If I've said it once, I've said it a million times; I do not celebrate Valentine's day. That being said, I am not one to pass up a potential deal just because it falls in and around a corporately-marketed, artificial, pressure-laden, supposedly-romantic-but-in-reality-disappointing holiday. At $105 a person, we were able to enjoy the 2941 "Valentines" tasting menu on a random Thursday night rather than at the holiday weekend price ($130), and at a bargain compared to the normal tasting menu ($90), which only includes four courses. We've taken to having random fancy dinners on weeknights, usually Thursdays, to avoid the rush and cost so often associated with weekend dining, instead staying in on Fridays to enjoy late meals prepared with a little relaxation and TLC. Frankly, the schedule has worked out quite conveniently, and cost-effectively, for us.
2941 was not the easiest place to find, tucked in an otherwise non-descript office building near the intersection of 495 and 66. Further, the interior decor suffers from an identity crisis with modern glass and architectural elements, a classic painting, what I would term a "nature scene" with fireplace, and random pieces of twentieth century sculpture dotting the room. On this particular occasion, an enormous chocolate sculpture also graced the counter behind my head. I kept thinking that the smell of chocolate melting from the kitchen was suprisingly strong in the dining room. That is, until rose petals started falling and we realized that the melting chocolate was indeed a lot closer than the galley. Truly, I was sympathetic for the pastry chef as he hurriedly attempted to carry away and salvage what started as a magnificent culinary creation. One final note regarding the ambiance before I move on to the food. Can I just say that the trend of naming the restaurant after the street number has to stop? Chefs, we are not setting ourselves apart with this trend. While it does help with directions, I think we need to give it up.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am quick to overlook complaints with decor, and even service, if the food is up to snuff. While nothing to turn my nose at, I'm not sure the cuisine here was of the caliber to overcome my initial pessimism. Things started out well, with a trio of amuse bouche, a Japanese oyster (don't ask me to remember the name), hamachi sashimi, and a chestnut velute...the entire course was very rich. For me, the richness was cut with a pleasing first course, a seafood salad with shrimp, avocado, and a suprising pineapple. On the other side of table, my husband enjoyed another rich course, a tuna tartar spiced with black truffles. The seafood salad was preferable to my palate. We then both moved on to ricotta ravioli, also garnished with black truffles, and a touch of parmesan and chives, the course was light yet flavorable. For the seafood course, my husband then enjoyed 2941's version of butter-poached lobster, served as a deconstructed New England Chowder. I chose the halibut accompanied by a vegetable fricasee in a sorrel (herb) sauce. While the chowder received lots of acclaim, the halibut was somewhat underwhelming. For main dishes, the parsley rack of lamb was much more flavorful than a "beef duo" which really was a simple filet with pureed potatoes and mushroom wine sauce. Truly, a little too simple for a restaurant worthy of the acclaim 2941 has garnered.
A small palate cleanser of orange and vanilla sorbets in jus of tangerine was better than the desserts for me, like a fresher fruitier version of a creamsicle. On the other hand, the chocolate moelleux (let's just call it mousse) was a bit dull. The cremeux (let's just call it cream) of passion fruit and other tropical fruits was better. Among the petit fours, with the predictable shortbread and candied fruit, I did finally find a bliss-in-a-bite moment with the fabulous dense and deeply fried doughnut holes. Even if there were low notes, I at least left with a delicious last impression.