Have you ever had a meal where with every single bite you thought, “this is the greatest thing I have every tasted”? I hadn’t until last night.
My birthday was this past weekend (hello 27!) and in celebration my best friend took me to Oriole for a Wednesday night birthday celebration. I’d heard only amazing things – I mean a two Michelin star, Jean Banchet award-winning, 15-20-course tasting menu… How could that not be fabulous. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the minutes all day up until our reservation.
You arrive at Oriole, a hidden gem in an alley-esque street and you’d think nothing of it. In fact, I think I’ve passed it before without realizing there was anything special behind their unassuming door. But once you’re inside you immediately know why they have earned such high praises.
Entering into Oriole, you find yourself in a room that is really a non-moving freight elevator. Before opening into the stunning living room, a hostess is waiting to take your coat and offer you a warm apple spiced cocktail. I could live off of that drink. It was the perfect sip to warm a girl up after a walk in the cold.
The dining room is a beautiful, lofted style space with a limited number of tables. The dim lighting and intimate atmosphere make for the perfect environment for a luxurious tasting menu. Just past the dining room is an open kitchen where you can see executive chef Noah Sandoval and pastry chef Genie Kwon expertly making every dish.
My friend and I opted to order cocktails a la carte, though they do offer the option of a wine pairing, or a wine, beer and sake pairing to accompany your meals. I started with the hummingbird highball, which was a delicious cocktail made with Mezcal.
The menu that I was served was accommodated from their current menu to be a pescetarian tasting menu. While the reservation was made on short notice (only earlier that day), they did a fantastic job of accommodating my restriction. My friend also had a dietary restriction – no cocoa – and they did a wonderful job of accommodating for her as well.
My tasting menu started with a beautiful serving of golden osetra caviar served alongside coconut dashi, lychee and sea grape. The dish was beautifully plated and the flavors blended harmoniously with every bite.
Next was a delicate cardinal prawn spring roll with shio kombu, calamansi and mint. The spring roll and sauce paired beautifully and were the perfect size, no more than two little bites. Eaten with your hands, it was a fun second course.
Next we received a kampachi nigiri with yuzu kosho and genmai that was as delicious as it sounds. The balance to the dish was superb and the accompaniments did a great job of enhancing the dish without overpowering the kampachi.
The next dish came with two parts. The first a matsutake tea with lapsang souchong, vietnamese coriander and cinnamon, the second a puffed salmon skim topped with loch duart salmon tartar. Our server recommended alternating sips of tea with bites of our puffs. My friend received a beef broth alongside a wagyu beef tartar puff. I could live off of this course. The tea was steeped beautifully. On a cold day a few cups of that tea would warm anyone right up. And the salmon puff had a fabulously strong salmon flavor that came through without an overpowering “fishy” taste.
Somewhere around here I ordered my second cocktail, the ninth ward. This drink was just as delicious as my first, but I was hoping that switching from Mezcal would make work today a little more bearable.
Just when I thought my meal could not get any better I was presented with a beausoleil oyster with an apple cider mignonette, smoked finger lime and borage. Alongside the oyster was a side that I wish I could remember the name of (but it looked almost like a cracker stick) with valdéon, black walnut, egg yolk and quince. Luckily I remembered to take a photo of this course, so you can at least see what I’m talking about. The two paired together perfectly. Per our servers recommendation we enjoyed our oysters first.
After the oyster we were brought a sea urchin emulsion with nantucket bay scallop and cauliflower. This dish was so complex despite looking relatively simple. I mean how can anything more than 3 bites in size look complex (ok I take that back after last night, but you know what I mean). The dish had a rustic flavor that was soon overcome with the sea urchin and scallop. The depth in flavor was fantastic and brought an intrigue to the dish that stood out more than in the dishes prior.
After the sea urchin course came the most wonderful langoustine I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Paired alongside charred little gem lettuce with furikake and sesame leaf, the langoustine melted in your mouth. The texture and flavor were far beyond any I have ever tasted. I could eat 20 more if you let me. The lettuce was surprisingly delicious as well. I’m always a little weary of charred greens, but the balance of the char with the furikake was fabulous. I wish I could eat this course every single day. My friend’s charred little gem was alondsige beef in place of my langoustine.
After this course we were brought a piece of sourdough with cultured butter and puffed local grains. We were told this was to accompany our next dish, the capellini with rye berry, yeast and freshly grated (at the table) perigord truffle. Both the sourdough and the capelini were delicious. I’m not typically a fan of truffle, but the addition in this dish added a great, rich flavor to the capellini, and the puffed grains on the sourdough offered a great crunch to the dish.
At this point our server also noticed that I was running low on my ninth ward and came to my rescue. I decided to mix it up again and opted for a dirty martini with olives.
After our capellini we had our final savory course of the meal; loup de mer with maitake mushrooms, dried wild blueberries and oxalis. (For my friend, wagyu beef in place our loup de mer). The dish overall was hearty (which seems weird to say about a small tasting menu portion) and comforting. A fantastic way to end a savory tasting.
Next came out our desserts which were a perfect, refreshing end to a delicious meal. They were flavorful and light without being overly sweet, which, after a long meal, was much appreciated.
Desserts started with a cucumber sorbet with basil, champagne and tonka bean. When I was first told “cucumber sorbet” I wanted to hate it. I mean who would think to make a sorbet of cucumber? But as I took my first bite I fell in love. The flavor of cucumber was prominent and brought a brightness to the dish that helped cleanse the palate after the heavy loup de mer and maitake dish.
After the sorbet came a deliciously tiny croissant filled with raclette cheese, apple butter and rosemary. This three bite croissant was a heavenly way to transition into “heavier” desserts after the light sorbet. If I could eat one of those croissants every Sunday morning I would be the happiest girl in the world.
Following the croissant was one of my favorite desserts I’ve ever had—a gingerbread soufflé with huckleberry, whiskey and malt. The soufflé was light and fluffy with a beautiful pronounced gingerbread flavor that wasn’t too sweet. The accompaniments helped accentuate the flavor without overpowering the soufflé.
Finally, we finished with two final mignardises. Mine were made with yuzu and mint chocolate and salted caramel. They were delicious little bites to round out my meal.
At the end of the meal my friend and I each enjoyed a cup of tea after our courses to round out our meal. Mine was a delicious mint tea that was so enjoyable I opted for a second.
After the meal you even receive a mini pie to take home. I have not enjoyed mine yet, though I think I’ll take it out of the fridge to enjoy after I finish writing this blog post (I think that’s a good reward for a post well done, don’t you?). With your pie they bring an envelope with your menu from the meal to take home. Along with mine, since it was my birthday celebration, I received a card signed by all of the employees with birthday wishes from each of them. It truly put a smile on my face and sealed the deal on a fantastic evening.
Throughout the entire meal the service was impeccable. From taking our coats, to pulling our chairs and table for us to get to our seats, to escorting us to the ladies room to make sure it was all in order before we stepped in everything was all about you all the time. And, a side note, the soap in the bathroom was amazing. So good, in fact, that my friend wrote down the name and bought a bottle for herself today. When leaving they even offer to call you a cab so you don’t have to walk down the street to get one.
Overall, this was easily one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. If this meal was any indication of what 27 is going to be like then I’d say I have a pretty good year ahead of me.
To the staff at Oriole, thank you for a fantastic evening. To everyone else, if you ever have the chance to go, don’t pass it up.