Saturday, September 19, 2009

Last dinner at a fine restaurant

One of the best restaurants in Atlanta is closing at the end of this month. The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead is the only restaurant in Atlanta to receive both a Five-Star rating from Mobil and a Five-Diamond rating from AAA. Only three restaurants in the United States have received the Mobil Five-Star award for more than 10 years, including The Dining Room. It has launched the careers of several successful Atlanta-area chefs and it has been a true gem in the Atlanta restaurant scene. Sadly, The Dining Room is scheduled to close on October 1. Chef Arnaud Berthelier is moving on to Shanghai, and we don't really know what the hotel will do with the space, but we do know that The Dining Room will be greatly missed. Rowdy Food did a brief video from their recent visit.

My wife and I have dined there for most of our recent anniversary dinners. We have enjoyed the experience so much that when we heard the restaurant was closing we decided we had to go back for one last meal. That event was last night.

The service was impeccable as always. We were addressed as "the gentleman" and "the lady". The hostess knew us by name (and knew how to pronounce our name, which is quite an accomplishment). The chef had prepared a special dish to meet my wife's dietary needs, and recommended one of the menu items as an appetizer. I ordered the tasting menu. All the food was superb. The only bad mark on the evening was the wine served to my wife. Ordinarily the sommelier visits our table and recommends wine, but last night one of the waitstaff poured her a glass of Chardonnay. Despite it being a French wine it still tasted watery and unimpressive.

After an amuse-bouche, I had a golden chanterelle soup with egg, chive oil, and smoked salmon. I don't like mushrooms but as usual this dish was so delicious that I forgot I was eating them. I was served a glass of 2007 Albert Boxler Sylvaner from Alsace to go with the soup. My wife had Marble Soup with melon balls and peas. For my second tasting course I had Lobster Preserve with polenta, chanterelles, tomato, and basil. The entire dish was cooked and served in a glass preserving jar with a sealed lid. The jar was placed in front of me then unsealed by the waitress, and a broth was poured over the lobster meat. Once again, utterly delicious. The lobster may have been a touch undercooked but since I don't normally eat lobster it is difficult for me to judge. For the main course I had Beef Coulotte with foie gras, french horn and shimeji mushrooms. The meat was prepared perfectly, sliced thin, with a broth poured over at tableside. I have never tasted anything like it before. It was definitely a wow dish (although I avoided the foie gras, not being a fan). With my main dish I was served a glass of 2003 Salentein Syrah from Mendoza, Argentina. My wife was served her special entrée, which had lobster mushrooms and chantelle mushrooms, along with the vegetable salsify.

We moved on to the cheese course. I had a small cup of a creamy goat cheese. It had the consistency of a soft spread, and was served with membrillo (Quince paste), olive oil, and summer truffles. My wife got the cheese tasting tray, and the waitress selected a variety of cheeses, including some cow cheese, goat cheese, and a sheep cheese from the Pyrenees. I snuck in a few tastes too. As a pallete cleanser we both had a serving of a buttermilk panna cotta with apricot sorbet.

The dessert was just as fabulous as the rest of the meal. We both had a chocolate soufflé with crème Chantilly and a slice of chocolate served on the spoon, accompanied by a hazelnut ice cream. We broke the top of the soufflé with the spoon and put the crème and the chocolate slice inside to melt. Delicious!

The dinner was ended with a selection of petits fours and, unfortunately, the bill. As we left (with our souvenier menus and a serving of french bread to take home) we met the chef in the hallway. We thanked him for his years of fine food and wished him success in Shanghai.

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