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At 1000yregg's urging, we booked a dinner last weekend at Arí´mes, a new spot in Hampden that just opened a couple of weeks ago. Chef Monnier hails from Reims with a résumé that stands on classic haute cuisine spots in Paris and LA, but has chosen to open his small (24-ish seat) operation in a converted rowhouse, specializing in seasonal and local ingredients. Dinner is a prix fixe affair of six courses for $65, or three for $45. Four of the courses are smaller bites to precede the main course, and then you proceed to dessert. Because of the ever-changing menu, it's somewhat academic to repeat what we had, but each course's description sounded simple, unexpected, and maybe even opportunistic, and yet each time what arrived was remarkably integrated, and much more than the sum of its parts to the extent that each component became essential. Also evident was a high degree of technique and care in the preparation. I'm only going to describe a few of our courses, but there wasn't a dud in the bunch. "Beets, umeboshi, pear jam, and lucky plum" combined soft and crisp textures in a small composition of fleshy fruits and root vegetables, plated with a flourish of beet ash. It cleansed the palate for the next course, a little taste of "risotto and scallop chicharrones with Old Bay mayo". I don't know how they struck upon the idea of making chicharrones out of large thin curls of good scallops, but its compelling and concentrated umami was almost unreal, and a worthy match for a few bites of perfectly toothy risotto. The "oyster with green apple and sorrel" was a single oyster on a bed of rock salt, topped with a foam (the only appearance of modernist technique all evening) so you breathed its flavor as much as you tasted it. This course was a bit precious, but whatever oyster they used (it wasn't indicated) was beautifully clean and deeply cupped, almost like a kusshi, which makes me really curious where it's coming from in this region? The chalkboard near the front window held only thank-yous to a number of their suppliers: Vent Coffee Roasters (excellent, btw), Trickling Springs Creamery, Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, Two Boots Farm, Baltimore Organic Farm, and Liberty Delight Farm. It's not a place for wildly crowd-pleasing dishes like Rose's, and to be honest I think a picky eater wouldn't have enjoyed all of these dishes, nor the menu format. But if our meal was any indication, Aromes is worth the serious diner's consideration, and worth the trip.
Never even heard of this place until Sunday night, when I was taken there. It's a combination wine store/bar/restaurant in Columbia off Rt. 108 in a pleasant location across from a huge field. They have a menu of small plates items (with a few almost entree size things too), most of which we tried were very good. However, the main draw is, of course, the wine. Glass prices were about on par for this area, but the real deal is the bottles. Any bottle from the wall shelves around the restaurant (this is basically the entire wine list) are only $5 corkage. Prices and selection are pretty nice. After sampling a couple of glasses, we had a Torbreck 'Woodcutter's' Shiraz ($22 + $5= $27) at our server's suggestion that I thought was quite good. A couple of highlights from the small plates we tried were a pancetta and asparagus tart and a marlin steak with a chipotle-corn-cream sauce. Definitely something to consider if you're out that way for Merriweather-- or even worth a trip if you aren't.
Rye ticks off all the boxes for the current state of New American cuisine - Bacon, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, pork belly, short ribs, pickle platter. But they do it well. Duck rillettes served in a glass jar with a thick layer of fat revealed a moist star ainse scented layer of duck served with grilled bread. Delicious. Grilled pork belly with braised red cabbage served over grits. Also delicious. Cassoulet for two was a larger platter of sausage, lamb shank, duck confit, and beans, probably could have fed three and was equally delicious. Even the token vegetarian option of ricotta ravioli with butternut squash and a mushroom broth was super rich...and delicious. A nice cheese plate and a lackluster banana split sundae rounded us out. Rye is the kind of neighborhood restaurant that any neighborhood would love to have. Rye 247 S. 1st Street Brooklyn