Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Rumblings #4: Mistral Kitchen

Hamachi crudo art
This blog will by far be the prettiest post to date thanks to our food photographer, Vincent Chu.  All the lavish praise on how lovely the photos look should be heaped on him - although I take credit for reminding him to bring his camera to capture the evening.  Vince happened to be one of our friends dining with us that evening along with our friend Tiffany, who is a notoriously picky eater and had chosen to dine at Mistral Kitchen since its menu was Tiff-friendly.

I had such high hopes for Mistral, which is a re-opened Seattle favorite with a wonderfully lovely and French sounding name. Mistral used to be in Belltown sort of where the new Buckley's is today and I had heard it was a hidden jewel of poised elegance in Belltown and heard nothing but rave reviews about it. Lo and behold, the chef, William Belickis decided that Seattlites aren't into fancy food and fancy atmospheres so he closed it up and opened Mistral Kitchen on Westlake between South Lake Union and the Downtown area thereafter with a casual experience in mind.

The reviews mentioned that there would be foam. I was excited. Foam used to remind me of - well, disgusting and dirty frat parties and while it is apparently overused in the culinary world, is fairly absent in Seattle where we are pretentious but pretentious against the pretentious.  Re:public had some delicious foam on a pasta dish and I was hoping Mistral Kitchen would feature some molecular gastronomy and some sous vide for me.

The Service

I had to mention it. We were feeling slightly obnoxious and definitely friendly so we told our waiter that we blogged out food and would be blogging about him should his behavior not be up to par. He said his name was Blair, nevermind Sergio to which I promptly joking that I was done with him since he treats me like a rag doll.  But Blair/Sergio was delightful - he had great recommendations, explained things really well, including the branzino that wasn't your typical branzino.  He joked, he laughed, he asked if we were ok and when we brought up pretty personal questions about ourselves, he doled out advice and made fun of us (in a sweet and humorous  manner). Also, all throughout the night, our water glasses were always filled, tables were cleared in between courses of everything down to the silverware (as it should be) and dishes were always served together.  Excellent service.


Most of us ordered the hamachi crudo which I had to go for since the crudo at the Ethan Stowell joints are among my favorite dishes.  The presentation was lovely - like art with a single piece adorned with a bunch of delicate micro-greens, julienned grapefruit and other pretty things.  It tasted delicate but it was a little difficult getting all of that pretty, teensy stuff on one forkful in order to get a flavorful bite.  While it had a nice balance of acid and fat, I prefer the Stowell servings of crudo which are a blend of chic, flavor and functionality - especially the hamachi crudo with chiles, lime, oil and salt. Perhaps comparing isn't fair but the How To Cook a Wolf reference in my taste memory made me slightly disappointed with this offering. I tried Tiff's parsnip soup with vanilla oil and found the texture to be a bit off and the flavors boring.


Uninspired. That's all I can say about what was served to us. No foams, no creativity, no something creamed that never is, or something spicy that usually isn't, or French plus a Northwest twist like wasabi or yuzu or nettle.  Not to say that the meal was bad because it wasn't.  It just wasn't exciting and nothing to get your panties in a bunch over.  I had the branzino which wasn't the whole fish but rather a fillet. It was well cooked although the dish was a little underseasoned for my taste and was served with heirloom Romanesco cauliflower which is a light green type of cauliflower that tastes like normal cauliflower but looks like a Pokemon.  It was just cooked - no roasting or tossing in garlic or whatnot.  Overall the dish was lemony and herby but that’s pretty much how a very classic piece of fish is served.  Everyone else had the beef which I thought may have a twist. While cooked nicely, it was also a blend of lovely but mundane served on parsnip puree with some kale. Nothing scintillating there.


This was the least disappointing course of the evening!  Props to Pastry Chef Neil Robertson for doing interesting stuff. Most of us had a chocolate coffee pudding which featured a boozy bourbon cream. I loved it; it wasn't boring pudding, had some texture and had a surprise with the bourbon whipped cream on top. Tiff had an apple cream puff which was also magically delicious.  Perhaps not their most inspired desserts compared to their website menu but the flavors were solid.
I wished and hope and clasped my hands and clicked my heels together but Mistral was a bit of a letdown.  I think instead of featuring a smattering of unique and festive dishes that would punch diners in the face and tell them about the restaurant, the courses were well-cooked and presented in lovely ways but were pedestrian. Instead of showcasing their talent, I felt as if Chef Belickis were talking down to us as if the cheap jerks who go to Restaurant Week wouldn't understand fancy food.  Well, Mistral Kitchen, I don't pay fancy prices for the prosaic.

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