I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was really pleased with the ambiance of this charming venue when I walked in. It was warm, inviting and the decor was somewhat more contemporary than I had anticipated. We wanted to sit by the window, so we requested seating at one of the bistro-style tables in the bar area. Our top-notch server, Ashley, appeared almost immediately (and truly was never far from sight throughout our meal). She was wonderful and provided some great suggestions...she was uber-professional and obviously passionate about the food, and didn't in the least have that vaguely indifferent air that you so often get from very young and very beautiful restaurant service personnel. In fact, we received friendly, excellent service from everyone in the restaurant...and the bartender even checked on us occasionally to make sure our wine glasses weren't empty (Gawd Forbid!).
Prior to our arrival, we fully intended to order entrees...but once we were seated in the bar area, we were informed that a veryfine happy hour was in progress. All but a few of the appetizer courses (Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio, Seared Scallops, Crab Cakes and Artisanal Cheese Plate excluded) were available for $5 apiece, and all wines by the glass and mixed drinks were 50% off. KerCHING! The hors d'oeuvres menu was extremely inviting, so we decided to dine tapas-style.
Along with a couple of glasses of wine (can't remember what UD ordered, but I got a nice Clos du Val Chardonnay for $6 with the discount pricing...you're lucky to get a glass of Glen Ellen for that in restaurants anymore), we started with the Chicken Liver Mousse, the Moulees Gratinee and the Onion Tart Alsacien Style. We were also presented with a basket of fresh, sliced French bread. It wasn't still hot, but you could tell that not much time had passed since it had been. Room-temperature bread usually doesn't excite me much, but this was actually quite tasty and pillow-soft.
Any kind of liver pate always ratchets up my heart rate, so we'll start with that. It wasn't my favorite and I thought it would be. The flavor was fine, but it had been aerated into an almost Cool Whip consistency and I prefer a more dense pate...but they DID call it "mousse", so I'm not going to subtract points for that. However, there also wasn't much of it (2 tablespoons at best) nor was the presentation particularly inspiring.
The Onion Tart Alsacien Style, however, pretty much rawked my and UD's respective worlds. This was such a simple and beautiful dish, chock full of sweet onions; a little sliced black olive; undefinable creamy, cheesy goodness; and a crust that was flaky, delicious perfection...and how can you ever go wrong with a creme fraiche topper?
Next up were the Moulees Gratinee. I have never had mussels in a cheesy sauce before, and these delightful delicacies were presented swimming in a luxurious sea of butter, scallions, garlic, manchego and parmesan. The table bread was great for mopping up the extra sauce. <3
With round two came Crab Stuffed Oysters, which were fresh and beautifully presented atop a bed of rock salt. The crab topping almost seemed deep-fried, which was tasty but somewhat distracting. It was an interesting new taste, but I didn't like it enough to put it in my "Must Go Back For More" file.
The Escargot en Cocotte were a dream. While I kind of missed fishing them out of the little individual holes they are usually nestled in when served in a traditional escargot dish, I loved the red wine twist. These babies were SO freaking good! My photo will almost certainly not do them justice, but here you go!
Lastly on the tapas front was the Tuna Tartar recommended by Ashley. UD loves raw fish...but me, not so much. Still, I was able to really enjoy a few bites of this. It tasted incredibly fresh and the capers were a lovely addition. I could possibly graduate to sushi after this. Or, maybe not...but, still. :)
Although we were pretty full by this point, it would be so not like us to leave without ordering dessert. Since we were feeling very much like ourselves after three glasses of wine apiece, UD opted for the Flourless Chocolate Torte with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream which he deemed the best flourless chocolate cake he's ever had (and trust me, folks...he's like a hormonal woman and orders flourless chocolate cake whenever he finds it on a menu). This dessert was the consistency of a soft, chocolate truffle and topped with toasted almonds. I don't even care for chocolate that much anymore, but it was TO DIE FOR.
I ordered the Blueberry Peach Tart with Pecan Crust and Vanilla Ice Cream. I loved the fruit combo along with the subtle cayenne pepper kick in this dessert, and (again) the pastry was insanely good...but I wasn't fond of what I thought was an overly-thick, somewhat gelatinous filling. I would've appreciated more fruit and less cornstarch. Look how beautiful it is, though!
All in all, we really enjoyed our experience and look forward to returning to try some entrees. It's a lovely restaurant, service is fantastic and let's face it....not everyone is going to love every dish, every time. We all have our unique proclivities. We walked out after 6 delightful small plates, two desserts, 6 glasses of higher-end by-the-glass wines, a glass of 12-year-old port and a glass of sparkling wine for $100. That's a tough deal to beat. We iz smilin'!