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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Michelin Guide

The little red book we travel with is the Guide Michelin.  We never go to France of Italy without the latest addition, and frequently refer to its restaurant and hotel reviews as we drive through cities and towns. According to the Guide Michelin website, the rankings of restaurants, which may result in a coveted star or two or three, are done by anonymous inspectors using these criteria:

  • The quality of the products
  • The mastery of flavor and cooking
  • The "personality" of the cuisine
  • The value for the money
  • The consistency between visits
Often, we agree with the information in the Guide.  But sometimes we wonder:  what were they thinking?  The latter happened Friday evening when we dined in The Dining Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California.

The Dining Room bills itself as the only Los Angeles area restaurant with one Michelin star and as having "poised" service.  Dream on.  Regarding the service, we specifically told our waiter that one of our party is a vegetarian and does not eat mushrooms.  She was then offered bacon bread rolls and served a second course of tempura mushrooms.  The service was also slow, and they poured our wine before bringing the cocktails we had ordered [no it had nothing to do with aeration].  Incidentally, the wine Mr. Wonderful ordered was superb -- a 1996 Domaine Louis Jadot, Clos Vougeot, Grand Cru.

As for the food, it started out with a fun amuse bouche consisting of a caviar and cream in a pâte à choux and a cube of tomato aspic with a sweet undertone topped with a mint leaf.  

After the promising start, we got the four-course prix fixe menus each of us had ordered. In general, the presentations were pretty but the food was either bland or over-salted and outré.  For example, the vegetable course had a few too many edible flowers and included raw baby carrots and radishes in "edible" soil.
 Here is a close up of the flower pot with the items in the soil.
I thought Bugs Bunny would hop in at any moment and go for the goodies. But, I think he too does not like eating dirt.

We ended our meal with two different desserts, but they were better looking than tasty. The Pistachio Tres Leches was bland and had no discernible pistachio flavor.
The Chocolate Caramel Ganache was equally band, almost soapy.
There was one interesting item -- instead of a cold sherbet between the last course and dessert, they served us little bowls of some kind of puffed ice pellets with root beer [which tasted more like hazelnuts].
Overall, we don't think we will be visiting this restaurant again regardless of the Guide Michelin's star. 

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