Monday, December 21, 2009

So last week saw the opening (finally) of Sage, the restaurant in new hotel/casino, ARIA where the lovely fiancee is the pastry chef. I had dinner there on Thursday and Friday, and had a great time.

I arrived with a big bunch of roses for my love, so it was no secret who I was or why I was there. Everyone was very nice to me, and those who had gotten to know her had all kinds of nice things to say about Lura as well. From what I could overhear at other tables, the staff were just as friendly and polite to the other customers.

My server was very personable and down-to-earth, talking to me about items on the menu without being pretentious or snobby, which I appreciated. I'm not really a foodie, but I'm not a complete idiot, either. If I go to a nice restaurant, I want to feel like I'm welcomed and appreciated. I don't want to feel intimidated by a confusing, pretentious menu and unhelpful staff who can't offer advice or guidance.

The physical restaurant was nicely laid out and decorated. It feels very warm and friendly, in shades of brown, gold, and purple, with these big, illuminated murals that look like turn-of-the-century pen & ink drawings. The lighting is comfortably dim, by which I mean it creates an air of privacy and intimacy without it being too dark for me to read my book. (I bring a book when I go out to eat alone.)

I'm a little ashamed to admit that Thursday's meal was a tribute to cruelty to animals. I ordered the foie gras custard brulee and the braised veal cheeks. Both came highly recommended by the fiancee (who also felt bad), and both were excellent.

This was my first experience with foie gras, but Lura tells me that this isn't a normal preparation method. As the name suggests, it really is like a smooth custard with a caramelized coating. It was creamy and light, and served with a salted brioche that was fantastic.

Because of my "VIP" status, the kitchen sent me their escargot & pork belly agnolotti starter. Totally caught me by surprise, and I thought they might have accidentally brought me somebody else's order. (I am a moron, sometimes.) It was also very nicely done; I particularly appreciated the hints of citrus in the bacon.

I felt guilty for ordering the veal cheeks, and even guiltier saying that they were fantastic. So tender that they almost fell apart when I just pointed my fork in their direction. They came served over a "piperade" (I'm getting the spelling from the menu here) which nicely accented the flavor of the beef.

Of course, I had to save room for dessert; in fact, I had two. I had been told I should order the chocolate dome, because it tasted great and was easy to plate. Besides, I was curious to actually see and taste it, after hearing about it for so long.

I also decided to try the warm almond financier cake. Lura had struggled with this recipe, after her boss said told her that while her initial attempt wasn't too dry, he wanted it to be a "different kind of moist." After much experimentation, it turned out that the solution was to make a different kind of cake altogether, and surround it in a financier cake shell. So I call them "faux-nanciers." Whatever; still tasted great. (What did you think I was going to say?)

I had a couple of glasses of wine: two glasses of a Syrah-like red, which I didn't make a note of the name, and a sparkling dessert wine called Bigario Elio Perrone. The latter came at the recommendation of my server, and I enjoyed it so much, I ordered it again the next night.

Coming soon: Friday's dinner.

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