Luckily for me, two of my favorite out-of-town colleagues have had to visit far more often lately (last night was the 4th time in 4 months one or both of them was in town looking to go out to dinner). This has worked out very well for me.
Last night we went to Oak + Rowan, which is just a short walk from their hotel. We had not been there before. There has been prior intel here about their brunch.
The room is very attractive, well-lit without being too bright, and with very comfortable booths. It was not very busy last night but I can imagine it might get noisy if it were crowded due to the exposed brick walls.
The menu is really interesting: each dish contained an element that was surprising. Unusually for me, I would have been happy with any one of the main courses listed.
We started with the house rye sourdough which was served with a scoop of “everything” butter and a small bowl of house smoked ricotta in which floated a small lake of dark brown pepita oil. The bread was magnificent: chewy-crusted with a fairly dense crumb, and delightfully tangy rye sourdough flavor. Both spreads were wonderful (and ample) – I gave a slight edge to the “everything butter” and my DCs to the smoked ricotta/pepita oil combo. I do not remember any recent bread I have enjoyed more.
Next we shared the Oregon Rogue River blue cheese with mushroom conserva, black garlic and pear mostarda. The interesting thing about the cheeses in the cheese section is that they are composed pastry concoctions rather than a standard cheese plate. So this came as a half round of extremely tasty crispy pastry shell, filled with ¾ inch cubes of Rogue River Blue, wild mushroom conserva, black garlic, fennel flowers and something else I cannot recall, with a quenelle of pear mostarda next to it. Wish I had taken a picture, it was gorgeous. Also compelling eating, lots of textures and beautifully balanced flavors.
Next up we shared a small portion of the winter black truffle and maitake mushroom risotto which came in a stunning covered bowl, the better to contain the truffle aroma. This was another real winner. The risotto was perfectly cooked and loaded with maitakes and truffles. There was also a drizzle of vibrant green oil – not sure what it was, I think there was some scallion going on but there was something else as well – that complemented the earthy funghi flavors very well.
We each got our own main courses: I got the roasted half chicken in which the breast was roasted and the dark meat turned into a ballotine. I could not decide which I preferred: they were both very well-executed. Also on the plate were rutabaga cubes, a fairly garlicky yogurt, pickled yellow raisins and lentils in the form of crispy wafers. (Pardon the crappy cell phone pictures.)
One DC got the ocean trout (which was delicious and cooked perfectly) with cauliflower, capers, hollandaise and purple potatoes.
The other DC got the clam and pork belly chowder (which she loved and which was very nicely presented) and the beef tartare which was a real stunner, with a barely poached egg yolk, black garlic aioli, milk stout gel (no, I don’t either, but it sure tasted good) and cremini. I am definitely going to find a way to go back soon for that.
We enjoyed a lovely Nebbiolo with all of that.
For dessert we shared the sheep’s milk cheesecake, cunningly fashioned to look like egg on toast. The “egg yolk” is an intense lemon curd, the red quenelle is pink peppercorn sorbet, the “toast” is very crispy short crust, the green dust is powdered bay leaf. Boy did that dessert sing! (And long-time readers will know I have no sweet tooth – but it really was only barely sweet.)
The other dessert was the chocolate cremeux which as best I remember was chocolate inside chocolate inside chocolate (it was amazing cut open) with crispy salted gingerbread pretzel on top and blobs of banana something around it. The chocolate lovers were very happy.
One DC had coffee which was presented as a full coffee service on a tray with a French press. She liked it a lot.
Service was flawless and pleasant throughout. This was a highly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable meal. I cannot think of any part of it that made me wish it had been cooked or presented differently – and that is unusual for me. Nice that it was on expense account but I would have felt I had gotten value for money if I had paid out of pocket.