I am about to commit a great sin in food blogging; I am going to discuss a meal at a restaurant without pictures. :( The food was very pretty, but I get strange looks from time to time when I whip out my cell phone and start snapping away at restaurants - and that's when I'm out with Matt. Tonight, I was out with my book club, and although they're very nice women, I don't know most of them that well. So I decided to keep the strange-factor to a minimum.
But I do want to blog about the meal, because we were at the King's Contrivance. I've never been there, and it's higher up on the scale of restaurants than I normally visit. So here we go! (hocofood@@@)
The King's Contrivance is high-end "New American" dining. The restaurant is in a converted house off of Shaker Drive, atop a hill with a pretty circular driveway. Once you pass through the front door, a brilliant shade of red, you can see that the dining "room" is actually "rooms" - which makes the setup seem more intimate. The Maitre d' guided me upstairs to the party I was meeting, a group of about sixteen which took up the whole of the one large table in the room. This would be a great space for a dinner meeting or family celebration.
The restaurant offers a prix-fixed menu for 29.00, as well as their full menu. They offered a surprising number of options for the prix-fixed menu, though, so while I was tempted by some of the other offerings (escargot, panko-crusted brie, and the roquefort-crusted filet, to be precise) I went for the three-course meal.
I started with a bowl of seafood bisque, which was creamy and loaded with a few shrimp, big chunks of fresh crabmeat, and a few spoonfuls of rice (which was interesting, I've never had rice in bisque before). The soup was incredibly rich and had just a touch of sherry. I was really impressed with how perfectly the shrimp were cooked... I was less impressed with the fact that the cook did not remove the tail vein (which made one piece actually gritty). I know it's a pain to remove; I do it when I cook shrimp at home (and I don't need a gadget). Maybe I'm being picky, but seeing shrimp that's not properly cleaned, particularly at a nice restaurant, seems like carelessness or laziness to me.
The main coarse was pan-roasted Norwegian salmon, a thick slab of fish that came propped up on a thin corncake about the width of a waterglass. The salmon was very pretty, golden-crisp around the edges. It came drizzled with a wasabi vinaigrette that wasn't at all spicy, but lent a tangy salty flavor (like miso and rice wine vinegar) to the fish. Microgreens and a few fried wontons gave texture and crunch. The fish melted away in my mouth, perfectly cooked all the way through. Fantastic. Room-falls-silent-as-everyone-digs-in good.
Alongside the fish were small, equally-sized mounds of seaweed salad and pickled ginger. I usually think of pickled ginger as a condiment or palate cleanser, so it was a little confusing to see so much of it... but I love it, so that totally worked for me. The corncake was nice with a fancy scalloped edge, mild in flavor, studded with whole kernels. This main dish was awesome. I could eat it every day.
For the last course, I chose the dessert of the day - strawberry shortcake made with strawberry gelato. Given the chill of the weekend, this was like a taste of spring. The biscuit was light and sweet and tender, a nice contrast to the cold, dense gelato. A dollop of heavy whipped cream decorated the plate and punched up the richness factor, but the intense strawberry flavor of the sauce (with some chopped fresh strawberries) kept the richness from becoming overwhelming. The portion size was perfect after the first two courses.
The service was polite and efficient.
As someone who doesn't go out to high-end restaurants often, I'm pretty satisfied with my meal. Everything I tasted was delicious, and other peoples' food looked awesome. I'd like to go back some time, maybe for a very special occasion, and try some other items on the menu. I'm also curious to see if the experience is different for a party of two or four (versus a group of 16; I always wonder if I'm seeing the best side of a place when I go there for the first time with a large group).
Have you been to The King's Contrivance? Where are your favorite splurge-dining-spots? Tell me in the comments below!