself, yet clearly this fame has not led to complacency as the meticulous staff still continues to bend over backwards to make your experience wonderful. I would strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone as the very best restaurant experience I've had in the Midwest, and possibly ever.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cafe Marie, Toledo Ohio

Breakfast at Marie/Scrambler Marie/Cafe Marie has been a Toledo institution for breakfast for years and speaks soundly to the lack of quality breakfast joints in Toledo. While some of the omelette options seem interesting, I can make better eggs at home for less money. Wanting pancakes, I ordered pancakes. A big breakfast fan and especially a fan of pancakes, the concept of "bottomless" pancakes seemed perfect to me. Bottomless pancakes and french toast in a multitude of flavors for under $8 an order, even better......or so you would think. So, how does one make bottomless pancakes not amazing? By making not-amazing pancakes!

To keep this brief, while the options were certainly better than the transfat laden bellybombs at Bob Evans or IHOP, the flavor wasn't. My mother opted for the pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream which arrived just as described......3 dry pancakes made with Bisquick like batter, topped with frozen strawberries (thawed) and canned whipped cream. Lame. My sister selected the Berry Nutty cakes which had craisins and walnuts baked into the lifeless batter while I selected the almond and honey granola option. While both were better than mom's choice as the batter was slightly improved with the additions, neither were palatable without the addition of copious amounts of syrup (likely a storebought brand, certainly not 100% maple) from a glass pitcher.

Not digging the pancakes, my aunt selected the special "Stuffed" french toast with strawberry cream cheese. White bread wrapped around a smear of less-than-Panera-quality creamed cheese, and only griddle fried on the outsides (aka, white bread in the middle) and topped with powdered sugar. The dish tasted merely 'okay' but not even good enough for me to finish the one slice given to me to taste.

While the breakfast items were mediocre, I will give Marie's credit for their stunningly good coffee and tea service. 10+ different varieties of herbal teas plus large pitchers of hot water, plus two quality coffees (regular and a suprisingly good creme brulle) were served for only $1.50/person. Alas, our server was either new or simply bad at her job and completely forgot to return with refills, prompting us to ask a neighboring server for more coffee when the restaurant was less than 1/3 full.
All told, I'd not return to Marie's. While Toledo seems to lack good 'original' breakfast spots and I strongly dislike Bob Evans, IHOP, and Cracker Barrel, all provide better tasting pancakes and better overall service. For good pancakes in Toledo, check out Uncle Johns or Original Pancake House out towards Westgate. For good pancakes on the east side.....get on allrecipes.com and head over to Meijer for ingredients.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lindey's, Columbus Ohio

In the heart of the German Village lies a gem; a gem that has withstood the test of time and a gem that continues to shine with the changing times. While opinions of Lindey's may vary from experience to experience, there is no doubt that the landmark restaurant has earned its 18 straight years on Columbus' "Best Of" list. From the ambiance to the mood to the service to the food, Lindey's is as close to "5-star" as "traditional American cuisine" gets.......mostly because it isn't that traditional at all.

Originally making reservations for nine people at 6pm, our first obstacle occurred when one portion of the group canceled. 6 people instead of 9? No problem said the hostess via phone. Our second obstacle occurred when the Cavs/Celtics game went till 6:45. 6 people at 7:00? No problem. While Lindey's certainly wasn't jam packed, there were very few open tables and none of the open tables were large tables. Considering many of Columbus's "finest" restaurants are not even open on Sundays, it was excellent to have such accommodations made at the last minute, especially since this was a 10-years-post-freshman-year reunion and people were traveling from as far as 3 hours away to be there. As many of my dining companions were not familiar with gourmet dining, Lindey's was selected for its diverse ‘eclectic-yet-familiar’ menu, location, and shining reputation. While parking was a hassle (as always in the German Village,) no other aspect of Lindey’s was disappointing in the least.

On arrival we were seated immediately and our server, John B, provided menus, specials, and offered drinks. While other fancy places tend to ignore a table when wine isn’t ordered, John was on his game throughout the evening and water was refilled rapidly, questions answered quickly, and recommendations were provided when asked. The bread server was top notch, as well, with bread refilled without asking when the basket ran out. Speaking of bread, the pairing of flat asiago and rosemary lavash with a crusty Italian was very Spago-esque, though the plain unsalted butter was a bit of a letdown compared to the amazing flavored butters of Rosendales and BoMa. The lavash was actually better than the version at Spago, which is saying something, while the Italian was relatively plain but plenty crusty.

