Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gibraltor (Lancaster) 01/10

Released from bondage to the local area by our GPS we ventured to Lancaster to this highly regarded Mediterranean influenced modern American restaurant. They have a wall of awards,
dozens of rave reviews from the public and Zagat gave them a whopping 28/30 in 2008. Situated in College Square opposite a small university it is expensive in this area populated largely by students and the thrifty Amish who would be unlikely to eat in any restaurant.
The restaurant occupies a large space separated into three sections. There is a smaller area with bar seating on one side and the remaining space is partially divided in two. This shows a small section of the divider.

Tables are set with cloths and attractive coloured glasses.
with a row of booths down one side,
and an open kitchen at one end of the room.
The first waiter who approached us proved to be almost totally ignorant about their very extensive cellar and we were surprised when there was no sommelier. He sent another server, Abby, who was somewhat better informed and we enjoyed a bottle of Napa Valley pinot gris.
We started with two outstanding appetizers. King Edward Island mussels in a rich cream sauce
were lightly steamed. The mussels shells looked small but the mussels proved to be exceptionally meaty with excellent flavour. We then had caramelized foie gras and black truffle torchon with toasted brioche, dried fruit chutney and candied walnut with field greens and a sherry vinagrette which was out of this world. We were rather ambitious at this point. There was a whole lobster on their flyer but not on the menu. We negotiated to get a lobster mornay which was not the classical presentation. It was served in a rich buttery and creamy sauce but the cheese element seemed to be absent.as well as their massive sea food platter called a Gibraltar ($99). You can get one, two or three tiers. This illusrates the lower two tiers
Not only is the three tier platter larger but also it has more of the finer products - lobster, oysters of various kinds, crab meat an so on, as well as mussels (green lip from New Zealand), prawns, craw fish, calamari, baby octopus and baby clams It's a cold platter with all the seafood on a bed of crushed ice. Two plates with four little pots of sauce, vinaigrette, salad, ketchup and remolade with some rusks were provided to add flavour.
Whilst the ingredients were as fresh as possible everything was soggy, especially the mussels and the crab legs, which had been frozen, were soggy. Perhaps this was a result of them being washed before they were served. As good as it was this extravaganza was less satisfying than expected. It suffered from a lack of personality. It was a bit boring. It needed something to give it a lift, a serve of French fries or an accompanying salad.
The decision on dessert was difficult but we settled for a self saucing chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream,
beautifully presented, slightly overbaked but rich and satisfying.
This meal raised a question we pondered about. Does a fine dining meal need to have not only fine ingredients but must it also have a structure. I grew up with a concept of dinner. A soup, a main course and a dessert. Generally the main would be meat with two or three different coloured vegetables or fish with one or two vegetables. Occasionally a salad was served before the main course. The meal had form. Fine dining establishments have menus with several choices of appetizer and anything from about six to 30 odd mains. Desserts are mostly on a separate menu. Do these collections of fine food make a fine dinner?
Score:15 /20