Friday, March 09, 2012

Dinner c/o Sampan

The Saturday after our wondrous Modo Mio meal was spent largely in prone positions. I went out in the morning and bought a few breakfast goods (and about $30 worth of juice because I was sooooo thirsty) and returned home to start frying up bacon. After we enjoyed our bacon, eggs and Three Peckered Goat coffee, I created something I have since dubbed 'Afternoon Slumber Party' time. This basically consisted of me bringing out the air mattress, inflating it, lying down on it after having placed the computer on the television console and pressing play on Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Oh yes, and closing the curtains so the living room became a cave-like space perfect for Kevin Costner, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman to shine through. M. cozied up with Zul on the sofa, and even my roommate came out to watch a bit of it. Once the movie concluded we went to the museum. But what I really want to talk about is the dinner we had that night. Sampan had been on my list, and I've been following the restaurant's twitter feed for a while, so that is where we ended up going. It's a very neon lights, bumping music, attractive waitstaff, 'let's be a scene' kind of place. But not necessarily in a bad way. At least not where the food is concerned. We decided to go the tasting menu route: 7 courses for $45 per person. We could choose two small plates, one kind of satay, one dish from the 'cold/hot' section, one meat, one fish and one side. And boy were there some tough decisions to make. One decision that was a little bit easier to make was what to drink. We went with a carafe of the white snow sake. As for the meal. It began with hamachi ceviche with tempura flake, soy and truffle. For such a tiny spoon, there was so much going on. It was the perfect opening to the meal. Really fresh, the tempura gave it a little crunch and the dab of truffle oil made the whole thing have this wonderful after mouth glow.
Next up were the General Tso's Soup dumplings with chicken, soy and ginger. I've long wanted to try a soup dumpling and expected the meat to liquid ratio to be slightly more in the liquid's flavor. Good, juicy, flavorful, but not quite as exciting as I had expected.
We had a moment's deliberation when it came to the satay, I alternately leaned towards the lamb or the Kobe beef, but in the end we decided lamb was the way of the winners. And win we did do. The cilantro element and 'citrus crust' were nice, but it was really the meat in and of itself, nice and pink, that made me the happiest about this dish.
For the hot/cold option, we went with their special of the night, which was some crazy dumpling with foie gras and something else fancy, but I forget what. I liked the crunch of the dumplings, and the pickled cauliflower that accompanied them, but it didn't have that melty rich taste that I most associate with foie gras. Still good. No complaints.
We chose the kim chi fried rice with egg for our side, which M. did a great job of stirring up while I was taking photographs of some of our other dishes. Not the spiciest or most pungent of kim chis, but this place isn't exactly a bastion of authenticity (and that's not a bad thing) so it was all good. I also think that I've just never really understood the appeal of fried rice. Give me the choice of any noodle or rice, and I'll go with the noodle nine and a half times out of ten. The one exception being, perhaps, risotto.
For our fish course we chose the seared tuna with chilled soba noodles, avocado and tomato. M. loved this course a bit more than me. Again, I think this is less about the quality of the food and moer a matter of my own foodie preferences. That or maybe it needed a little extra burst of flavor in the form of citrus or vinegar. That said, the tuna was well prepared and the presentation was delightful.
I was a much bigger fan of the crispy Szehuan chicken with Chinese greens, sesame, garlic and delightfully pickled slivers of cucumber. Perhaps not as 'exciting' a dish, but it was so much better than your corner store takeout Chinese store's version. And those cucumber slices were a nice cooling touch.
And then there was M. For dessert we were given two mini cones of soft-serve ice cream they make in house. One was chocolate chocolate chips ahoy (I think) and the other was Capt'n Crunch flavored. M. especially enjoyed the Captain while I was more drawn to the chocolate chip.

It was really a great meal. Definitely a good deal for the amount of food. And while not all courses took me away into foodie nirvana, enough did that I definitely want to go back and try a completely different combination of dishes (well, that hamachi ceviche I would have again). And, as the blog continues, you'll see that I actually have made it back, albeit more for drinks than food.

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