It was a long time coming. Crush has been at the top of my must-go-to list for years, and with chef/owner Jason Wilson's recent accolades (especially the biggie: he was named best new chef 2006 by Food & Wine), well, it was obvious we needed to see (and taste) what we'd been missing.
And what's better than a surprise? Ed had not only made reservations without telling me, he also landed us two seats at the bar. We both love sitting at the bar (and with a baby that's not happening anymore), but it's even more fun to sit at the bar when the seats offer a view into a busy working kitchen, which these do. Great husband, great surprise.
So we toasted. I had a perfectly crisp, sparkling Cremant D'Alsace and Ed had a gibson. Off to a great start, we picked up our menus. So many things were calling our names: sweetbreads, foie, heirloom tomato salad (the last of the year probably), braised octopus, and that's just from the appetizer menu.
We knew we needed a plan. Luckily we were in no rush, so we decided to make our own tasting, just like we did at Matt's. Four dishes (three apps, one entree), each served as a course. We'd ask the bartender to suggest wines along the way. And we were off!
A trio of tartares arrived first. Sweet, sweet scallop in a barely-there ginger sauce atop tiny shreds of carrot; a more traditional tartare of tuna with pickled olives--a fascinating take. But the killer was the hamachi: slices of the raw fish with itty specs of crispy bacon. Wow. We continued with the Cremant, which was outstanding with the tartares.
Next up: Buttermilk fried sweetbreads on a bacony celery root slaw, with honey mustard. It's funny they're serving them like this because, once, when I was trying to talk a friend into trying sweetbreads I told her to pretend it was fried chicken. Crush is riffing on that here, but while we both enjoyed this dish, the bacon flavor in the slaw was just too much for the sweetbreads; we couldn't taste them. We shared a glass of J. Rijckaert Chardonnay with this. Good enough pairing, but Ed's glass of French pinot noir was actually better with the bacony flavor of the dish.
Next came the braised-then-grilled octopus tangled with hunks of merguez sausage, drizzled with chorizo oil and tossed with a bit of gremolata. I was really looking forward to trying this combo, so it was a bummer when it just wasn't very good. The major problem was that the octopus had an unpleasant, thick texture, similar to well-done liver. And the rest of the dish was all smoky meaty-ness. It lacked contrast. Perhaps more gremolata could've given our palates a break from all the meat and smokey oil; as it was, the dish was very one-note. We had a glass of barbera with this, which was good with all the smokiness.
Next we had the duck, seared with aromatic spices (lavender, clove, fennel and a bunch more that I can't remember), with braised onion and topped with little chunks of sweet fresh peaches. They really hit this one out of the park. We loved the perfect crackling layer of skin, and the meat was tender and gorgeously rosy. I want to go back for this dish. We both had glasses of the fantastic Sheridan cab Franc from the Yakima Valley. By far our favorite wine of the night (ok, maybe not by far, since that Cremant was such a perfect brut).
Of course we had to have cheese (maybe just an excuse to drink more wine?). We had Sally Jackson sheep's milk cheese, served with a plum sauce; Delice's cow's milk brie served with violet jam, and my favorite, the Cana de Cabra goat cheese, a nicely chalky goat served with quince syrup. We stayed with our Sheridan cab Franc for this course. Lordy, I do love cheese.
We ended with a surprise gift from the kitchen: five homemade chocolates, my favorite being the rosemary. A fitting ending to a wonderful evening.
Service was flawless, pacing was nice--I hate being rushed through dinner, and they must've sensed we weren't in a hurry. The restaurant's location (a pretty house on a hill) affords for personal spaces; tables aren't lost in a cavernous dining room but rather tucked into the corners of what would've been a living room, or a sitting room. And though I'm not a fan of the Jetsons-ish furniture, the low, soft lighting helps to create a warm, inviting air. We will be back.