Monday, July 11, 2005

Mistral - Seattle, WA

I recently took a week vacation out to the Pacific Northwest with AI, my girlfriend. While out there, we had the opportunity to try some of the best food the area has to offer. The first and best restaurant we tried was Mistral. Mistral, located in the Belltown area of Seattle, serves modern European cuisine. It is a small restaurant with only about 8 to 10 tables, and the décor is simple with modern paintings along the light yellowish/orange wall.

Mistral offers diners three distinctive menus, changing on a daily basis. The nine course Mistral’s Experience menu, the seven course Chef’s Experience menu and the five course Market Experience menu. Each course is designed to showcase seasonal local and regional ingredients. Each menu may also be paired with a matching flight of wine.

AI chose the nine course Mistral’s Experience menu, and I chose the same as well as the wine pairing with the meal. The meal began with the Amuse Bouche which consisted of two different plates. The first was a Kumamoto oyster with tomato consommé and cucumber cloud, and the second was a hamachi sashimi with cucumber cloud, paprika oil, and pan seared melon. The Kumamoto oyster dish tasted like taking a bite out of a fresh tomato and cucumber simultaneously. The hamachi sashimi was very fresh, and the pairing of the fish with the cucumber cloud and seared melon was genius. The addition of the paprika oil gave a nice spicy bite to the fish as well, and it reminded me of the yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno dish I tried at Nobu in New York City. The Amuse Bouche was a light, but very delicious start to our wonderful meal.

The next dish was a pan seared scallop in onion soup with carrot foam and vanilla oil. This dish was paired with a 2003 Mason Sauvignon Blanc. The pairing of the sauvignon blanc with the carrot and vanilla flavor was magnificent. What made this dish extra special was that we were served by William Belickis, the executive chef of the restaurant. Belickis did not appear to be older than 35, and it was the first time that I was ever served by the executive chef of a restaurant.

The fourth and best dish of the evening was a grilled halibut with gooseberries on top of a bed of sweet carrots and currants with a red beet and basil reduction. The halibut was crisp, and the sweetness of the gooseberries, sweet carrots, and currants, added so much flavor which enhanced the flavor of the fish. The addition of the wine pairing, a 2000 Arcadian Chardonnay, brought the taste of this fish to another level.

By the time I finished the fourth course, AI and I were quite pleased with the chef’s offerings that night. I couldn’t imagine that the food would get any better. The fifth dish was a sea bass with sea and fava beans, smoked paprika oil, and basil oil. Unlike the sweet flavors that accompanied the halibut, the sea bass came with more of a light savory taste. It was a great dish, but not quite as incredible as the halibut. This dish was paired with a 2003 Failla Viognier. For those of you who are not familiar with viognier, it is a white wine which originated in Northern Rhone. It’s an intense dry white wine with lots of fruit flavors. It is usually served with spicy dishes or with medium to strong cheeses. It is also sometimes served with simply prepared shellfish, chicken, or fish. I had never tried a viognier, so before I took a sip, I asked the server about it. He mentioned that people either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, after trying it, I have to say I definitely do not love viogniers.

The sixth dish was a foie gras with apricot puree and granny smith apple chips. The preparation of the foie gras with fruits is quite unique. Very different…but good. You can never go wrong with foie gras. If anyone from PETA reads this posting, let me just say that it was so soft, delicate, juicy, and ohhhh so good. The foie gras was paired with a Cambell’s Muscat. The muscat was very thick and had a bit of an orangish taste to it. I believe muscat wines are typically served as dessert wines. Dessert wines are very foreign to me, and I just don’t seem to enjoy them quite as much. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

For the seventh dish, AI had the Mollard duck with potato puree, red wine reduction, figs, and chanterelle mushrooms. I had the Oregon rack of lamb with potato puree, red wine reduction, and onion puree compote. Both the duck and lamb were very soft, tender, and very flavorful. Potato puree a.k.a. mashed potatoes were very buttery. This dish was paired with a 2001 Miste Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. On the positive side, this dish was great. On the flip side, the food snob in me says that there just wasn’t anything unique about either of these dishes.

The eighth dish was a cheese plate. The cheese plate came with 4 different varieties of imported cheeses from Italy. From left to right, the potency of the cheese got stronger and stronger. The server provided thinly sliced bread to eat with the cheeses. I’m not much of a cheese fan, but these cheeses were quite good. The last cheese I tried, a type of bleu cheese, was just too strong and salty for me. AI wasn’t even able to finish hers. This dish was paired with a 2001 Paradigm Merlot. I do love my red wines, and this one was not an exception. It was my last glass of the night, so the server decided to give me a refill on this glass. By this time, I was definitely starting to feel the effects of the alcohol. I was a bit buzzed, but not drunk.

The ninth dish was dessert. It came with two separate dishes. One was a pineapple sorbet in peach soup and the other was a flourless chocolate cake and buttermilk ice cream with raspberries, strawberries, and poached cherries. The sorbet was very light and the union of the peach and pineapple was very nice. A nice chocolate cake and ice cream to top off the night made it perfect.

I can’t say enough positive things about Mistral. Based on Zagat, I had very high expectations. Those expectations were blown out of the water. Mistral is an incredible restaurant. In my opinion, the only meal I’ve had better than this one is a restaurant owned by a Mr. Thomas Keller in New York City. The criticisms described above are not meant to be contrived as criticisms of the chef, but merely a bias of my palate. Belickis’ dishes are magnificent, and if you have never heard of William Belickis, I’m glad that you do now. If anyone is ever in the Seattle area, please go try this restaurant. It really is a special place. And for those of you who found this posting way too long, I apologize. I had a difficult time condensing this meal down to only a few paragraphs. The meal lasted over 3.5 hours, so there was quite a bit to talk about. Next up…Nishino.


At 2:17 PM, Anonymous War said...

I'm getting hungry...

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was definitely a phenomenal dining experience. AI


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