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July, 2008, Page 149
Pork osso bucco
Dimas’ duck dish ($30) is perhaps the best way I’ve ever eaten the bird, at once rustic and elegant thanks to a splay of ruby red sliced breast that’s chewy but not gamey, and a boldly herbed sausage of leg meat served on the bone like a huge lollipop. It nestles over crispy browned lavender spaetzle, chewy black chanterelles and kumquats, which bring a surprisingly sharp kick.
The most affordable way to experience Estate House is with the tasting menu ($75, $120 with wine pairings). Portions are ample, and after my server saw I was sharing dishes with my companion (she ordered from the regular menu), he split and “padded” some plates to create two almost full-size portions. Besides the beet tartar amuse, my late spring repast featured seasonal artichoke bisque poured at the table over dots of foie gras and crackly-sweet candied bacon; and buttery Alaskan black cod on a cloud of velvety mashed potato swathed in leek-almond oil foam.
I won’t say the tasting is the best way to experience the culinary bests of Estate, however, since the remaining three dishes were less successful. At first bite, braised veal sweetbreads were lush under a thick Banyuls vinegar sauce thickened with caramelized chanterelles and golden raisins; after a few mouthfuls, the whole thing was cloying. Too much heavy, salty sauce overpowered chunks of lamb cheeks that came with morel mushrooms, garbanzo beans and sticky gnocchi. And crème brulee – while admirably lighter than the typical heavy, baked custard – had a cap thick enough that the sugar stuck to my teeth.
Other desserts ended on a better note, such as pillowy rosemary-Meyer lemon soufflé ($10) paired with a dish of ginger sabayon; and toe-curling Pithiviers ($9) made of golden puff pastry, plump with dates and pecans under precious honey-truffle ice cream and ringed with caramel sauce. While I didn’t care for the clunky coffee cup (not a dainty pot) presentation of masala chai pot de crème ($9), there was no denying the charm of the anise-perfumed custard or the cinnamon sugar brioche speared like fluffy donut kabobs on a spoon.
Estate House has its weak spots. Even four months after opening, my visits found the servers to be well-trained in tableside service but not completely versed in the menu, mixing up ingredients when describing dishes or having to return to the kitchen for clarification on preparation. Once, we were offered bread after dessert.
Still, these are minor quibbles for a place that could be the Valley’s best new restaurant of the year. As the Estate House name implies, the intimate space, along with the experience, is designed to evoke the feeling of a home. It’s probably the home of someone who lives a lot better than I do, but for a fine meal out, it’s a place the Valley can be proud to call its own.
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