To celebrate my dad's birthday, we went to Country at his suggestion, which is great because it was a restaurant on my to try list.
We sat below the rotundra/stained glass skylight which, sad to say, looks more impressive in photos than in real life. The grapes seemed to border on tacky. But we all agreed that the shape and idea of it was great. And the use of crystals (chandeliers, etc) were enjoyed by all.
Service, you could tell right away, would be trying very hard to please throughout dinner service, and for the most part that was the case. More on that later.
We were served gougeres with a perfectly warm, gooey pesto sauce inside along with delicately layererd crepe towers topped with creme fraiche and paddlefish roe.
Then came the bread...which was as good as those before me have talked about. It was beautiful, it was plush, it was salty, it was buttery, it was disturbingly delicious.
Next up was a frog's leg amuse which sat in a garlicky mayo based product. I'm not too keen on frog's legs (having had several varieties as pets) but dove in anyway figuring that it would be more of a disservice to NOT eat it.
I secretely hoped I wouldn't enjoy it. Fortunately (perhaps), I didn't. The dipping sauce was too cloying and the leg's covering - a very light tempura like crust - was rather bland. It didn't even taste like chicken...just blah. The silver lily pad it was served on (along with the silver frog on it) was either tasteless or cute. I'm not sure which just yet.
During all of this we were drinking a Mersault A.C. 2004, Pierre Matrot, Burgundy which was excellent. Fantastic wine.
For my appetizer, I went for the foie gras terrine served with pomegranate seeds, fresh figs and apple slivers as well as two pieces of well charred bread. The foie gras was good, as you'd expect, but not the most flavorful I've had. The layer of fat on the top was appropriate but the fat to liver content in the center of the slice was a bit more than I'd have preferred.
My dad also had the foie gras, the others at the table opting for the oeufs du plat - a crazy mix match of egg, shrimp, and some vegetables. In the end it was a bit like shirred eggs you might get at brunch downstairs at the cafe at Country. Very good.
And now we wait. For at least 25-30 minutes. It very well may have been longer. The restaurant, which is big but doesn't hold a lot of tables, got filled up, but not enough to incur a wait on food like this. It was much too long to have to wait between courses.
For the second course I went for the sweetbreads. There were several meaty pieces served with white radishes and figs and sauced tableside with veal jus. The sweetbreads were very good but again, nothing too wowing.
At this point we started a new bottle of Carraudes de Lafite 1998, Pauillac. It needed time...and we gave it time. But as time passed we realized that this very good wine, was not going to open to its full potential. Sure enough, it didn't. And sadly, I think this dinner as a whole was represented in this one bottle of wine.
Before our entrees arrived, we were given more bread. And this bread was, on the outside, as beautiful as the last. But sadly it was undercooked inside - doughy and unfinished.
Danna and I chose to order the canard (duck) en croute for two. The table service was very nice, with our attendant cutting open the bread that encased the bird. He removed the top of the bread for all to see the bird, which they then whisked away to cut up for our plates.
The bird was a good size, so it was a surprise to see just three pieces of duck on my plate with some nondescript vegetables. Danna and I looked at each other and more/less wondered where the rest of our meal was. Someone in the back surely was having a nice staff meal with the rest of the bird.
In the end, the serving size was okay (we still had dessert to eat) I guess, but the duck was chewy and not all that great. Good but not as good as to deserve the showmanship it received.
And now we waited again. For another 20-25 minutes at least.
Dessert was next. I ordered a piece of the pithivier, an almond cake that was beautiful to look at and equally tasty. I was offered creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream (I went ice cream) and butterscotch or vanilla whisky sauce. I went for the whisky sauce. As I said, the cake was delicious but the whisky sauce was VERY strong. Too strong, quite frankly, and I'm good with whisky. It just needed to be reduced or cooked down a bit.
All in all the food was good to very good but never did it achieve "excellent" status. Service, like the food, had its good moments and its not so good moments. Long waits between courses and sometimes harried, synchronized plate placements evened out the pleasantness and genuinely kind servers.
Lastly, the breakfast dessert cake they gave us to enjoy the following day was good for only one thing: reminding me of the uneveness of the previous night's food. It was too dense and lacking a good flavor. And for $105 - I'd expect a bit more.
I like what Doug Psaltis is trying to do, but it's not working as well as it should - especially for that price point. Nothing was truly bad or awful but nothing really shined either. And all in all we had a fun evening celebrating my Dad's birthday. Just keep your expectations in check if you plan on going - though at this point in time, Country is not a place I can recommend except for maybe brunch downstairs.