One thing I instantly liked about this establishment was their use of an open kitchen. I have said many times and will say it again. I really think this type of restaurant design helps diners connect that much better with their meal. Examples of this are the teppanyaki grills that seem to fascinate diners as well as pizza establishments as they toss their dough in front of their patrons. A little showmanship, transparency and the sounds, sights and aromas first hand from the kitchen just add that much more to a dining experience.
The concept is intriguing. Small plates really meant for sharing in an intimate space and a menu that changes almost weekly. Here were the offerings when my dining companion and I were there.
The was also a nicely curated wine list with every item available by the glass in addition to a selection of around ten artisanal beers.
The first menu item sampled was Chinese broccoli with pork and black garlic with peanut butter. Chinese broccoli or gai lan is in the same family as cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. It is a bit more bitter than its western cousin broccoli. This was stir-fried with pork and set atop plated peanut butter mixed with black garlic. Simplistically, black garlic is garlic that is roasted at lower temperatures for two to twelve weeks. This results in garlic with black cloves having a sweet/syrupy flavor. The dish seemed well thought out; the sweet garlic/peanut butter mixture an interesting substitute for traditional Asian peanut sauce.
This curry was made with acorn squash, carrot, parsnip, ginger, toasted pumpkin seed, tarragon oil and coconut milk. The green dollop you see on top of this dish is a mint and parsley gremolata, Gremolatas are herb condiments similar to the South American chimichurri. I thought this dish was good until my bites started to include the gremolata. The mint used was a very dissonant flavor combination with the rest of this dish. Although my dining companion liked it, this was my least favorite of the menu items sampled.
The pork belly, cauliflower, shrimp and kosho was next. Kosho, or yuzu kosho, is a Japanese condiment that adds notes of salt, citrus and chili at the same time. The pork belly in this dish was seared and finished in the oven so that it was smooth and chewy rather than crispy as most preparations are. I suppose this was done to complement the textures of the roasted cauliflower and shrimp in this dish, but also to buttress the flavors of these latter two ingredients.
I love duck. Seeing this on the menu immediately piqued my interest and it was the next small plate that followed.
For those that do not know, confit (con-fee) was a method of food preservation before the advent of refrigeration. Here, animals proteins are salted and cooked slowly at low temperatures to render the fat, or separate it from its protein counterpart. The rendered fat is then used to store and preserve the meat and or poultry which can keep for weeks or even months. In cooking a confit is cooked longer over low temperatures in either fat or in the case of fruit, sugars.
Short ribs are on my shortlist of favorite meats. The boneless short ribs served were perfectly cooked, some of the best I’ve had both in flavor and texture. The ribs are braised for six to eight hours and the brazing liquid also used as a base for the mole sauce. Mole (mow-lay) sauce originated in Mexico. Simplistically, mole is a complex mixture of chili peppers, fruit, nuts and a blend of many spices. Some mole sauces are blended with chocolate, as was the sauce served here.
The cost of our meal having just Fort Myers tap with tax and tip was $80.00. The cost of obtaining ingredients from local producers and the five (albeit small) plates served to us partially justified this.
The service is very good and the servers exceptionally competent as to the specifics of the menu. The menu items seemed to be at least somewhat well thought out, and on the whole the food was nothing less than good.