I started with a wanamaker cocktail. Snack Bar is known for it's inventive drink list so despite the fact I knew I had a tasting menu with wines on the way, I had to start big. Bourbon, cider, the butterscotch was understated but overall a great drink. The amarena cherry garnish tasted a bit past it's prime though.
First course: carrot ginger soup with coconut froth and peanut praline. Very enjoyable. Praline was a great foil to perfectly smooth soup. Served pretty hot in a pretty shot glass. I wasn't thrilled with the pairing, a champagne cocktail with basil seeds. Basil seeds? The thought progression... "Basil leaves don't have seeds. Oh, seeds that you would start a plant from!" While they had a slight basil flavor the passion fruit seed texture of goop around the seed coupled with their deer tick size meant they were stuck in your teeth for a good 20 minutes. Food 1 pairings 0.
Second course: Scallop 'choucroute' of fennel and apple with yuzu miso glaze. The scallop was cooked perfectly and the yuzu miso the perfect compliment. I did have a bit of sea grit on the scallop, but my favorite Bartendrix mentioned it might be some mystery seasoning, so Shola gets a mulligan for that one. Katie is much more familiar with his food than I. The La Cala Vermentino with it was pleasant and crisp, terrific with the apple and fennel. A healthy pour for a tasting menu. Food 2 pairings 1.
Third course: Skate wing torchon, nicoise flavors. Interesting and unusual, yet I don't need cornichon puree in my life. Red pepper vanilla gelee was quite inventive. Fried capers always please. And nasturtium leaves were a nice touch. Points for preparing skate in an unusual way and shape, but not one for the scoreboard. The viognier was wonderful with the gelee. Food 2 pairings 2.
Fourth course: kobe beef culotte, oxtail gyoza, parsnips and chanterelles. Wow. Yum. Not much to say. I'm glad philadining confirmed this was prepared sous vide, as I was hoping to encounter some on this night. It is a signature technique of Shola's. I was a bit confused by the wording, "culotte" as in split skirt. The cut of beef wasn't a skirt steak. Maybe a short cut? I'm all for creative wording but this one was lost on me. Oxtail is the new short rib. Bargain cut gaining notoriety with chefs. With good reason. Part of eating out is having something you wouldn't make at home. Who braises something for many hours anymore (besides me)? Spoiled me wanted to gild the lily and beg for white truffle on this dish. Great Valley Zinfandel was a great pairing. Stood up to the kobe without overpowering. Food 3 pairings 3.
Fifth course: epoisses with fennel mostarda, shitake soil and pumpernickel crisp. One of the best of the evening, requiring minimal preparation. The cheese was perfectly room temperature and perfectly ripe. It's pungency paired with shitake earthiness had me moaning for quite a bit. The Coteaux du Layon had just the right amount of sweetness to balance the funk. I hope Katie or David McDuff can shed some light on the varietal and other info of the tasty beverage. Food 4 pairings 4.
Sixth course: apple in forms, black sesame struesel, white chocolate. More moaning. Lovely. Crisp. Fresh. Cool. I could go on and on. The green apple granita was more similar in texture to a sorbet, but that's nitpicking. The white chocolate sabayon was velvety on the tongue. Black sesame for a touch of savoriness and compressed apple with chartreuse was a fun addition. I hear Quentin Tarantino in Death Proof, "Chartreuse, the liquor so good they named a color after it." This was the only dish I saw Shola eating himself in the dining room. The pairing however, did not fare so well. Acrid. Deplorable. Yuck. Warm sake with lemongrass and some other flavor I forgot while trying to suppress the memory of this. Suggested fix: chilled sake with elderflower. Food 5 pairings 4.
Seventh course: caju lime marshmallow and fried chocolate. Where was my graham cracker? Wonderful creation. I should have assumed there'd be a geyser of chocolate when I bit into it, but after a long day I wasn't paying attention and my shirt got a big taste! Caju lime marshmallow with a spicy peanut butter would make a killer nouveau fluffer nutter.
My first Shola dinner. My first time out with my dining crowd in a long time. First time meeting many eGullet regulars. A terrific night. Special thanks to I Call the Duck for coordinating a reservation for 11 in a small space.