In the beginning, there was the whole bear, the whole goat, the whole hog. You caught it, you cooked it, you ate it. Civilization just meant you could roast smaller pieces and eat smaller chunks. By the 21st century, we've reached the ultimate indulgence: a whole meal of mini-portions.
Well, why the hell not? "All I want is one bite" has become a mantra. Followed by, "As long as it's a really delicious bite."
The danger would be a meal of fussy, self-important plates. At its best, however, at Michael Mina in San Francisco, the $88 prix fixe dinners feature multi-faceted courses (three kinds of noodles to complement a beef carpaccio, for example, or three takes on strawberry shortcake).
In Seattle, month-old Qube offers a similar concept, three-course "sets." For less than half San Francisco's price, and with the bonus of some distinctly Asian crunch.
Owners Fu Shen Chang (former GM of Typhoon) and his wife, Kerry Huang, both Taiwan natives, hired Lisa Nakamura (classically trained, three years at the French Laundry) to put together a menu that combines Far East flavors with French techniques.
Translating this to the plate, for "Qubed" set meals (vegetarian, seafood or meat), Nakamura has to come up with three unique items every time and she succeeds with verve and imagination: butternut squash is stuffed into a pastry, puréd into a soup with sesame goat cheese, battered and served as tempura. Duck seems easier: foie gras, roasted breast, and braised leg wrapped in a scallion crèpe. Chocolate mousse arrives in three colors; crème brûlée in flavors of vanilla, banana and chocolate.
All this would be murder on wine pairings but for the skillful selections of Jake Kosseff, who holds the title of America's best young sommelier and whose day job is still 500 feet west at Campagne. He has no fear of savory flavors and no preconceptions: sake, French sparklers, Austrian rieslings, Portuguese albariños, Canadian ice wines and vintage port all make appearances.
For its part, Nakamura's kitchen runs its self-imposed obstacle course with nary a false step. The wild mushroom medley was a particular delight, erasing the memory of a disappointing portobello and tofu "burger" that accompanied the aperitifs. There was a rumor Qube would drop its $15 cosmo, by the way, but it seems Cornichon's earlier review served only to draw the attention of free-spenders. Hey, whatever works.
Just remember that Qube has nothing to do with Q, a very short-lived lounge atop Queen Anne that never reopened after a holiday hiatus.Posted by Ronald Holden at January 13, 2007 3:16 PM