Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Premeditated Gluttony at Wildebeest

Wildebeest on Urbanspoon Wildebeest recently started their "Premeditated Gluttony" option in September, and with menu picks there for parties of 4-10, they were obviously extensions of their buy-to-share dining style.
The regular menu is generally small sharing plates, and depending on who you end up speaking with, they can come across as rather pushy about this sharing stuff.
Anyway, the idea of Wildebeest appears to be marketed as a Bin 941 tapas-for-sharing style establishment, and the Premeditated Gluttony menu is basically the same idea, but you're ordering much, much, larger plates.

Some special requests can be accomodated. For example, our party included one person with a dairy allergy, and although most persons with that are okay with trace amounts we went with the better-safe-than-sorry no-dairy-at-all option. Didn't really miss anything with what came to the table, happy to say.
No exotic meats here like alligator, for example, but it was mentioned to me that in the fall they might have access to venison.

From the get-go, you are advised to under-order from the Premeditated Gluttony menu so that you can round out your order with other stuff from the regular menu. For our group, I ordered the hay-baked leg of lamp (no, it's not one huge leg, but a good chunk of meat from the leg) for 6 and it came with (included in the final price of $125 before tax and tip) simple accompaniments of a lot of quinoa on the plate soaking up any jus, and roasted eggplant on a separate plate. We didn't have a party of NFL players, so it definitely was enough to feed six, but we had little room for much else.
Service was a bit uncoordinated here. I had asked well ahead of time for the lamb to be brought out immediately so we could get an idea of how big a portion it was and strategize about trying things from the menu and leaving room for dessert. Except for one person we were all on time, but it was still a half hour before it was ready.
I don't pretend to understand the timing in the kitchen, but in the meantime they pressed us to order something else even before the lamb came out. I was nervous about that because our party was only six and one person had stated early on she didn't want any lamb. This definitely felt pushy on their part, although you'll likely get the same at a serious steakhouse like Gotham and Black + Blue where they pretty much insist/force you to buy a side to go with your steak.
I normally wouldn't have gone ahead with the lamb order at all except our party was supposed to be 12 persons. There were a lot of last minute cancellations (out of 12 persons who initially said they wanted to come, about 8 dropped out and 2 joined in the last few days leading to the dinner, for a net of 6 showing up -- and one person had stated early on that she just wasn't into lamb) and in the end, we ended up with enough take-out of lamb and quinoa for one meal, so my holding firm on wanting to see the lamb first paid off in the end. I think in hindsight even the server realized that had been the correct strategy.

After my stressful experience, my advice for the Premediated Gluttony menu is to definitely under-order. You have to give the restaurant one week of notice, so they are trusting that you'll show up to pay for it, and whatever you've ordered in terms of portion size, you really can't go back to downsize. This also means you really need to be sure your party will show, or bid really really low on your order so that everyone ends up with just half a meal or less from the Gluttony menu.
As mentioned, we were expecting 12 in our party (and there were even people on the waiting list) but ultimately for whatever reason this dropped to 6. The hay-baked leg of lamb is normally an order for 8-10 persons, and here the restaurant really did me a favour by allowing me to order a 6-person portion.
If you have a lot of flaky people, don't stick your neck out for them. Unless you're the ruthless asshole type who would stand up the restaurant and leave them hanging with a big-ass plate of meat and no one to sell it to.

While we were waiting for the lamb, we did cautiously try a couple of items:
  • Crispy pork skin, spiced salt ($4)
    • Very small bowl of pork rinds. Seemed very plain. Overpriced at $4. You can probably get a whole bag of this from the supermarket for $4.
  • ​Poutine, roasted duck liver ($16)
    • Also very plain. Just french fries in gravy, plus some small chunks of tender duck liver.
    • For $16? Are you kidding me? Nothing special here, plus if you are opposed to gavage in the production of foie gras, you might not touch this at all.
The lamb (pic) turned out very nicely. As warned, it wasn't a special composed or balanced dish, so whatever the restaurant gives you as an accompaniment is basically a favour on their part. Our lamb didn't look like much on the plate, but boy was it filling. Also tender and moist, and enough salty fat to help you with eating the relentless amount of meat. Definitely have a bit of fat with each bite, but if you are very grease-averse, you might want to try asking for some sort of condiment. If there was any jus on the plate, it had been soaked up by the quinoa.

We tried several desserts and... they were wierd! Plus the portions ranged from small to shockingly small for the price, which came in at 50% to 100% more than most restaurants.
  • 64% single origin Maralumi chocolate sorbet, celery root, co!ee [?] essence, walnuts ($9) (pic)
    • This looked like a lump of very soft chocolate with shavings of something (celery root, presumably) on top, and sitting in some kind of liquid.
    • If you didn't eat it all up in the first minute, it melted into water. Not that it wasn't mostly watery to begin with. An unappetizing result, unfortunately to a dessert that seemed lacklustre to begin with.
  • ​Composed cheese - baked Farmhouse brie, seasonal fruit jam, buttermilk ice cream ($12)
    • Interesting for the use of cheese. Stinky, though. I am biased against stinky cheese, so I can't fairly say this wasn't a good dessert. All I can say is I didn't like it, but only because I don't like stinky cheese.
  • ​Sun Jewel melon sorbet, verbena-infused charentais melon consomm√©, melon salad ($9) (pic)
    • This tasted like melon. I'm sure there was something special to it, but I missed it.
For the desserts, I think you really need to NOT share (or not with a lot of people; one dessert for two persons maximum). Before you order it, know what you are getting and hopefully know enough to appreciate what it is. When it comes, dive into it right away.

The room is long and narrow with a basement area as well. Plus it's dark. So dark that you're likely to walk by the restaurant if you're not paying attention. Inside, it's less dark if you're opposite the open kitchen but not by much.
And it's noisy. Noise level can vary as they adjust the volume on the music, but there's still the buzz of conversation from quite closely packed tables.
If there are no tables, you could try asking to dine at the bar. From how full their reservations book looked, I'd recommend you call ahead, though.

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