Lessons in speed eating: Please don't take my appetizer yet ...
"Hey, wait, there goes my 'Market Radish on a Bed of Pea Shoots and Powdered Parmigiano'!" I watched my unfinished first course sail through the air as the waiter whisked it away from the table. He set it back down when I burst into tears, or maybe I just looked annoyed -- it's all kind of a blur.
In less time than it takes to watch an episode of "Glee," I'd been ushered through a five-course tasting menu from Gavin Kaysen of Cafe Boulud in New York, who was guest chef last night at Animal on Fairfax Avenue (he's there again tonight due to popular demand). One barely finished plate was immediately replaced by the next. I have a fuzzy memory of: petits pois arancini with pea shoots and market radishes; marinated hiramasa crudo with compressed watermelon, jalapeno, fried garlic and ponzu; spaghetti nero with fennel purée, fra diavolo, prawns, octopus and tarragon; caper-crusted lamb loin with green zucchini, fava beans, pearl onions and mint-infused lamb jus. I'm pretty sure everything was delicious.
One glass of Gruner Veltliner was only half-finished before dessert came out: mousse au chocolat with blood orange, hazelnut gateau and lavender crumble. A few bites of gateau were still left when the waiter came by, cocked his eyebrows and looked at me like, "So, are you done with that, or what?"
Maybe the waiter was at the mercy of a kitchen working at full speed, or maybe our particular table was desperately needed by sunset, but is more than a single hour to enjoy dinner (at more than $100 per person) too much to ask?
-- Betty Hallock