March 31, 2013

Nine-Ten Is Almost a Perfect Ten

A year ago, I married my best friend, foodie companion Mr. Tall, and we spent our mini-moon at the historic Grande Colonial (which has its centennial this year) in La Jolla. Not only did we enjoy our stay at the Grande Colonial, we delighted our taste buds at Nine-Ten. So, naturally, we returned to Nine-Ten to celebrate our one-year anniversary. Their $55 three-course menu is a great deal, where you can choose any starter, entree, and dessert/cheese course on their menu. They also have $80 five-course tasting menu, but Mr. Tall was a little hesitant of what the chef may offer so we went with selecting our three courses (wine pairings are available as well).

We started off with an amuse bouche (on the house!) of compressed asparagus with hollandaise and topped with salmon roe. Mr. Tall hates asparagus and is not a big fan of any raw fish product. So, I applauded him for trying this amuse bouche! The asparagus was mild in flavor but retained a nice crisp texture, and the roe gave a salty, oceany bite to kick start your appetite. 

Mr. Tall is not a wine drinker, so he ordered his favorite brew, Anchor Steam. I opted for a glass of rosé champagne to go with our meal and toast to our first anniversary.

For his starter, Mr. Tall selected the famed Jamaican jerk pork belly, served with baby carrots, swiss chard, plantains, black-eyed peas, spicy jellies & sweet potato puree. The pork belly was cooked to soft perfection and flavored with jerk seasoning, which was not spicy but had good heat.

At our server's recommendation, I started with the hamachi sashimi, served with marinated baby shiitake mushrooms and scallion vinaigrette. Simple and beautiful dish. I would not have never thought to pair sashimi with marinated mushrooms, but the umami elevated the fresh hamachi. My only minor wish is that there was something crunchy on the plate as the textures of the sashimi and the mushrooms were nearly identical.

Mr. Tall's entree was the Maple Leaf duck breast served with parsnips, chayote squash, duck confit “flauta”, pickled carrots, cashew mole. Cooked to medium perfection with Mexican spices, Mr. Tall really enjoyed this dish.

I almost always steer toward seafood dishes when we eat out, but the roasted Colorado lamb loin sounded too good for me to pass up. Served with purple brussels sprouts, maitake mushrooms, cardoons (this was new vegetable to me and tasted like a cross between artichoke and daikon), asparagus, nettle, and lamb sauce, the lamb was cooked perfectly, reminiscent of very lean beef or venison but not gamey at all; and the lamb sauce was very savory, a little sweet, a little amazing. It definitely satisfied my carnivorous craving.

When we first visited Nine-Ten, Mr. Tall and I had the best, most amazing dessert (dark chocolate cream with cocoa nibs blondie, bruleed banana, creme fraiche ice cream, and peanut brittle crumbs) we have ever tasted. So, our expectations were especially elevated for the dessert course. Although the pastry chef has changed since our last visit, we were satisfied with the beautiful dessert offerings. Mr. Tall opted for the chocolate mousse with apricot jam, apricot yogurt, and apricot sorbet. Who knew chocolate and apricot go so well together? The mousse had the perfect texture, not too light and not too dense, and the plate was like a work of art.

Although it is still very early in the season for strawberries, my dessert course of strawberry verrine with elderflower gelee, lemon panna cotta, and meringue, was the perfect welcome for spring. The dessert was light, not too sweet, and all the other elements wonderfully highlighted the strawberries. And just when Mr. Tall and I thought the meal had concluded, the house served us 2 little bites of passion fruit-strawberry gelee candy. A little sweet end to a fantastic anniversary dinner.

Although the atmosphere at Nine-Ten is casual (no jacket, no problem; children welcome), the service is attentive, and the food is beautifully presented with seasonal ingredients, (seemingly) simple preparations, and artful plating. If you have never been to Nine-Ten, their three-course of $55 is definitely money well spent, and a nice location in downtown La Jolla for a special occasion or just date night.



KirkK said...

Congrats LMCC! We wish you and the new hubby the best!

Little Miss Contrary said...

Thank you, @Kirk!

caninecologne said...

Happy one year Anniversary to you and Mr. Tall! :) Congratulations!

Sounds like a fabulous dinner (great price too!)