I wanted to respond with “Rodger that”, but this wasn’t Mission Impossible. Instead, this was dinner; and not just any dinner. This was a course-after-course, lavish, dining engagement at Esterel in Beverly Hills. This dinner would be exceptional and if I choose to accept, it would be memorable. His words replayed in my mind one last time, “We have all the specifics”. With that I had a decision to make. Do I take the job presented to me and go on a culinary adventure? Or do I leave the restaurant and relieve myself from an assignment that I may be unable to take.
Trust me, I accepted.
We were escorted to our table where the dinner would take place. Our waiter soon came to greet us. His name was Smith. Actually, it was Joe but I was looking at the gorgeous layout inside and outside when he said his name and I missed it, so I called him Smith until he repeated “Joe” later that night. Smith was professional. He knew my job was to explore the menu and his goal was to make sure I could execute it well. By execute, I mean devour it. He walked us through the menu like it was an agenda to capture a rouge agent. Cocktails, appetizers, entrees, and desserts were expertly detailed and with that, TJ and I knew where to begin. Drinks, obviously.
I needed something to start this job and the best choice was the Verger Up ($15). Yes it was small in size, but it was large in taste. The drink mixed Nolet gin, blood orange, cardamom, and grapefruit together to create a concoction that would be necessary to perfect this mission. Although cardamom was grazed across the drink lightly, I could taste the definitive flavor of the spice. Add to that, the sour accents of the grapefruit and the stiffness of the gin and I had before me a cocktail that would sustain me throughout my assignment. TJ went an easier route and ordered the Myrtille Smash ($15). It was bulleit rye, blueberry jam, lemon, black walnut bitters. His drink felt like it was made for a person who likes to savor sweetness. I could distinguish between the alcohol and the syrup, but the jam and lemon components took reign turning the liquor into a subtle aftertaste. Not bad, but not for my job tonight.
Just as soon as the drinks began to take effect, the appetizers came to the table. The first of the two was the Pan Seared Scallops ($17). The plate had two scallops that were lightly seared to add flavor and lock in the softness. Underneath the scallops was a bed of white lima beans that were cooked to perfection. TJ took the route of the Forestiere ($15). It was a flat bread pizza with bacon, wild mushrooms, parmesan, arugula, truffle. If you’ve followed some of my operations, then you know I can only tolerate truffle in moderate doses. If truffle were attached to a high-security job, I would pass on the assignment. I almost did that here, but when TJ insisted, I conceded. The flatbread was vibrant and crispy with a proper distribution of ingredients that didn’t cause the pizza to collapse. Although the truffle smell was prominent, the taste wasn’t as obvious. It passed.
Smith soon returned to our table with the utmost urgency in his eyes when he asked if we were prepared to order our entrees. His eyes darted between TJ and I with a look of doubt. We were’t worried. TJ selected the Lamb Shank ($32). A simple cut of lamb atop barley risotto, paired with wild mushrooms, Suzie’s shishito peppers, and sauce verte. The plating of the shank was lovely and the sauce was a bright green that was eye catching. A simple cut into the shank was easy and the elation on TJ’s eyes when he bit into it showed he was happy with his decision.
I on the other had followed my gut intuition. There were many options available, but I knew that selecting an entrée would require every piece of food education and field training that I’ve ever undertaken. It was from those moments that I honed in on the choice that could bring this entire mission to a close. I ordered the Grass Fed Filet Mignon ($48 for 7oz). Smith turned and walked away with no emotion on his face. A feeling of worry started to creep into my mind until Smith came back. With a smile from ear to ear, he placed my dinner in front of me and whispered, “Enjoy.” Every happy nerve in my body screamed with gladness, but on the outside I kept my cool. This was the best item on the menu and my taste buds couldn’t have been happier. The thick filet was aligned with summer vegetables succotash and Anson Mills grits. The meat was juicy, the vegetables were fresh, and the grits were incredible! I thought to myself, “Job well done.”
Smith returned to our table with a tight smile of satisfaction. We completed the first three tasks with ease. It was then that he threw one final assignment: dessert. Piece of cake, literally. We got the Crepe Brulee Cheesecake ($9). It was a small brown butter cookie with chocolate tuile and fresh berries. It was delicious, but unfortunately, this wasn’t a task for two—TJ didn’t get any.
With the last bite of the final plate, TJ and I completed our mission and exppressed our gratitude to Smith for sticking by our side through the tasks. As we began to walk out, the general manager extended his hand to bid us a good night. I looked him straight in the eye, confident about the task I had just completed. I took his hand in mine, shook it firmly, and said good night.
- Food tastes great
- Great staff
- Nice decor