Friday, December 25, 2015

Russet Review

For New Year's Eve 2014, the GF and I decided to relax and have a late dinner around Rittenhouse. We'd been meaning to try Russet and figured that this was the perfect time to try the dishes offered by the husband-wife team of Chef Andrew Wood and Pastry Chef Kristin Wood.

Russet's a BYO and one of the few that takes credit cards. And in the spirit of NYE, we decided to bring a bottle of our favorite champagne. Crisp and very fruity with a medium finish, Moet's Nectar Imperial Rose is quite quaffable.

NYE Menu [$75 pp]

But on to the food! Russet was offering 5 courses for $75 pp, including some supplements which I took full advantage of. 

Bread Service

The rustic bread was nice, but served cold - perhaps it's because we had a 10PM reservation. The pat of butter was at room temp though, which I appreciated.

Heirloom Squash Turnover
Caramelized onions, pumpkin seed-arugula pesto, black walnut

The GF started off with the squash turnover which was buttery and delicious. The crisp texture of the turnover and the black walnuts contrasted nicely with the rich caramelized onions and squash. The pumpkin seed-arugula helped to brighten up each bite.

Oyster and Scallop Gratin
Celery, chervil, shallot

I went with the oyster-scallop gratin, which was served on a bed of salt. The mix of shallots, cooked celery, chopped oysters, and scallop was nice - briny and oceanic, with the bread crumbs providing some texture. The chervil helped to add some herbaceousness.

House-Cured Prosciutto
Local quince, grissini, pickled mustard seeds

I appreciate that Chef Wood house-cures his own ham and the prosciutto here was luscious and teeming with the porcine goodness you're looking for. The balance of the local quince and the pickled mustard seeds provided some brightness against the heft of the prosciutto.

Seared Foie Gras [+ $10 supplement]
Blood orange, thyme, buckwheat-meyer lemon madeleine 

The foie gras was prototypically luscious and rich, with the blood orange providing the proper foil. But the real star? The buckwheat meyer lemon madeleines churned out from Chef Kristin Wood. They were buttery, subtly sweet, and had a wonderfully crumbly texture. 

Woodland Jewel Mushroom Raviolo
Ricotta, Loc Tran's egg

The GF and I were looking forward to an oozing egg in the middle of her raviolo, but alas - it was only filled with ricotta, without much seasoning. The pasta itself could have used another minute in the water - more starchy than al dente. The sauce had some depth, but overall, each bite lacked seasoning.

Hand-Rolled Pici with Perigord Black Truffle [+ $18 supplement]
Roasted langoustines, leeks, pistachio, sauce Americaine  

Russet was offering a Perigord black truffle supplement for the pasta dishes so I opted to top off my pici pasta. A generous portion of earthy truffles was provided and though I prefer black truffles to be cooked to release more of that intense aroma, this added some nice depth.

The deliciously, buttery veloute coated the pasta well. However, while the langoustine claw was meaty and well-cooked, there were more than a few pieces of shell found interspersed in the pasta. I normally don't bring much attention to gaffes such as this, but it was so egregious, I did cordially mention it to the server. Alas, either the server didn't understand that I was pointing at about 4 pieces of shell on my bread plate or he couldn't care less ... 

Seared Branzino 
Caramelized parsnips, grilled vidalia onions, kale, parsley jus 

For her main, the GF went with the fish. Online, the offering appeared to be halibut with uni, but for actual dinner service, branzino was on offer sans uni. Regardless, the fish was moist, delicate, and flavorful. The caramelized parsnips and grilled vidalia onions added some texture and sweetness to each bite.

Slow-Roasted Border Springs Lamb
Floriani corn polenta, romanesco, green coriander, tomato fondue

I don't know if it's because it was 11PM on NYE or it was a NYE menu, but unfortunately my main was a disaster. I was really looking forward to the "slow roasted" lamb, which was incinerated beyond belief. About half of it seemed fried and the meat was not tender at all. The romanesco was bright and the corn polenta cake was decent however. But momma didn't raise a vegetarian - disappointing.

Bittersweet Chocolate Budino
Cranberry compote, cassis cream

Luckily though, pastry chef Kristin Wood salvaged the rest of the meal. The GF ordered the budino based on her infatuation with Chef Turney's salted caramel budino. This iteration was in cake form, with a nicely bittersweet chocolate ganache within. The cranberry compote provided acidity to balance the richness of the cake and the chocolate, with the currant cream providing some levity.

Mascarpone Panna Cotta
Blood orange, Grand Marnier syrup, oat crisp

My mascarpone panna cotta had the proper jiggle and was light and subtly sweet. The caramelized sugar oat crisp had nice texture and the Grand Marnier syrup wasn't overpowering or cloyingly sweet. The blood orange provided a bright tartness that was an appropriate end to the meal.

Russet is housed in a quaint Rittenhouse townhouse that was surprisingly bumping with conversation and music. Other than the gaffe with the langoustine pasta, service was just fine, especially considering most of the reviews on Yelp fault the restaurant on this point. Clearly, some of the courses on this particular night were disappointing, but I appreciated that Chef Kristin Wood was able to bring our meal to a nice close. Definitely willing to try Russet again.

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