Birthday Dinner

I didn’t manage to get my daily post up last night as I was out for birthday dinner with the family. We then came back home for dessert and enjoyment of presents, which included a bottle of Ridgemont Reserve 1792 bourbon. Get it?

Dinner for six was at Sea Salt in Berkeley. This has been one of our favorite places over the years, and I was certainly looking forward to this return. The menu looked good on this evening, and so we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to approach it. Some in our party wanted to do large plates which are more or less individual entree plates, while I was leaning toward small plates we could all share so we could taste different things. The waiter had to come back a couple times before he could get an order out of us. But then again, he did nothing to help — made no recommendations of dishes or an approach to the menu, and offered no descriptions of anything.

Eventually, we did manage to order a caesar salad and a beet salad to share around, and they were both excellent. The beet salad in particular, had a certain complexity that was interesting, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what ingredient was responsible. Perhaps it was the Capricious, or the pistachios, or the pickled shallots. Whatever it was, it rocked.

Then everyone ordered large plates. Sarah and Ray had the char, and reported it was very good. Rocky had the cioppino, and reported it was good but not great. Marge had the pan-seared Hawaiian barramundi and enjoyed it immensely. I was stuck on the idea of small plates, and even though I was now the only one, I stayed stuck.

So, I ordered the grilled local squid you see above. It was served with Italian butter beans and arugula, and topped with an almond-basil pesto. Interestingly, when the food arrived, the consensus was that my small plate was nearly as big as the other large plates, and it looked fabulous. And it was good. But it wasn’t transcendent. My chief complaint was that the squid was not really hot — in fact the edge pieces were downright cold — and that it while it had some grill marks, it really didn’t have the oomph of a decent charring that one expects from “grilled”. I know squid can be tricky, but this really would have benefitted from more grill character.

The major problem of the evening, however, was feeding the child. For Theo, we ordered the Masami beef and bacon slider. It looked good and was the perfect size for Theo. Unfortunately, after slathering a bit of the catsup from my side of fries on there, Theo complained that it was too spicy. Sarah tasted it and had a coughing fit. While the catsup turned out to be a bit spicy (I had not really noticed it, honestly), it also turned out that there was something quite spicy on the burger already. When we called the waiter over he said, “Oh is the black pepper aioli too spicy?” He offered to get another one out to us right away sans aioli. Unfortunately, he forgot to actually order that. So, by the time all the rest of us had finished our meal, we were still waiting on Theo’s burger to come out. Obviously, at that point, there was no point. I told the waiter as he was going by to cancel the order, if there in fact was one. I’m not sure what to make of this. Should we have been more inquisitive? Should the menu mention that there is black pepper aioli on the burger? Should the waiter have mentioned it when he saw we were ordering it for a small child? Where ever the fault lies, we had a hungry child at 9 pm. So, he had turkey slices and carrots sticks back at the house while we started on our dessert: rocky’s apple upside-down cake. Yummm!

And we cracked the Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. So all was not lost.