We have four special dinners per year; she selects the restaurant for my birthday and Valentine’s Day. It’s my job on her birthday and our anniversary, which was last night.
We went to Bluestem at 900 Westport Road. It’s an interesting location for a fine dining establishment: two doors down from a GameStop, next to a Sonic, and across the street from what used to be the yin/yang, porn/no-porn symbiosis of Valentine Video and Blockbuster.
We entered the restaurant through the lounge, which is decked out with couches and great lighting. (The lounge, by the way, has a great gourmet happy hour as described here by Owen @ Fat City.)
We were led through the 40-seat dining room to our table near the window. The décor is modern, but not pretentiously so—it’s a nice restaurant that doesn’t feel stuffy.
We looked at the wine list and got a bottle of Odisea Unusual Suspects, a lighter-bodied red blend which proved to be a nice match for most of our courses.
And oh, the courses.
Their menu is laid out with salads, soups, pastas, and appetizers on one side and mains on the other. Then, you select how many courses you’d like—3, 5, 7…or TWELVE. (Our waitress explained that the dinners were all roughly the same amount of food; the portions get a bit smaller the more courses you order).
We decided to each select 5 courses, knowing we would eat half of each course then trade plates. That’s how we roll.
First course: We had a mixed green salad with goat cheese truffles; also nairagi sashimi with tozazu gelee and blood orange. The salad was fine but way too tame a choice, even with the tart goat cheese. I should have tried the fava bean salad. The sashimi, however, was dynamite—lightly salty, lightly sweet with a faint hint of heat.
Second course: We had wagyu (“American Kobe” beef) tartare with homemade potato chips, black olive caramel, and giardiniera; also, troffie pasta with crab, garlic, chili, and prosciutto. Our eyes rolled into the back of our heads for both of these. I often wonder how chefs make food taste SO RICH…a lot of it is the freshness of the ingredients, but there is a special level of magic they possess to saturate some of those flavors.
Third course: We had hen from Campo Lindo farms with prosciutto, cippolini, and veal jus…and Hawaiian walu (fish) with bok choy, cilantro, and a ginger curry emulsion. The hen was very flavorful with a light sauté crust on it, and the fish was tender, fresh and delicious. Again, so many different flavors—it’s fun to taste each ingredient individually then put them all back together and try different combinations. That’s where an amateur like me just shakes his head at the skills and knowledge of a top-notch chef.
Fourth course: Strip steak (rare, of course) with horseradish potato foam, white asparagus, and green asparagus; scallops with braised bacon and spinach. Flawless, both in presentation and flavor.
Fifth course: Spiced carrot cake, cream cheese beignets, cinnamon bubbles, sweet carrot ice, toasted walnuts, candied ginger, caramel.
Sous vide caramel pineapple, brown butter rum cake, buttermilk key lime sherbet, sweet and sour feuille de brick, vanilla cream.
I wrote them out like they were written on the menu; as you may guess, both were delicious. The carrot cake was sort of a “deconstruction”, with all the elements separated on the plate and the carrot ice served in a tall shot glass.
(We were also brought petits fours and ice cream mixed with Prosecco, compliments of the restaurant for our anniversary.)
The meal was fabulous. Every course, every morsel was a hit. All the while, we received outstanding service—our server knew the menu inside and out, took great care of us, and answered every question we had.
It was also an experience that reminded us how fortunate we are to be able to treat ourselves every once in a while. If you're looking to do the same, I can't recommend Bluestem more highly.