Every so often I dine at a restaurant and have what I consider to be the perfect entree. What are my qualifications?
Firstly, let’s look at flavor. There needs to be depth, so that sweetness or saltiness doesn’t just fall flat on my palette. I’m looking for complexity but just the right amount so that all the tastes meld together, keeping it rounded. In my own cooking, I fail most often at achieving this when trying to make a vegetarian soup from scratch that lacks cream or milk.
Secondly, everything on that plate needs to have a place and be equally perfect. So often a nice piece of fish or meat is served with an okay vegetable or a par side dish. Veg and sides have been tossed by the wayside, and Mr. Meat or Fish steals the whole show. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t need some fancy asparagus or crazy broccoli side, but let’s face it how often does the veg left to it’s own accord arrive overcooked or less than fresh?
Recently, I was in Fresno, California visiting family and we dined at Max’s. This little Bistro has become a favorite amongst my family. It’s well decorated, the service is pretty reliable and their menu is always inspiring. I had the fortune of having what I call a perfect entree there. I knew it from the first bite, when I opted to taste the side first as opposed to the nice salmon filet. I bit into a little square of eggplant and my palette about yelled in delight. I’d never tasted such buttery, wonderful eggplant in my life. I tried the rest of what was a herb roasted vegetable hash and even the cauliflower was divine (c’mon you have to admit how amazing that is?). Finally, the tines of my fork hit the salmon and it was confirmed that I was eating the perfect entree.
The last requirement to be the perfect dish is size. In America, so often we value size over quality, not just in food but in so many aspects of our culture. After a hard days ski or a long day exploring the park, there is nothing better than a heaping plate of Buck’s meatloaf with mash and gravy or a NY Strip Oscar style, but sometimes less is more. My perfect dish is exactly enough to satisfy; you’re left with a little feeling of I could really enjoy the taste of another bite or two. You are by no means hungry still, it’s just that like anything good in life, you wish it didn’t have to come to an end.
In my book, Buck’s T-4 has created my vision of the perfect dish for this winter’s new menu. I tried it yesterday and my palette squealed with joy. Two perfect dishes in one month, no way! Airline Pheasant Breast stuffed with wild rice and house made pheasant sausage, served with a roasted corn cake and a rich pan jus. Perfection!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the perfect entree or what you look for in a good dinner, from one foodie to another.