Friday, February 12, 2010

Top Chef Restaurant Experience - Solo

All Top Chef reader Debby Teicher paid a visit to Solo restaurant in Manhattan to experience the cooking of current guest chef, Top Chef Season 6 Cheftestant Eli Kirshstein. While the meal was good, it wasn't as good as she had anticipated.

We've eaten at Solo before - many times with their regular cadre of chefs, and once when Chef Hung (Season 3 champ) was in the kitchen. That experience was very special.

This time, we were seated immediately, and the waiter service was excellent. A wonderful freshly made sun-dried tomato chummus on the table with 2 warm pieces of crusty, light and airy bread per diner. YUM. Our waiter was able to answer any questions we had about the 2 menus; the regular and Chef Eli's. I almost always order the same things when I go to Solo; the sweetbreads and some variation of short ribs. I purposely didn't even look at the regular menu. I was determined to order solely from Chef Eli's menu. It was heavy on the fish. Being a strictly Kosher consumer, I generally do not order fish at Meat restaurants. I can have fish when I go out for dairy...when the rest of the family orders some sort of cheesy pasta. So fish was out for me.

I started with the Pho (Ming Tsai would cringe if he heard the waiter's pronunciation). As I've never had Pho before, I really have nothing to compare it to. I am not a lover of cilantro, but the chef was very light-handed with it, so I actually enjoyed the soup. The waiter poured the hot broth over the raw meat and explained that a few minutes in the broth would cook the meat. I am not that patient, and devoured it half-cooked. The meat was quite tender, the vegetables and noodles cooked al dente. All in all, quite tasty.

Next, I ordered the Lamb Tagine. I have had various tagines in Moroccan restaurants in both NY and Israel...and Chef Eli's version tasted exactly as expected...ridiculously, a disappointment. I was looking for something fresh and new...and I make an amazing Chicken Tagine (Mark Bittman's recipe) that I honestly like better.

My husband ordered a duet of lamb and beef as his appetizer. Looked pretty boring on the plate, but he said it was terrific. He didn't share. His entree was a rack of lamb ribs. I snatched a little taste and thought it was delicious, but I didn't get a big enough piece to discern any flavors.

Desserts were off the chef's menu, so I will not go into them (yum).

The wait staff was aware that I was "blogging" and taking pictures of all the food. I would get that the Chef was told. Unfortunately, the head chef of Prime Grill, Solo's sister restaurant, was dining in the private room and Chef Eli was too busy running in and out of there (well...waddling is more like it) to bother to visit with the masses. Disappointing. Chef Hung was much more welcoming - took pics with us and answered all our questions.

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