Monday, July 23, 2012

Tableside Dessert at Black + Blue

Black + Blue on Urbanspoon Last time I was at Black + Blue, I was intrigued by the desserts -- 20-layer Chocolate Cake and tableside service for Crêpe Suzette and Bananas Foster. My friend Jenny's birthday was coming up soon, and in any case she was curious about the restaurant.

My last visit was on a Saturday, and it was packed. This time I went on a Sunday night, and things were winding down around 8pm. By 10.30pm when we were done, there were only a few guests here and there in the 320-seat restaurant (another 200 to open soon on a rooftop patio).

For drinks I tried getting a non-alcoholic ginger beer again. Instead of something put together by the bartender, I instead got Fentiman's Ginger Beer (which, strangely, showed up on the bill as "Red Bull" for $5). The taste isn't as sharp as the house-brewed ginger beer at Nuba at The Waldorf, and has a sweetness that competes (too) strongly with the ginger and makes it taste more like a soft drink.

  • Stuffed Mushrooms - $15 - portobello, dungeness crab, béarnaise
    • Despite the name, it's just the one medium-sized portobello, generously stuffed with crab and sauce, and baked.
    • Quite tasty, with an overall creamy filling in the mouth.
  • Oysters Rockefeller - $14 - herb butter, pernod, hollandaise
    • Served in a  cast-iron dish lined with a good amount of sea salt and chili flakes. Four oysters.
    • My very first time having Oysters Rockefeller, so I don't really have anything to compare it with.
    • Very creamy. Quite delicious, but not anything I'd make a point of trying again. Soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth feeling.
    • Jenny finds oysters gross, but I still convinced her to give this classic a try. I found that there was only a mild "oyster taste" compared with to the other stuff baked on top, but she still found it too much and almost threw up. I gave her some ginger beer to wash the taste away but that didn't help enough. The waitress recommended a Coke and she tried a Diet Coke ($3.50). Jenny bravely held on, looking forward to washing it all away with a generous helping of chocolate cake.
  • Tuna Screamer - $15 - ahi tuna, serrano chili, daikon, tobiko, ponzu
    • Raw tuna, salty sauce, served cold. Nothing too special here. Not hot despite the chili.
    • A bit too salty for me, so go easy on scooping up the sauce that's enough to make a small soup.
    • For $15 you get a few slices of raw tuna sitting on a boring salad soaking in salty soup. If you want raw tuna, I recommend getting it from a Japanese restaurant instead.
  • Sunday "Surf & Turf" - $35 - 6 oz steak, lobster pate, roasted (?) potato, green beans, and tomato
    • The thing about steak is the more you buy, the cheaper it is. For 20% more you could get more than twice the amount of steak (e.g., 16 oz Bone-In Rib Eye is $44). A lightweight steak special is really only good if you can't handle a full-size meal.
    • This was Jenny's order. She went with Medium-Well-Done and it came looking red like a Medium or Medium Rare, but no blood. It looked like they even cut the steak open to check (but not completely cutting it through, so the piece was still technically whole).
  • 20 Layer Chocolate Espresso Cake - $12 - with whipping cream, brandied cherries.
    • It really is 20 layers if you count the cream and icing. Each layer is at most 5 millimetres.
    • It looks like a large piece, but it's also a narrow slice. Anywhere else you'd probably pay $5-$6 for that quantity, although there'd probably be less work involved in making it (assuming this is house-made and not shipped in from a factory).
    • A really decent chocolate cake. Moist. Not too fatty feeling despite half of it essentially being cream. Definitely a tasty and safe choice for a dessert.
  • Crepes Suzette - $12 - prepared tableside, cointreau, whipped cream
    • Apparently all the waitresses are taught how to do the tableside salads and desserts by the chef or pastry chef.
    • In this particular presentation, the crepe is soaked in the generous amount of caramel sauce and the whole thing is set aflame. After the crepe is plated, orange wedges are thrown in the remaining sauce, allowed to soften in it, and along with the rest of the sauce gets poured over the crepe. Scoops of whipped cream added after.
    • The oranges are mostly just sweet, nothing citrusy left after their treatment.
    • The very thinly sliced and sugar-coated orange peels sprinkled over everything gave a nice crunchy contrast to the dessert.
    • The plating definitely leaves something to be desired, but it's prepared tableside and a soggy crepe is sort of unwieldy, so that could be forgiven.
    • The cart used is at a convenient height for the person preparing the dessert, but too high for diners to actually see what is going on. Maybe I'm spoiled by my experience at The William Tell, but the presentation/showmanship/flair of the service really adds to the experience. The functional carts there (which take up more space, however) were also lower so you could clearly see what the server was doing, and there was more of a "cooking show" feel. However, times being what they are, it's entirely possible that the demographic that goes to Black + Blue isn't as interested in the process/journey and all that would be wasted on them.
    • What we got at Black + Blue was a very practical/businesslike person-cooking-at-your-table experience. Like sitting at a table with a peek into the goings-on in a kitchen, rather than getting treated to a pleasant interaction with your server and watching them expertly prepared your dessert. You don't pay extra for it, but I'd say not to bother your server with having to do it unless you're going to pay attention. I feel not paying attention would be rude.
The bill came to $111.50 before tax and tip, a few cents shy of $150 after.

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