Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sunday K & I decided to finally try (disquisition on the bogosity of the split-infinitive rule available upon request) Three Forks. I believe that we are the last human beings in the West Inland Empire to go there.
We ran into friends who live in Village Walk, the condos right next to 3F, as we moseyed to the restaurant. When we told them we were planning on trying the Farmers Market Dinner (a sunday special every week -- three courses for $45), they put on brave smiles and bid us goodbye as if we were heading off to a tax audit or a biopsy. Apparently the Farmers Market Dinner is precisely what NOT to have at 3F (she told me afterward).
Our verdict: Okay. Pretty good for the 909. Ambitious (and it took me three years in college to realize that when a professor wrote that on my paper, it wasn't high praise).
Item by item (fine-dining alert! Food snobbery ahead!):
• The amuse bouche (the little mouthful that starts the meal) was "shrimp toast with paprika aioli." It was perfectly fine, but it was a bit odd, in that it was a little wedge of rustic European baguette that tasted like Chinese shrimp toast. I think they must have infused some olive oil with Chinese dried shrimp... but why? Just for the pun of shrimp toast on toast?
• The starter was a panzanella (bread salad). This one had baby spinach, grape tomatoes, frisée, small chunks of olive bread, shaved parmesan, and a couple of slices of beefsteak tomato. It was tasty, although the beefsteak tomato was an embarrassment (think supermarket tomatoes in winter). I thought the dressing was a bit sweet, but K, who is a carb-based life form, insisted that it was no such thing.
• For his main, K had the wild boar and wild mushroom manicotti. It was pretty darn good, although I would have used a different tomato sauce. This one was cooked down too much, so that it had lost all the brightness of the tomato, and again, it was too sweet (and this time K agreed with me).
• For my main, I had the chicken piccata. I would have ordered the manicotti, except that we have a policy of not ordering the same thing. The flavors of the chicken piccata were excellent -- strong enough, which can be a major pitfall for this dish -- but the breading of the chicken had obviously been done hours earlier, so that instead of crusty goodness, the paillard of chicken seemed to be coated in kindergarten paste. They must have flattened that chicken breast with road-building equipment, though, because it was huge -- easily the size of a comic book. I gave a third to K, ate a third, and had the last third for lunch yesterday.
• Dessert was where they really fell down on the job. They promised panna cotta, but what we got was a super-gelatinized Asian-style custard that had no dairy taste whatsoever. It was so rubbery that if you pulled at it with your spoon, it formed rips and tears. My best guess at its construction is that it used about four times as much gelatin as real panna cotta, plus a little milk and perhaps a tablespoon of flour to provide a cloudy appearance. The macerated strawberries and balsamic vinegar reduction (a classic panna cotta combination) could not save this jellied mess.
Service was perfectly fine, although in classic New Mall fashion, it was more friendly than clueful. Frankly, when you're spending $90 on a hunk of meat, serving from the left and removing from the right doesn't seem like too much to ask. Or am I showing my age?
The hostess gets a special mention, because she seemed to have trouble understanding the concept of a reservation when we called up, and once we got there, neither one of us could take our eyes off her comically-large rack whenever she walked past.
Obviously we need to go back for meat (meatmeatmeatmeat) in order to get the true Three Forks experience, but that may be a while: we need to replenish the bank account first.
Update: How could I have forgotten to mention the music? That was one place they scored big with us. It was just loud enough to recognize some of your favorite songs -- early Neil Young for me, the Replacements for K. When was the last time you heard either one of those in a restaurant, I ask you -- much less a restaurant quite pleased with itself for being both hoity and toity.
The frontispiece is of Sacajawea pointing the way to Three Forks for Lewis & Clark. Yes, really.