Saturday, January 26, 2008

La Vallee (January 26, 2008)

Dine Out menu:

Two reviewers: ts and js

I liked their breads. Served warm with nice "crispy", crackly thin crust. These were rolls, by the way.

Dungeness Crab Bisque with Whipped Pernod Crème
-- or --
Olive Oil Poached Wild Mushroom Ravioli topped with a Tomato, Basil Confit

Points for poaching the ravioli in olive oil: I like the bubbles and the texture fat-cooking gives to food. Unfortunately, the poaching did not really add anything to the flavour of the ravioli -- overall quite a tasteless dish.

The tomatoes did not really taste like tomatoes, didn't have the brightness, acidity, sweetness of tomatoes, and I did not get any basil at all. No whiff, no flavour, no thing. The salad that came with it was very very dull: I forget if there was even vinaigrette or any kind of dressing on it.

Were there mushrooms inside the pasta? Did not taste anything at all.

Very, very dull.

I had the same dish. The ravioli actually reminded me of a perogie; the dough seemed a little dense and chewy. I didn't mind that at all, though. I liked that sort of hearty, chewy texture. (It just wasn't that revaioli-like.)

I was a little surprised that the ravioli was "fried" because I assumed the poaching in olive oil would be a gentle process that would not yield that "fried" look/texture. But again, I didn't mind that.

What I did mind was the overall blandness of the dish. The filling -- which I think was a mixture of mushroom and ricotta -- was very bland and flavourless. It wasn't even an underseasoned mushroom filling. I just couldn't taste the mushrooms at all.

There was a salad with the dish and it only had oil (no acid) and no salt. The one element that had some flavor was the tomato confit. At least you can taste it. As for the basil, I think there was basil oil on the plate, but I didn't really taste it.

The dish wasn't objectionable, but that's because there was too little flavor/taste for anything in it to offend.

Braised Alberta Beef Short Rib
Butter Tossed White and Green Asparagus, Red Wine, Veal Reduction
-- or --
Pan Seared Wild B.C Salmon
Over top a Baby New Potato and Haricot Vert Salad, Grape Tomato and Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
-- or --
Honey, Balsamic Marinated Roasted Cornish Game Hen
Yukon Gold Potato Rondelle, Winter Vegetable Medley

I did not like my salmon at all. Again, it was very, very boring (I feel like I could do a better salmon dish).

There are no other flavours besides the salmon, which I found too fishy tonight. I like salmon in general, but I could not finish this dish. Part of it is I'm full -- but I would have pushed through if the flavours were there.

It was advertised as having an olive vinaigrette and I did not get any kind of vinaigrette. The olives would have added another dimension to the dish. A much needed flavour boost.

The Cornish Game Hen. Ah yes. It tasted like adobo chicken! (Philippine-style adobo chicken.)

Sadly, not quite as flavorful as your typical adobo. (And I should know, because we actually have adobo chicken at home and I had a little bit of that for lunch!)

The hen was also a tad dry. In any case, it didn't seem like the acid from the dish was balsamic-tasting. I also didn't get the honey flavor. The yukon gold potato round was nice though. Overall, underwhelming.

Oh, I tasted the beef and that was pretty good. At least, it was the most flavorful among the 3 entrees.

Merlot Poached Bartlett Pear Candied Pecans and Vanilla Cream
-- or --
Trio of Local Cheese’sServed with House Made Preserves

Cheese plate -- well, nothing to write home about. 3 extremely small pieces of regular, all-too-common cheeses. Again, very dull.

The poached pear was nice. It wasn't too mushy and it had a nice cinnamon flavor. As Grace also pointed out during dinner, it wasn't sickeningly sweet as well. The vanilla cream didn't really have an impact, but the candied pecans were very nice. So yehey, at least the meal ended relatively well. For me, at least.

The restaurant advertises itself as "wine country cuisine," which I assume to be Napa wine country. It tasted like -- no, it didn't taste like -- anything at all. Just very, very boring spa cuisine. Really disappointing.

I was disappointed. The website states that their Executive Chef was ex-French Laundry, so I was really expecting something good. It really didn't deliver. I don't know if this is a function of it being a "Dine Out" meal or not. In other notes, the service was pretty good. The interior of the restaurant was also warm and inviting. They also had really nice comfortable chairs! =)

But, it's all about the food, and it didn't cut it.

I guess rating is about 3-ish/10, let's say, because of the poached pear & the beef.

Very, very boring.

I'm not as forgiving of this restaurant as I am of Nyala, because they hype themselves up so much! If they have the nerve to hype themselves up, they should deliver on the hype.

For a chef from French Laundry, I am very surprised at the level of food that we got tonight. This was boring, very mediocre food. Granted, it was only $25 dollars for 3 courses, but I still found a tad objectionable to be spending this money on this food.

One issue is the overhype, another issue is the false advertisement. Do not describe something in the menu that's not going to be in the dish itself. Never do this: it strikes a wrong note, gives off a whiff of dishonesty, to mix metaphors here. They wanted the menu to read more than it is.

So, I probably would not return to this restaurant. If you write a menu like that, make sure you deliver. That's all.

Food: 1/10, for being at the very least edible.

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