Rating: 4 out of 5 (-1 star)
My second trip to Chez Philippe was by far the longest eating experience I’ve had yet. This 3 hour meal was by no means a “wow” experience, but it was definitely a good experience. I’ll spare you my usual ramblings and go straight for the food. This time around, I opted for the five-course price fixe (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 1 dessert).
My first course was the “Chilled Pea Soup with House Cured Pork, Tarragon Oil, and Marcona Almonds.” My previous experience had taught me Chef Reinaldo Alfonso’s love for building flavors on a plate so I understood the necessity of compacting all of the ingredients in the same bite. As a whole, the dish worked well together. The almonds added a good crunch, and the salty pork balanced the very subtle pea soup. Overall, it was a nice soup, but not as bright a starter as I would have liked.
My second course was “Hearts of Palm with Roquefort Cheese, Black Truffles, Champagne Vinaigrette, and Chive Oil.” I think I’d order something else next time. The hearts of palm didn’t work well together with the cheese in terms of a balanced “bitter and salty” approach, and overall the flavors just weren’t inspiring, to say the least. In retrospect, I couldn’t really tell that the vinaigrette was comprised of champagne, and the truffles were overpowered by the hearts of palm and cheese.
For my first entree course, I had the “Golden Tilefish served with Shaved Fennel, Garlic Puree, and a Homemade Chorizo-Tarragon Broth.” This was my first time to try Tilefish, which has the texture and flavor of a seabass. Mixing the fish with the fennel and chorizo broth made for one of my favorite combinations of the night. The meaty, fresh fish worked very well with the sweet fennel and the broth and bacon added an appropriate fatty/greasy element.
For my second entree course, I had the Newman Farm Pork (a roasted tenderloin with poached sausage, savoy cabbage, potato salad, and mustard jus). The tenderloin was good but nothing special. It was cooked well, but I would preferred a stronger mustard jus or maybe just a different sauce to make this dish more grabbing in terms of flavor. The poached sausage was too “piggy” for me (I can’t think of another way to describe it) so I passed on eating it.
For dessert, I had the “Peach Melba” (Peach Tart, Raspberry Coulis, and Vanilla Ice Cream). One thing is for sure, all of the desserts at Chez are huge. The Peach Melba was no exception, and was a refreshing way to end the meal. The clean aftertaste reflected that the crust on the tart was homemade, and the peaches were just sweet enough to complement the coulis.
For the duration of the meal, the service was excellent. The waiters were very personal and professional. At one point during the meal, I decided to time how long it would take a waiter to fill my empty water glass. I started timing, turned my head to talk to my the rest of the table, and suddenly my glass was full. I didn’t hear the waiter, and I didn’t see him. But somewhere in between talking to my brother and taking a bite of tilefish my glass was filled.
Overall, the meal was good. The service was flawless, but the food just wasn’t as “striking” as my first experience. Going into this meal, I was certainly hoping for another 5-star, flawless gastronomic experience, but a part of me knew that the odds weren’t good. Consistent perfection is a tall order for any restaurant.
-Reviewed May ’09