by Linden Gross, One Stop Writing Shop
At 900 Wall you can satisfy just about any craving, which was good since my dining companions would be a friend who had just come off a body-building competition starvation plan and her 18-year-old son. Here Taco Monday and stone oven pizza meet quinoa with Bucheron goat cheese and filet mignon. Perfect.
My friends were late and I was early, so I had plenty of time to drool over my beverage options, which included three dozen wines by the glass. So many options, so little time. Perusing the food menu wasn’t much help either. I found only one dish I wouldn’t have ordered and that’s only because I had made it two days before.
Our dinner couldn’t have been better orchestrated if we’d tried. We started with six delectable Fanny Bay oysters—my favorites—and stayed with the raw theme through the carpaccio. The paper-thin beef with dried capers, a whiff of truffle oil, grated parmesan and an arugula salad lightly dressed in olive oil and salt was the definition of simple perfection.
As lovely as that was, the grilled wild shrimp small plate on a bed of polenta topped with a slightly sweet pepper relish packing heat and ribbons of fresh basil provided the first multi-layered taste surprise of the evening.
The roasted cauliflower side dish provided the next unexpected flavor duet. I just didn’t expect the preserved lemon to be that sweet or the Calabrian chiles to be that spicy. “These vegetables are fun,” announced my friend who was fully enjoying her return to food appreciation. The piquant cauliflower even took our super thin-crust, stone-oven pizza with asparagus, pistou (a basil and garlic sauce), lemon and goat cheese to the next level. Who knew that cauliflower on a pizza would be a terrific idea! “This is a great contrast to the traditional pizza flavor profile,” announced the youngest member at our table who preferred the upscale version (with or without our fun veggie addition) to the basic pie he had sampled the day before.
The surprises from Chef Cliff Eslinger’s kitchen continued with the Duck Confit. The bird was just as rich and fall-off-the-bone tender as you’d expect a salt-cured poultry leg poached in its own fat to be. But pairing it with Yukon gold scalloped potatoes laced with caramelized onions and Dijon-spiked cream that tasted like wasabi? Genius.
Our other favorite of the evening was the flatiron steak served with small, crispy, creamy potatoes. The meat was perfectly grilled and would have been perfectly delicious on its own. But roasted Piquillo peppers and a smoked paprika-chile butter sent it into unanticipated orbit. Score!
We were on a roll, so we rolled right into dessert. Pastry chef Gretchen Cunnington outdid herself. We tasted the warm strawberry compote served on a lacy, buttery Florentine along with black pepper, mascarpone and Grand Marnier ice-cream. “That’s just wrong,” announced my increasingly happy-to-be-off-her-diet friend when she tasted the latter. “It’s spicy, it’s cheesy, it’s creamy. Hello ice-cream!” I loved the whole package, which I happily and very publicly describe as “like sex on an Italian cookie.”
We reluctantly moved on to the Chocolate Euphoria and discovered richness to the tenth power. What’s not to love about velvety chocolate mousse atop a crunchy milk chocolate praline biscuit and served with chocolate caramel. No wonder it won the 2011 Tour du Chocolat award. Personally, I’d love to try a bittersweet version. That would make me truly euphoric.
I had no second thoughts about the Lemon Ginger Crème Brulée. The combination of flavors in the divine custard were as flawless as Ginger and Fred on a dance floor, and just as clearly meant to go together.
By the end of the meal, my friends and I were all stuffed. But that didn’t prevent us from plotting about which dishes we would have again and which new ones we would try upon our return. Yup—900 Wall has found its way onto my restaurant short list. I’ll see you there.