Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adour DC

"The Unbearble Lightness of Being" it's one of my favorite books by Milan Kundera, it could also be the leitmotif of my meal at Adour Restaurant located in the St. Regis D.C. last month. The setting was lavish, the St. Regis lobby exudes Old World Washingtonian refinement and Restaurant Adour was starkly modern, sleek and elegant. Located only a few minutes walk to the White House all the elements conspired to make for a perfect evening.

Adour is one of the famed Alain Ducasse's signature restaurants, run by Executive Chef Sebastien Rondier, and I was very keen to make my own assessment of it. Light, light, light...everything was incredibly light. For a French restaurant where heavy sauces usually reign supreme this is quite a feat. At a special dinner, like this one, I usually start to feel weighed down after the first course...not here. Lightness to me is a sign of finesse, refinement, it's not the absence of flavor but rather an intensity of flavors that are not brought down by heaviness. The other unique quality was the efficient and prompt service. A "fancy" dinner can run you 3-4 hours long and while I'm not one to be rushed, 4 hours of sitting, eating and intense protocol can leave one feeling groggy. At Adour, the lapses between the courses were perfectly timed, not short enough to feel rushed but not long enough to get restless. It made a huge difference in the pace of the meal and of my enjoyment of it.

Ducasse is well-known for his Provencal cooking methods which advocate the use of vegetables. Indeed, Ducasse is pushing vegetarian dishes on his menu and I was lucky enough to get a first hand chance to experience push towards all things "nature". Vegetables are more challenging to cook than fish or meat. Allowing each one of their delicate flavors a chance to express themselves is no easy task.

Something you will notice repeatedly on menus belonging to the Alain Ducasse empire are the "Cookpot" dishes. Yes, they are vegetarian but not necessarily for vegetarians. They are cooked masterfully to allow the vegetables to become the star of the dish instead of playing the supporting role. I was continually impressed with the vegetarian dishes at Adour. I started with a Beet Salad, so light, so airy, it was like taking a walk through the garden.

Beet Salad

I followed with the "Crustacean Fregola Sarda" a cuttlefish, scallop, lobster and Sea Urchin emulsion. Unbelievably flavorful, light and exquisitely balanced. If I had eaten nothing else, this dish would have made the dinner entirely worthwhile. But it was onwards and upwards at Adour when I had the "Steamed Chatham Cod" with Quinoa, Hearts of Palm and orange/olive oil emulsion. A masterfully crafted dish.

Crustacean Fregola Sarda

My dinner partner had the Filet Mignon and his reaction bears reflection. I am told, and I believe, it was so tender and perfectly cooked, that a small bite can be, to a true foodie, akin to an out-of-body experience. I will have to order the Filet Mignon next time! 

I finished with the Hazelnut Souffle served with a side of orange sorbet: the perfect finish to a perfect meal. The Souffle is a hard dish to pull off successfully. It can taste "eggy" which I don't like or the texture can be less than feather light. But when that perfect balance is struck it transcends the mere title of "dessert". This particular souffle was intensely hazelnut, deliciously light. The orange sorbet complemented the hazelnut flavors unexpectedly but perfectly: a match made in culinary heaven.

A Peek inside the Hazelnut Souffle

If Adour was not a restaurant but a piece of Haute Couture it would be renowned for its clean sobering lines, it would be elegant because of its simplicity, it would favor perfectly cut fabric as opposed to ornate frills and the color palette would be neutral to better allow the wearer to express herself...in short, it would be designed for the thoroughy modern and elegant individual.