We had splurge Merry Christmas dinner the other night at CityZen at the Mandarin Hotel. Fortunately it wasn’t until the following night that my son woke a few times before midnight. Thankfully, on our night out, all was quiet. We left at 7:30 and didn’t return until 11:00 after a lovely dinner (with a neighbor babysitting for free as a swap! score!)
It’s already been a week (things have been busy), but I hope I can still capture most of the intricacies of our meal. I hadn’t called ahead to mention being gluten-free and dairy-free because the menu looked fairly forgiving on that front. The actual menu was a little more of a challenge, but once we mentioned the issue to our server, I felt very watched out for and taken care of.
The meal began with two amuse-bouches for each of us. My husband got a wild mushroom “pretzel” with a wild mushroom sauce. I was given three small pieces of roasted beet (two gold and one red) a tiny amount of greens. It was hard to hear the server describe the next mini-course, but it was something like jicama. He said it was Japanese potato, something I love to roast at home, but this one was marinated or pickled or something. It came with a date relish. I’m afraid the details are already blurring! LJ got a mini souffle (what he is calling custard) — he thought it had some kind of rich cheese but was told it was just egg, cream and olive oil with paprika. We heard a woman at the next table equally incredulous being given the same explanation upon inquiring about what type of cheese was used.
The menu’s seafood selections looked the safest for me, but I didn’t want an appetizer and entree that were both fish. She explained that the “ravioli” in the pork belly appetizer was just some fruit inside a folded-over shaving of persimmon. So, despite concerns about nitrates, I went for the pig, and it was very yummy. This is why I ordered the Cabernet Sauvingon instead of a white wine, and, since it was on the chilly side in the restaurant, I was glad I’d gone with red. LJ got a Manhattan that came with a marinated sour cherry and was prepared “old school” with bitters. He later got a glass of Sangiovese Chianti.
LJ’s appetizer was a parnsip souffle inside of a crepe with a clam sauce. He describes the experience as “cosmic.” LJ was offered bread during the meal – country, foccacia or something else. He says they were good, and he had the choice of unsalted and salted butter.
His entree was duck breast that came with duck sausage and French lentils. I had a bite was rich and yummy. LJ called it “exquisite” if not perhaps a tad too salty. My entree was local Rockfish (not listed on my wallet mercury chart) – crispy skin filet – that came with citrus potato hash, baked cauliflour and a green sauce that was delightful, but I can’t remember what vegetable it was supposed to come from. The fish itself was unremarkable, but all the flavors of everything on the plate were amazing.
To cleanse our palates, I was given some kind of a pear dish that was divine, and LJ had something else I’ll have to check with him about when he gets out of the shower.
Desserts are usually a challenge for the bluten- and dairy-challenged. I am not usually a big citrus-eater, but the CityZen Tequila Sunrise was out of this world : poached blood orange suprêmes, orange confiture, sherbet (currently says lime on the menu but I think mine was rasberry) and a drizzling of tequila offered like pepper on a salad. I held back out of respect for my liver but wish I’d asked the server for a few more shakes. The ginger beignets went to my husband with a regretful “these have gluten.” We had actually only said wheat was a concern, so it was nice to know they understood what we really meant.
LJ had a pumpkin bread pot au feu with flowering quince (whatever that means) and ice cream. It also came with some type of cookie/sweetbread.
We savored every bite of the meal and sip of our drinks and decafs. There were lots of morons smoking under the warming lights as we waited for the valet (which still cost $7 even with the restaurant stamp), but otherwise, the intake for the night was impeccable and worth the pricier-than normal nice meal we might normally pursue. With all the extra little touches, I would say it’s worth the money of $75 for the fixed price. If you are flexible enough to be happy with any of the smaller number of choices (and don’t have any dietary restrictions), I would guess the $50 for sitting at the bar would be the way to go, as long as it comes with all the fun extras.