Maestro’s at the Van Dam

http://www.maestrosatthevandam.com/

In almost every case (barring Glass on the Green in Tulsa) my experience with hotel restaurants has been negative.  They are rarely above mediocre in quality, and always terribly overpriced.  However, I know that historically, hotel restaurants have been some of the best, and I was hoping that the restaurants of the grand hotels on Broadway might adhere to the old tradition.  So for my birthday,  I went out for the prix fixe meal at the Van Dam.

Amuse-bouche: white bean salad with sesame-poppyseed crackers.  This was obviously portioned for four people, which is one of the few advantages of dining alone.  The salad was cool, creamy, and surprisingly mild considering all the herbs minced into it.  This was an excellent summer dish.  Something I’ve noticed about this town, is it does summer food very well, better than Texas.  Which makes no sense to me, because this region doesn’t even know what summer is. 

First course:  Avacado-melon soup.  Remember how I said it didn’t make sense how great the summer food here is?  More of that.  Delicious, and pretty much exactly as described, with the unmentioned but noticed addition of chilies to keep you awake.

Main course 1:  Apples and sprouts.  I’m so glad that Brussels sprouts made a comeback.  I never had them as a kid, but I understand that they used to be considered rather ghastly.  The versions we get these days are wonderful.  This was a combination of halved, roasted spouts tossed in a sauce made from sautéed tart apples and bacon.  This was not part of the dinner, but I ordered it off of the small plates section, and I’m very glad I did.

Main course 2:  Roast chicken.  The most common way of arranging a plate is to set up complementary contrasts.  This plate was set up differently, as an example of variations on a theme.  The plate had three components:  a boned, skin-on wing quarter of chicken, fingerling potatoes, and a cauliflower gratin.  All the foods are (initially) white.  All were cooked in an oven getting some color, and all three were seasoned mainly with salt and oil.  The chicken and potatoes with olive oil and salt (and another bright flavoring – rosemary) and the cauliflower gratin getting the same flavor profile from cheese.  All dishes were quite good, well thought out and executed, and intellectually the plate makes obvious sense.  Still, the sameness (color, temperature, cooking technique, flavoring) was noticeable. 

Desert: Lemon cheese pie.  This bore an unfortunate visual resemblance to a Jello no-bake cheesecake, with a whipped cream/mint leaf garnish and some sort of lemon sauce.  It also bore another unfortunate resemblance to a Jello no-bake cheesecake upon eating, right down to the unblended chunk of cream cheese floating within it.  A jarring misstep in the meal.  However, in a nice bookend to the beginning of the meal, the servers passed out complimentary chocolate bark sprinkled with nuts and dried fruit.  This was a more than satisfactory dessert. 

I’m definitely coming back here, and also definitely trying out the Chef’s table when it makes a comeback post-racing season.

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