This menu was similar to, but slightly different from the meal I had at Arzak in late July/early August, 2012, but I was more than happy to go down that path once again. Arzak represents a brilliant combination of modern, creative, quasi-molecular cuisine with enough concessions to traditional Basque and Spanish cuisine to please the most demanding diner. Everything is original and creative yet the flavors are wonderfully intense and complementary. The food is always recognizable despite a few detours in exotic ways. A great example of an amazing course is their Cromlech, which is basically a foie gras, a genius preparation that is eaten with your fingers. This is avant garde cooking, but everything works - the flavors, texture and richness of the dish. Some of the other dishes are much more traditional, such as the sea bass marinated in gin and served with potatoes, the poached egg cooked at a low temperature as well as the sauteed lobster. The play of many different ingredients that you do not normally find at most three-star restaurants worked brilliantly thanks to the terrific talents and palates of the father and daughter chef team of Juan-Mari and Elena Arzak.
The 2005 Pazo de Senorans Seleccionada was outstanding, and I was blown away by one of my favorite Austrian producers, Knoll. The 2004 Knoll Riesling Ried Loibenberg was a big, full-bodied, dry, mineral-laced Riesling that was performing beautifully at age 9. It was a perfect match with several of the dishes, particularly the hake fish, the sea bass and the poached egg and lobster. We finished with another brilliant wine, the 2004 Pintia from the Spanish appellation of Toro. This estate is owned by the proprietor of Vega Sicilia, and the wine was a brilliant, rich, dense plum/purple-colored, full-bodied effort with lots of scorched earth, smoke, blackberry and cassis characteristics. It is just hitting adolescence.
This was a brilliant, fun night of great cuisine as well as intriguing and stunning wines.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...