I mulled it over for a little bit. The Avalon Pasta Bistro is closer to us, but I had never been to John's original establishment. On Thursday, I checked in to confirm...
So, we changed our original plan, and I booked a reservation for 5:30 on Friday. We arrived early and were seated at a corner booth while the staff continued to set up for the evening's service. Apologies for the quality of the images here - the lighting is perfectly suited for a nice evening out, but not for photography. I also can't explain why some images are properly oriented and some aren't.
The surprises started early, with our server, Courtney, greeting us with two complimentary glasses of Troeg's Pale Ale and a few slices of Cacio Romano, a mild sheep's milk cheese. Not pictured is a basket of bread and a dish of peppery olive oil that was positively addictive.
We decided to order the tasting menu, which would give us the opportunity to try four different dishes each. I figured that it would be the best strategy to taste eight different menu items and get a good measure of what Brandt-Lee could accomplish in this larger establishment.
I have to admit, I love arancini and I don't get to have it very often. The crisp shell of the arancini cracked under my fork, yielding a creamy interior of risotto which paired well with the earthiness of the mushrooms.
Afterwards, my wife declared this to be her favorite course of the evening. The sample that she gave me revealed a perfect balance of delicate, raw tuna and the sharp zing of the mustard, horseradish, and capers. A definite win.
Hands down, the best bolognese that I've had, confirmed by the fact that it has never left the menu.
Not quite apparent from the photo are the chopped green olives strewn throughout this dish.
Courtney surprised us with this one. Also surprising? The golden raisins, which went so well with the cauliflower puree that I'm going to be stealing this concept for my own dishes. The rabbit was as tender as it could be, and the gratin beneath it, though rich and heavy, was perfect for a cold, rainy night.
After the second bonus round, Chef John checked in on us. The great thing about Twitter is that he can do this without leaving the kitchen. Apologies in advance for the food and alcohol-induced profanity.