Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: The Fountain

Anniversary time again! And for this one, we were in agreement: we'd finally try Bistrot La Minette, the French place that we had heard so many good things about. I made a reservation, but then disaster struck: an apologetic voicemail from the manager explaining that they were closed for a private party on our anniversary, so our reservation would be cancelled. Since we thought it might be unseemly to try gatecrashing on our anniversary, I headed back to OpenTable and started searching. We settled on the Fountain since neither of us had ever been, and the special occasion justified the "spendiness" of the place.

We arrived at 7:30 to find the dining room mostly empty, save for three or four occupied tables. The large windows do afford a nice view of the Swann Fountain in Logan Circle across the street, though Lauren got stuck with an obstructed view seat behind a column, so we had no choice but to gaze into each other's eyes (and at our dishes as they arrived).

Though the Fountain offers a $65, three-course prix fixe menu, neither of us were particularly thrilled by the options on it, so we ordered a la carte. Opting not to shell out the $60 per glass for the Dom Perignon, we ordered two glasses of prosecco.

First to arrive was an amuse-bouche – a cold yellow tomato gazpacho with shrimp, served in a small egg cup. The soup was smooth and a vibrant yellow, given some texture by small chunks of rock shrimp. The tomato flavor really came through, but we agreed that the soup's strong hints of vinegar made it very reminiscent of pureed tomato salad.

For Lauren, the tomato train continued with a first course of tomato bisque. The sample I had of it was uncannily tomatoey, not at all like a typical tomato soup. Croutons and some diced tomato gave the soup a little crunch.

I had the rabbit paillard, served with a "pyramid" of the rabbit leg meat and some fried zucchini blossoms. The rabbit was thin, tender and delicious, and the zucchini blossoms were fried until very crisp. Possibly the star of the dish was the incredibly rich-tasting Dijon and white wine jus that sauced the whole thing. My only complaint was with the texture of the wonton-like wrapper of the "pyramid", which got a little tough at the seams.

Time out for a few glasses of wine to arrive. Like everything else at the Fountain, the wines by the glass ain't cheap, but there is a nice selection of both whites and reds. If you want to get a bottle and money is no object, you'll certainly have fun rifling through the extensive wine list. We stuck with wines by the glass, a pinot noir for Lauren and a Bordeaux for me. At $20, the pinot fell kind of flat, but my $15 Bordeaux was delicious, with very appealing vanilla-y flavors of oak.

My main course was the roasted halibut, served on a stew of white beans, pork belly and crawfish. Though the halibut was perfectly cooked, with a crisp, brown crust, the white beans were absolutely amazing. The crawfish and pork belly, though an unexpected pairing, teamed up for a one-two punch of richness that was immensely satisfying.

Lauren had roasted veal tenderloin, served with a morel farro cake and asparagus. The taste I had of it was delicious; the veal was cooked just right. I felt the asparagus was a touch mushy, but I got a piece right near the tip.

So, on to dessert. Though all of the options looked pretty tasty, our waiter pushed the chocolate soufflé so I went for it. Lauren ordered a roasted peach Napoleon with buttermilk ice cream.

First, we were served a small pre-dessert glass of a creamy yam and tapioca pudding. Very delicious, and those little tapioca pearls are always fun to eat.

But the soufflé … I find it unimaginable that it could have been made any better. Rich and deeply chocolatey, yet light, and incredibly, screaming hot, I believe a case could be made that it is the ideal chocolate soufflé.

The service: friendly, deferential and classy, yes. The old "attentive yet unobtrusive" definitely applies, but I would say not as attentive as a place like Le Bec-Fin, for example. Though water glasses were refilled and plates cleared quickly and efficiently, there was never the sense of "performance" that you feel when a well-coordinated swarm of waitstaff is keeping on top of your table. Perhaps things were lax because of the relatively uncrowded dining room.

Well, not completely uncrowded. Heading into dessert, we were treated to a lengthy and persistent treatise from the recent Penn grad, trust-fund son of a bitch at the next table, as he argued incessantly for his parents to pay for a BlackBerry. While I would have loved nothing more than to order a chloroform-soaked rag over to his table, I guess it's an occupational hazard of dining in such a rarified air.

So, good food, nice setting, decent service, and you will lay down some coin. Was it worth it? Highlights like the white bean stew and soufflé make me say yes, it is an experience worth having at least once. And it really is the experience you're buying. As with all things, I believe in diminishing returns – the $20 glass of wine isn't twice as good as the $10 one, and the $200 meal doesn't taste twice as good as the $100 one. But just as it's important to appreciate the simpler things in life, sometimes it's nice to appreciate the complex, elaborate ones as well.

Fountain on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Flourchild said...

I miss seeing you on TWD. If you get the chance make the Apple turnovers, they are really yummy!