For anyone who doesn't know, the Omakase Style is where you put your trust in the Chef. For the most part, you want to come with an open mind and no food allergies. It goes without saying, if you have a shellfish or seafood allergy or you’re a vegetarian, this isn't going to be your place. For others, the affair is fully worth every penny.
Chef Michael Collantes is a wizard, no doubt. His pedigree is impressive having worked in some top restaurants with some top chefs including Wolfgang Puck, Joel Robuchon, Eric Ripert, Masa Takayama and Jennifer Carroll. He's worked in leadership roles from the MGM Grand to the Ritz Carlton. But beyond sourcing the most exquisite ingredients, his creativity, passion and skill, the real magic is in choosing his team. Everyone he works with functions with focus and purpose to an exacting standard of excellence. Not only that, the team is a heck of a lot of fun. I've been to world class restaurants where the only thing missing was some love and some fun. This place has both in spades. Congrats on the Michelin Star, Chef. Well earned. I've now been twice. For me, it's the perfect meal.
Kim Chalmers invited me. We've known each other for years having played in NDolphin and The Space Masons together. Friends for decades. We've traveled some of the world together, Mexico, Denmark, and Sweden, and eaten in the world's finest restaurants. We're proud "snooters" in the pursuit of culinary adventure. We went in late September in celebration of my birthday on October 5, 2022, at Kim's invitation on the occasion of arriving at 57 revolutions around the Sun. (I had to Google an age calculator to figure that out.)
I should share a funny story. Kim was much more interested in the sake and wine pairings above all others, and she's a modest drinker in comparison to me: an Irish iron belly of legendary renown, Kim says to me, "I might just have a little taste of certain things, and then I'll secretly slide it over to you until we get to the sake." Basically, she didn't want to overdo it on the bubbly. So, when the brilliant beverage director Benjamin Coutts welcomed the full house of ten diners with a generous pour of sparkling 2018 Raventós I Blanc de la Finca, Wine of Penedes, Spain made from Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Viura, I couldn't have been happier. I took my time to savour and delight, as did Kim, who took just a couple polite sips off the top. After I polished mine off, we made the covert move and switched our glasses. I finished the rest of hers. We thought we were being so successfully sneaky. This next bit goes to the impeccable service: Mr. Coutts instantly refreshed her empty glass and now Kim had another new round of Raventós before her. Our plan failed beautifully. From there, we just went with the program.
Soon, the first course was presented. Foie Gras - banana, milk bread, beet, sakura, and goma. This dish was a revelation, an unfolding of flavors and textures on the palate, original, creative, and instantly at the top of the best bite courses I've ever had in my life right up there with Per Se's Oysters & Pearls, Noma's Shoots of the Season, and Chef Damon Baehrel's dumpling made from wild daisy cores and cedar flour, encrusted with oven-dried, pine-needle-cured goose breast. Kim and I couldn't stop talking about it all the way home. I haven't stopped thinking about it since, and it's been about three months now. I plan to think about it going into 2023, and probably into 2024. With any luck, it will be the last amuse-gueul I eat before I die.
But this is not the Soseki-Modern-Omakase-Tom-Miller-Birthday-Review. So impressed was Kim that she wanted to take members of her family to share the experience a couple months later and to celebrate her birthday. The new seasonal menu was up. One of the guests was regrettably unable to attend. The "tickets" to dinner are transferable, but not refundable. Kim asked if I might like to fill in. "Yes" came out of my mouth before my brain had a chance to participate in the decision. It was an autonomic reflex. "No" wasn't a consideration. Off we went. So, this reflection is that second meal. I'll say reflection, not "review". Here's the review: It's awesome.
You pull up to a sort of little unimpressive strip mall. It's just that there's something different about the design toward the end of the building. It's aesthetically simple, elegant, black w/ white trim, mysterious, and different!
The service is impeccable, and from one beverage pairing to the next, you drink as you go. If you want to drink more, you'll find a vessel you've emptied is instantly repoured until the meal advances to the next pairing, and you can start on the next beverage in similar fashion. It's well worth the upcharge of $80 to consider the suggested pairing. Of course one can choose some beverage (or beverages) from the expansive beverage menu, and they do offer corking for personal bottles. For my two cents, you'd be an stinking idiot not to let Benjamin Coutts drive the car. His tableside manner is of a profoundly experienced, knowledgeable and passionate sommelier who's put quite a bit of thought in the pairings from dish to dish, and also as a throughline for the entire service. The restaurant is simple and personal, the vibe is casual, never pretentious, and occasionally with a sense of humor. But make no mistake, the craft and skill of each dish is beyond measure and of select top quality. This is not just dinner, this is a game-changer for your mind, body and soul.
Here are the courses in the order they arrived on Saturday, November 5, 2022. I'd like to offer my thanks and appreciation for a very nice lady I met named Ann Richter who took photos of each dish and forwarded them to me by phone for this review. Thanks, Ann!
When you return to your vehicle to rethink your life, you can gaze in silence at the pastoral lake just beyond the parking lot. The only thing that can follow such a meal, beyond a conversation about what you've just experienced with your dining companions, is a journey into self reflection. I hope you find a way to give yourself and your friends this gift.