For appetizers, I selected the Ahi Tuna Tartare with wasabi and gaufrette potatoes and the Lobster bisque while two of my companions selected the French Onion soup and one chose the calamari and shrimp. The Calamari and shrimp was lightly fried and my friend said it was good while the French Onion got rave reviews from both of the people who ordered it. If the huge slab of perfectly toasted cheese was any indication, it looked amazing. The Ahi was pretty standard and though presented very nicely, the dish lacked avocado and was somewhat overseasoned. A huge complaint for me is when the Wasabi is placed directly on the tuna as opposed to on the side and Lindey’s made this mistake which required discarding a few small pieces of tuna that were absolutely saturated. For $13.50 I’d not order this dish again, especially after tasting BoMa’s offering….the best I’ve ever had. Where the Ahi lacked, the Lobster bisque more than compensated with an incredibly complex yet refined taste that didn’t suffer from the overspicing mistake many restaurants make. The olive oil base was additionally refined compared to the traditional butter/cream standard and makes this one of the better bisques I’ve had in quite some time. Spagio’s is the only other bisque in the city that I’ve tried which is on par.

For our mains, two individuals selected the Classic Tournedoes of Beef over toasted brioche with bernaise sauce and garlic potatoes and all three raved the flavor. As I’m not a beef eater I did not indulge, but the presentation was gorgeous. Two others selected the pizza of the day, a delectably flavored and textured BBQ chicken with gorgonzola, oregano, caramelized onions, and peppers. With a perfect crispy crust, succulent chicken, and a tangy yet sweet sauce balanced with beautifully mellow cheese, the dish shined. At $13 the pizza was the steal of the menu and neither individual could finish which allowed me to taste a piece. Highly recommended, perhaps as a sharable appetizer….hey, its better and cheaper than the Ahi.

My 5th companion selected the Portobello ravioli which, although small in portion, was presented nicely and smelled heavenly. For my main, I also went fungal and chose the Mushroom Wellington Portobellos wrapped in Puff Pastry with spinach, goat cheese, roasted peppers and tomatoe. The dish was beautifully presented, tasteful, and a perfect paradox of smooth/meaty, sweet/garlicky, and crispy/creamy. Everything about the dish worked and while I normally don’t opt for the vegetarian option I can say that this dish was truly special and one of my favorite things I’ve tasted in all of Columbus. The price, too, was incredible at a mere $15.

Stuffed with lavash, I still opted for dessert, as did two of my companions. While I make a point of ordering Tiramisu everywhere I go, this is one instance where our waiter may have been TOO honest. When asked “How is the Tiramisu,” his response of “pretty good” was then met with “Okay, I’ll try the bread pudding.” I’ve simply tried too many ‘amazing’ or ‘best in the city’ per-the-waiter Tiramisus to settle for “pretty good.” While 5 of the dessert options had appeal, I simply couldn’t resist the concept of Bing Cherry and Croissant Bread Pudding with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Banana Carmel Sauce, though in retrospect perhaps I should have. While quite delicious, the bread pudding itself was relatively bland and too wet. The addition of the Banana Carmel sauce certainly helped, but in general a bread pudding should stand on its own and then be complemented by the sauce. M at Miranova, Lolita’s Lust in Toronto, and Emeril (all 3 versions I’ve tried) still make the best bread puddings my palate has sampled.

Honestly, perhaps the reason I’m being hard on the Bread Pudding is because one of my companions ordered the Apple Tarte Tatin with carmelized Granny Smith Apples, Puff Pastry, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. If you want to imagine this dish, imagine you could melt an apple into butter, then cool it just enough to make a pudding and place it in a puff pastry…..then add icecream. The texture, flavor, presentation, and everything was smooth. For those who like a crusty pie, this won’t do. For those who like ‘amazing,’ this should be fine. Without a doubt one of my top 5 apple based desserts of all time (along with Spago, Worthington Inn, McCormick and Schmick's, and the Caramel Apple Pie I made for Christmas ’06.)

The third dessert ordered was Lindey’s famous Post-Mortem and although the dish appeared amazing, I simply couldn’t take that much chocolate on top of my already full belly. Those who tasted it noted that if they had finished it, they’d have likely died of a hyperosmolar coma from the sugar. :-)

While my review could very well be 5 stars, a few small points make this closer to 4.0-4.5. While it isn’t really the fault of Lindey’s, the parking situation was cumbersome and although valet was available, I’m not a fan of places that do not advertise their valet price so we deferred and walked 4 blocks. Secondly, the small portion, high price, and pre-added wasabi to the Ahi seemed as though Lindey’s was playing on what is ‘expected’ rather than the idea of being innovative with their tuna. Finally, the single uni-sex bathroom, while quaint, simply is not adequate when the restaurant is full and during at least three instances I noted lines of greater than 2 waiting for the facilities.

All told, the total bill for 6 was less than the total bill for 4 at Rosendales and the food was just as good, albeit less edgy and innovative. The service was great and the ambiance and noise level were perfect, as well. Like the Worthington Inn, Lindey’s is the kind of place where you can go with a group of college buddies just as easily as you could propose to your future wife. The menu spans from easy to challenging and mild to complex and should appeal to all. Quality vegetarian options as well as dynamic meat dishes, a great bread basket, fresh fish, and a myriad of quality desserts…Overall, wonderful.