Monday, March 30, 2009

Farrah Olivia

So, I guess I will continue writing in this blog though I was a bit put off by the whole blog idea when I figured out how people advertise their blogs-by posting on other peoples blogs? Thats so weird. Still, I enjoy writing about food and hopefully someone will get something out of my restaurant and cooking advice.

For our two year anniversary Justin and I decided to go out to Farrah Olivia in Alexandria, VA. The place was right off of the highway exit and we had no difficulty parking. I had heard about the restaurant from a review I ran across in the Washington Post by Tom Sietsima who mentioned it in passing, and then did a google search and found a rave review from him in 2007.

I had expected the place to be larger than it was but the dining room never did completely fill up, even though we were there from 6-7:30. We got a nice seat by the window (Justin forgot to pull it out for me and I told him he needed to brush up on his gentlemanly manners). There was a fixed price menu of $36 with your choice of 3 courses, everything being on this fixed price menu except for the cheeses and a few select over priced dishes. Justin went with the fixed price one while I went ahead and ordered the Lamb-a dish I head read about as the chefs signature dish in a cooking light magazine and which the waitress gave me the impression as being their most 'special' unchangeable dish the chef liked it so much.

The breads that came out arrived with three different condiments-a mild pesto which must have been made with more zuchinni than any other ingredient-the garlic and parmesan and basil being so subtle, a chive and caper butter, a red pepper pesto (horrid tasting) and some citrus cottage cheese. None of these condiments did not add any desirable extra flavor or pleasant texture to the bread and I found myself wishing for some good olive oil with spices and garlic instead of the ridiculous stuff that was set in front of me.

The waitress presented us an amuse bouche-meaning a small bite in French. It was a round globe of chocolate filled with lychee (a gel like substance taken from a kind of chinese fruit). We ate it in one bite of course and the lychee flavor was awful but I couldn't just spit the thing out in my napkin-unheard of-so I kept chewing and thankfully the delicious chocolate that was used to make the treat finally overpowered everything else and left me feeling okay. That was before the appetizers arrived.

We had ordered a grit cake with squash and it cake out looking light a fried hush puppy on top of a bed of tangy-too-vinegary bbq sauce and what looked liked candied diner and radishes. The grit cake itself was wonderful-sweet and not as heavy or starchy as some hush puppy's tend to be. I really liked the texture on the inside and in the end it turned out to be the highlight of the meal.

The painted soup came out looking like a ying yang with the cold green pea soup on one side and the warm butternut squash soup on the other. Each soup by themselves were too strongly flavored-the pea soup only tasted of very strong bacon and the butternut squash soup only tasted of very strong curry powder and all spice. The only way to nullify the overwhelming flavored was to mix the two soups together, giving you something a bit more subtle. I found it sad that they couldnt be enjoyed separately and I asked myself, not for the first or last time that night, what was the chef thinking.

The main course arrived. On first sight of my dish I was disappointed. I am paying 36$ for this?! I thought, what a rip off. There were two lamb chops on my plate, looking plain as day and not covered in spices and seared perfectly as I had imagined. I had asked for medium, not medium rate, but since Justin claimed he could eat medium I kept my mouth shut. I suppose the chef tried to make the plain porkchops taste better by accompanying the dish with a smear or a thai like sauce down the middle of the plate to dip it in but he did not succeed. The little dish of spanish on the side was soaking in pure cream that had been combined with an atrocious amount of parmesan cheese and next to this was a fried plaintain that was called a laof because it had been combined with soem flavorless orange ingredients and then formed to look like a banana before being fried again-what did he do to the tastiness of the plaintain that made the -tain go away, merely leaving something plain and tasteless behind? Justin could not quite believe that there was passion fruit powder on my plate, in a small heap that looked like crushed up cheetos. I didn't go near the white caviar but Justin told me it tasted like soap bubbles.

Speaking of soap bubbles thats exactly what appeared to be on the top of Justins main dish. He had ordered gnudi-a deconstructed ravioli accompanied by the smallest butter squash cubes I have ever seem, onions and a few slices of asparagus. On top fo the dish was parmesan foam-something that left a bad after taste in my mouth for hours on end. The sauce was similarly Parmesan and the chef had chosen to go much too heavy on the cream and butter. The worst part of the dish was the gnudi itself. The chef msut never have experienced the pure softness of a potato gnocchi melting in your melt because this was the exact opposite experience-each piece was like a lesson in pure powdery starch that made it difficult to eat. The heaviness and the floury taste that it left in my mouth was NOT to be desired.

Hoping for the best from dessert-its hard to mess up dessert-the pecan sandwich came. The cream inside was spiked with alcohol (I am not fnd of alcoholic desserts) the 'sandwich' was ,merely two triangle of filo dough with an over sweet, overly spiced balkava like filling as well as the alcoholic zabalgione. One the side of this was a bitter, coffee tasting chocoalte syrup (Justin hates coffee).

The complimentary farewell dessert that came after it was slightly better with a delicious raspberry jelly square, anise cookies and a very chocolatey cocoa coated truffle.


Was the dinner really worth that much? Well, Justin and I did have a good time making fun of the chef and trying to figure our what his reasoning and purpose was. Did he try to make his dishes so ridiculous and push the limits so that he could see how awful/strange he made them before someone complained? Another theory included that the chef was giving the waiter his kicks by letting him make up ridiculous names for all the things he put on the plate and then changing it every time to something that might be halfway believable.

The low point of the night was going next door to Balduccis where there had all this moderately expensive but delicious looking food which we could have gotten for the fraction of the price that we just spent at the restaurant next door. Justin got a bit frustrated and we had to leave. Goodbye Mr. Pork and cheese burrito for 8.00. Till another day.