January 31, 2007

The Shins will not change your life

(Or so Bob Boilen says)

Farrah Olivia, however, will.

We managed to sneak an 8:15 Restaurant Week dinner reservation at this brand new Alexandria restaurant. Farrah is a tiny place with simple decor - one wall is eggplant-colored with sage green trees painted on it, the other two walls are full-length windows which you can gaze at the loveliness of the fast food joint across the street.

I'll start off with my few complaints- the dining tables were very small and close together. The menu for restaurant week was confusing, as a few of the items said "additional $8", as opposed to a normal RW menu that clearly list the choices for the three courses. There was no dessert course listed on the main menu, but there was a cheese course. We had a moment of worry that cheese would be replacing dessert for RW, but thankfully dessert was included, they just brought out the menu later. Phew.

Our first surprise was the bread - one slice of raisin walnut and of sourdough for each of us. None of this "and one extra for the table" crap that you so often get, and then it comes to fisticuffs over that last piece of bread. With said bread came a palette of spread choices: pumpkin butter, refried tomato spread, black pepper honey butter, and bok choy spread. The pumpkin was like pumpkin pie filling, only fresher and not as sickeningly sweet, the refried tomato was delicious, but nothing different than a sun-dried tomato spread would be. The bok choy spread was a little chalky, but not too bad. My favorite was the honey butter though - in tasting it, you first tasted the rich creamy butter with a hint of sweetness, and then the KICK of pepper and honey hit you at the end.

The second surprise was an amuse bouche! We each got a smidgen of angel hair pasta with lobster, white truffle oil and a perfect schmear of beet juice. The truffle oil gave it that amazing umami thing that truffles do, and it was the perfect appetite-whetter for what was to come.

My starter was described as a Parmesan cream with cinnamon scent. Usually, cheese soup grosses me out a bit, but I was too intrigued to pass it up. It was absolutely life-changing. First - it was served in an elegant bowl shaped like the hurricane symbol (I do love me some swanky presentation). The soup was rich and flavorful, yet light, almost as if egg whites had been folded into it, and the cinnamon swirl did a perfect job of cutting the richness of the cheese.

For my entree, I had anise-rubbed salmon served with yucca "couscous." As much as licorice isn't my favorite flavor, the amount of anise on the salmon was perfect - just enough spice to liven things up, but not sickening. The fish itself was tender, not overdone, and CREAMY. According to Washingtonian, this creaminess is courtesy of the salmon being cooked in caul fat, a technique renowned for increasing the juiciness of meat. And the faux couscous was an excellent complement to the luscious salmon - crunchy because of the yucca and nicely paired with some minced tomatoes.

For dessert, I opted for the "Spice": a wild fig & cassis cake with maple caviar. It looked a lot like tiramisu in presentation, which only increased my love for the dish. The cake was very thin, covered with at least an inch of mascarpone, and served with a teeny dish of mustard ice cream on the side. All of the flavors complemented each other wonderfully - even the mustard, which I normally dislike!

To be fair, I really love the North African/Mediterranean cooking style that Chef Morou Outtara favors. But this meal was....absolutely incredible. F'amazing, even. Sadly, Farrah Olivia is classified as a FIVE dollar sign restaurant...so I may not be back for awhile. But if any of you find a bajillion dollar bill on the street, you should go there IMMEDIATELY. If it doesn't change your life, I'll make you cupcakes.

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