Abacus ~ Ten Courses + Wine Pairing

posted Mar 7, 2012, 5:08 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 7, 2012, 6:33 PM ]
...because sometimes it's fun to kick off the Birkenstocks and put on the Louis Vuittons, though admittedly it may make walking to the restaurant and staggering back after a wine paired chef's dinner a bit more painful, so be sure to pack a pair of flip-flops in your purse!

Last night's walk took us across Central, to the Knox side of the Knox-Henderson entertainment district, past the newly renovated Highland Park Apple Store, past the maniacs camped out to be the first in line for the iPad 3, and onto the modern exterior of the Abacus Restaurant. For us, it was about a mile walk from our house in the middle of Vickery Place, and just two blocks off the western boundary of our historic neighborhood.

Our reservation was early, the Sun still shining, and we prepared for our astronomic gastronomic adventure, as bravely as we could! Ten courses, with wine pairing. Here goes!

The tasting menu is actually a 9 course meal, but we decided to start with the renowned Lobster Shooters, to make an even (and masochistic) 10 course epic. These are little lobster-scallion dumplings in a spicy red curry coconut cream sauce. An experience that has to begin every meal at Abacus!

Let the drinking begin! The first "wine" of the evening, was a generous glass of TY KU Sake Black, a Super Premium, Junmai Ginjo, Japanese Sake. This dangerously deceptive drink was delicious, refreshing, and seemed so light. Seemed. It wasn't.

And onward to the first course! A Tuna Tartare, with cucumber, avocado, cumin, and a sweet soy sauce. A wonderful pairing with the Sake.

The next bottle of wine has arrived! A 2006 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve. Everyone at the table commented on its nose, definitely quite earthy, prompting some descriptions that you wouldn't read in Wine Spectator, and which we shall not repeat here! And quite buttery too.

The Fume Blanc was masterfully paired with a crispy pan seared Texas Gulf mangrove snapper, with couscous, broccollini and goat cheese, atop cauliflower puree, and a sturgeon caviar-lemon hollandaise. And that was masterfully typed into my smart phone as Ryan (our wonderful waiter) rattled it off! I probably missed an ingredient or two.... I recall sun dried tomatoes too. Spectacular!

Oh dear, now we were beginning to understand the gravity of our situation (not even halfway through the meal), as the next bottle of white came out. Ryan poured a crisp 2009 Jordan Chardonnay for the four of us...

... paired with what he described as a fresh take on a classic Carbonara dish, with a prosecco glazed gulf shrimp. The twist being that this dish used a salsify tagliatelle instead of the usual pasta. Salsify being a root vegetable... did you know that? Intriguing. And delicious. The little bits of bacon were actually of pork jowl bacon. So good and I even devoured the fried basil leaf on top!

At this point, the palette cleanser came out, to signal the end of the seafood portion of the meal. There was no wine pairing with this refreshingly cool blood orange and grapefruit sorbet, but Ryan very kindly (evilly) poured a second glass of Chardonnay for those who didn't know any better.

Ooooh, what is this. A sweet wine? Hmmmm, we're only halfway through the tasting menu. That can only mean one thing....!

Foie Gras!! Yay! If there is one thing that you can always count on at Abacus (besides the Lobster shooters), it is a decadent Foie Gras dish on the menu. Seared Foie Gras, of course, the buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness that the Ancient Egyptians discovered thousands of years ago, and now available 6 nights a week within walking distance of Vickery Place.  This evening's version was a take on a PB&J theme. Gooseberry Jam, crispy toast, and sarsaparilla syrup, the perfect blend of sweet, buttery-melty-heaven and texture, and so perfectly complimented by the rich, sweet golden nectar.

Ah, now we're talking. Onto the red wine! A big Spanish red, a 2006 Numanthia Tempranillo from the Toro region.

... and a spicy pinenut and sun-dried tomato crusted oven roasted pork tenderloin dish, with a chianti demi, crispy trumpet mushrooms, and basil-ricotta tortellone. Heaven!

Then Ryan opened a bottle of 2006 Mount Veeder Reserve Cabinet Sauvignon. We all tried to guess what kind of hearty red meat dish was coming next. It had to be good, to be paired with such a fine (and big) red.

Hickory grilled cervena venison, from New Zealand, that's what! And so perfectly cooked, medium rare as it should ALWAYS be. Toasted oat spoon bread, roasted turnip puree, and a cherry port syrup. And garlic chips.

We were starting to feel this wine! And we were all certain that it was the sake at the beginning that did us in! But who couldn't finish this delicious red wine. Red wine is what makes life worth living!

Oh be still my beating heart! Ryan is spoiling us with our favorite port on the Abacus list!! A 1960 Kopke Colheita Port. And he opened a fresh bottle tableside, as he did with ALL the wines this evening, something I always appreciated about the Chef's Tasting Menu dinners at Abacus. This port is so good, we know that *it* has to the main feature of the next course.

A beautifully arranged cheese plate. Starting with the obvious six year cheddar from Wisconsin, counter clockwise to the Caciotta di Bufala (water buffalo milk) from Italy, Ewephoria sheep's milk cheese from Holland, apple slices. To the left, a Texas wild-flower honey, a peach and poblano chutney, and candy spiced nuts, and crackers.

Champagne! As you can see from the quality of this photo, the sake has dazed us, plus the port from the last course seems to be kicking in, and we're starting to have double vision and our hands are none too steady.

The champagne was meant to be enjoyed with this, a white chocolate passion fruit bombe (semi-frozen mousse) topped with a strawberry sorbet. Yum!

And Ryan brought a bonus dessert, to be shared between the four of us! This one is from the current Abacus dessert menu, and is called "Cloud 9". It is an indescribably delicious chocolate-caramel-vanilla dessert. What a beautiful presentation! It did not look like this for long, despite being at the end of a long gluttonous evening.

The end of a lavish four hour feast of the senses.  I found myself staring at this tiny morsel and wondering where on earth I would find room in my stomach.  But somehow, I managed.