Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FOOD: Whisper Lounge

We'd always seen the Whisper Lounge at The Grove, and had even been there for drinks once, but we always assumed it was just a bar, maybe with some pub fare. How wrong we were! On Saturday, we had dinner there after a movie, and discovered what a hidden gem this place is. There is some excellent, creative cooking going on here, and we enjoyed one of the best dinners we've had in a while. I started with a kale and apple salad that was extraordinary. I think some of the kale leaves were quickly blanched, leaving them still fresh but slightly softened, while others were very lightly toasted and slightly crispy. These two kale textures were tossed together with crisp mandarine-sliced apples, bits of blue cheese, walnuts, and little golden raisins, all in a light tart dressing of pomegranite vinaigrette. George had a simple butter lettuce salad with avocado, some beautiful radish slices with pinkish hues inside, and a bit of pecorino in a lemon vinaigrette. Our mains were equally impressive. My Scottish salmon was perfectly cooked: crosshatched grill marks on the outside but still moist and tender inside, and served covered in marvelous locally-foraged mushrooms, with soba in a light ginger-sesame broth. I wouldn't have thought to pair mushrooms with salmon, but these mushrooms -- a light, willowy kind, something like oyster mushrooms -- were perfect. The broth was a subtle earthy complement, just a hint of ginger perfume without overpowering. Meanwhile, George was singing high praises of his braised short ribs over whipped potatoes and root veggies. They had a bunch of tempting sides that were hard to choose from: Brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted cauliflower in a lemon-mint-fish sauce; polenta with radicchio, pears, gorgonzola, and walnuts. We chose the grilled broccolini with finely sliced peppadew peppers, fine slices of chorizo, in a light aioli. The cocktails were also creative, with craft ingredients. I had a wonderful cocktail of Hendricks gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, and fresh lemon juice, muddled with fresh blackberries. For dessert we stayed simple and gluten-free, but even there the quality ingredients and craftwork shone through in scoops of housemade strawberry and toasted marshmallow ice cream with fresh berries. We will definitely be dining at Whisper Lounge again!

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