I was reminded of something very important while dining at Cru. When you give the chef freedom to fly you will visit many places you never expected, some good, some great and some not worth visiting again. In our own kitchen we change the menu daily though our freedom is influenced or corralled--depends whom you talk to--by the guests who visit with us. We are definitely exploring food though it still must remain grounded. I have difficulty with that at times, though Aki is able to help filter and edit my adventurous side.
The menu at Cru reads well with the ingredients coming from near and far though with distinct leanings toward Japan in the selections and seasonings of the crudo, and more firmly towards Italy with the homemade pastas. Though there is more to offer than what you see on the menu. Ask for the kitchen to cook for you. Be willing and open to taste and see what the chef, Shea Gallante, and his team has to offer. We arrived at dinner with a couple of tastes for the kitchen as well. Last year we ran into Shea in Aspen and gave him some vanilla salt. We felt it only fitting to bring some chocolate salt this time around. We also brought a bottle of tequila vinegar, with his affinity for raw fish we felt the vinegar would be a fun ingredient to work with.
After we were seated and had perused the menu we were given the opportunity to have the kitchen cook for us. Just say yes. If the opportunity arises just nod, explain any allergies or food dislikes and perhaps a culinary spark from the menu at hand and let the kitchen cook. We did and that was key to a wonderful evening. Oh, and they also offered to pair wines with appropriate courses. That meant we had absolutely nothing to do but eat, drink and enjoy an evening with Reiko.
The first course, in this case bite, came after an array of canapés. I do not have a written menu in hand and even if I did, not much that we were served came from the printed menu. I am thus recreating the meal from memory so there may be a few slips, though as can be shown from my recall that the menu was memorable.
Carrot cone with goat cheese and tarragon
Miniature Cuban sandwich
Arancini with cocoa nibs and butternut squash
Whipped Robiola tartlet with pine nut and olive oil
Chilled oyster with pearls of tequila vinegar, soy and chocolate salt (The re-gift: Shea was the first to use what we brought as a present in the meal for us.)
Miniature Bocconcini with tomato concentrate and jelly
Crudo: Kampachi with radish, needlefish with red and yellow peppers, langoustine with grated black truffle
Dungeness crabmeat with whipped green apple and sesame oil powder
Black sesame seed crusted blue marlin belly with ginger and tamarind
Warm terrine of sweet Maine shrimp with horseradish, sea urchin and micro shiso
Hamachi tartare with wasabi ice cream
Truffle crusted Turbot with cauliflower puree and caramelized cauliflower crust
Fideos of Farro spaghetti with chestnuts and calamari and Papardelle with fennel and duck sausage
Squab breast with curry bubbles, tahini and black trumpet mushrooms
Lamb loin with wild rice and mole
Short Ribs with potato puree, young beets and parsnip batons
Yogurt sorbet with yuzu grapefruit consommé
Amaretto ice cream with pineapple and cake
Chocolate ice cream, pudding pop and cake with aerated caramel
The dishes were fun and exciting. The only real mis-steps came during dessert. They just did not mesh with the rest of the menu. Something is out of sync and that is unfortunate for if the desserts could become part of the whole Cru would be truly spectacular. Sure there were a few other small stumbles in the menu, in spite of these we can honestly say that as an overall experience Cru was well worth the journey. We can add Cru to the list of places that we'd return to and that list is not a long one this year.