“Well begun is half done.”
Aristotle’s shadow rested over any lengthy tasting menu, which this time had started off in a sunlit golden sky, but was ending in a star studded night. With Chef Thomas Lents’ notion of giving each dish at Sixteen a surprising showstopper, I was glowing brighter than the moon in anticipation of how the grand finale would formulate it’s culinary sequence and culminate with a fascinating finish.
8. Pho / Rice Noodle – Radish / Cilantro
Like a moon on a starry night, next was a bowl with a disproportionately large rim. Encased in it, like a luminescent moon, was a Vietnamese pho soup: vegetable broth brimming with flava beans and rice noodles. Shards of bright red radish added to the crunch of this slurp inducing sip. I mostly tasted broth, with an aftertaste of beans, making it a warm, calming palette cleanser of sorts. Apparently culturally a breakfast in the far East, it marked a midpoint in my illustrious meal.
9. Tofu / Rapini – Red Pepper / Szechuan Peppercorn
As a juxtaposition to my starry night was a similar plate with an all white gigantic rip, ready to seduce me with its spicy containment. A sliced tofu showcased the stark contrast of its spongy interior and szechuan peppercorn glaze. A sprinkling of greens, glazed baby turnips, red peppers and rapini added to the mix for color and crunch. Besides an addictive spice blend, the textures were the star here, varying from whole turnips to silky soft tofu to crunch coniferous vegetables and a gooey szechuan sauce to tie it together.
10. Eggplant / Mushroom – Wasabi / Onion
Being a keeper of whimsical combinations, I never thought I’d utter eggplant and wasabi in one word. Mainly because the two are not favorites (barring an eggplant steak situation), nor complementary. However, a rather Red Medicine looking plate arrived with both grilled eggplant and smoked eggplant purée, mushrooms, green purée, onion and herb puree and wasabi shavings. Wildly inventive, it delivered on its quirky promise: bitterness cut the gelatinous eggplant, made even more bitter with a sensuously smokey taste, with bursts of surprise from the pang of wasabi, which in turn was the surprise element and showstopper in this dish.
11. Condensation – Strawberry / Kalamansi / Thai Basil / Black Pepper
After a perfect ten, the dessert journey commenced, my favorite in the sequence of starry dishes: dessert. Being an admitted multiple dessert-aholic, I was gushing in the splendor at the though of four desserts. The inventive palette cleanser was called condensation, hopefully not referring to the caloric proportions worth their weight in gold that I had inhaled. Almost evaporating in my seat, I saw a retro looking sphere filled with kaleidoscopic views akin to a snow globe. It was filled with black pepper cotton candy (add that to your adventure list, San Francisco), Thai basil, Kalamansi lime olive with small strawberries. The latter constituents were in minuscule proportions, adding a zesty, cleansing taste that paired regally with the saccharine cotton candy. To say that I could have eaten a kingdom’s share of this would not be an exaggeration.
12. Sea – Blackberry / Banyul Rose / Galangal
The dessert theme was oceanic, which made me yearn for beachy escapes in Miami, or very simply, a plunge down the Magnificent Mile to Lake Michigan’s iconic shorefront. The visibly deconstructed dish was a calming hue of muted yellow and baby pink. The center was a ginger cake made of Galangal (the rhizome of ginger), more fibrous and slightly spicier! Balanced with sweet Banyul dessert wine sauce, sweet and aromatic rose foam, the balance was ethereal. The accompaniment of savory galangal chips and fresh tart blackberries added the crunch and freshness that made a merman out of my taste buds.
13. Sea – Chocolate / Blueberry / Cognac / Delice de Bourgogne
After lighter desserts that bobbed on my dream and tongue like boats, the stars shifted towards a darker, richer story. Presented regally on another black plate was a dense, rich and boozy Cognac chocolate cake, a blueberry glaze cheese cream and raw gruyere cheese. The cheese and chocolate combination was akin to a boxing punch to my taste buds, a remarkable, inexplicable and oxymoronic juxtaposition of a marriage which worked! Having tried it in Beverly Hills before, I couldn’t help but think that my favorite cities always struck the right culinary chords. The bitter chocolate flirted sensuously with the smooth and velvety cheese, almost interchanging their sweet and savory properties, with chocolate playing cupid and my mouth acting as a venue for this sonnet. A fresh blueberry sorbet brought my starry daydreams back to earth (well, sixteenth floor), placed on a bed of a simple, aromatic vanilla crumble.
14. Seaside Chocolate Assortment
The sommelier walked over with the last plate, advising me that it was an optical illusion, and that he would stand by to see that I didn’t eat anything inedible. For what came forward was a succulent replica of a beach landscape. With real sand, luminescent seashells and a wooden plank for cliffs, I blinked repeatedly to ensure that I wasn’t seeing a graham crumble, fondant art and chocolate bark, respectively. The game was to decipher what was edible, and I soon enough noticed some irregular specimens perched on the beach like lovers in longing. First was a peach candy, shaped like a cuboid with a strong fruit flavor that bid adieu to the cognac aftermath in my mouth. A tangerine shaped spicy mango marshmallow plunged me right into childhood with its whismy in replicating a kiddy sour candy. An omenic half moon shaped salted caramel truffle looked like a work of art, and tasted like the purest of chocolates, almost kissing me goodbye from a night saturated with showstoppers aplenty.
My answer is yes, obviously.