Chef Moshe Wendel of Pardes Restaurant looks, sounds and cooks like a force of nature. I was there last Sunday with my friends Larisa and Gene, and their precious daughter Chasya, and rather than order specific dishes, we willingly submitted to Chef Moshe’s magic and ordered a complete tasting menu, confident we were in expert hands. As it happened, two couples seated at the table next to ours were having the exact same surprise dinner, in the same sequence.
This was not the first time we had ordered a tasting menu, and we marveled at the sheer range of Chef Moshe’s creations, as none of last Sunday’s dishes duplicated our previous tasting menus, even as they kept coming, one dish more exquisite than the next. What I did remember though was that last sampling did wonders with fish, as much as this last one did wonders with meat.
Getting my gripes out of the way first: They are few, and can be corrected:
– The drink selection is scant and undistinguished, yet priced inordinately high for its caliber, as if it were a luxurious wine list. That sangria is like pop: How a guy that can cook like that can’t whip up a better sangria, that I can’t understand! Chef, so sorry about bragging: look in my last cookbook or on my site for my recipe: I’m always told I make the best sangria)
– The meal is an exaggeratedly drawn-out affair, chef Moshe being generous to a fault, and the fault here consisting of dinner lasting four and a half hours (no kidding!) Holy cow, that’s slightly less than how long my children’s weddings lasted, and much as I love them and delighted in their simcha, I was glad when it came time to go home. I was sorry when one of the couples at the next table declared they had to forgo one of the last courses and all of the desserts, and ran out as they had a train to catch. They explained they had come from out of town, and had allowed three hours for dinner, which of course is quite equitable…. There is a simple solution, which I hope chef Moshe will adopt, for his customers’ sake every bit as much as for his own: Consolidate! Oh I wouldn’t presume to tell him how to improve on his dishes, which is quite impossible. But there’s nothing wrong with bringing, say, a trio of meat on one plate, as opposed to three dishes of meat separated by half an hour and demanding more manpower, more dishwashing, more service and more time, not to mention several valuable lost opportunities: some other customers could be served handsomely in the freed time and space! Likewise, the amuse-bouche could very easily come with a couple of the dishes that succeeded it, without any of them suffering from any competition: Like all wonderful chefs, Moshe uses sauces and jus quite judiciously (no pun intended, honestly!), so there is no danger any sauce would run from one dish to the next and blur the intended effect. We would all end up with six-seven courses instead of twelve-thirteen, which would allow us to enjoy dinner at a normal (not tiresome) pace without having to sacrifice any goodies he has in store for us.
Tasting menu: $90.00 for the food. Spectacular dinner at an equally spectacularly good price for the days you are going all out with other foodies. It sure beats those midtown extravagantly priced dinners hands down. Next week we will be going again, with our children: Can’t wait!
By the way, some real a propos trivia: did you know that Pardes, beside being the Hebrew word for orchard, is also an acronym for Pshat (simple meaning), Remez (hint), Drash (interpretation), and Sod (secret): Yes, all this and more can be found at his banquets, that tell wonderful, deep and meaningful stories: Gastronomic is one of my – our – favorite genres!
I am sharing our last sampling menu with you, below: He was nice enough to type the whole menu, in deliciously gory detail. Here comes: My comments in italics.
- Amuse Bouche: Confit of Turkey with Seaweed Mustard
We didn’t taste that, somehow it missed our table, but we saw it at the next table: Comment: Fabulous!
- Salt Cod, Lentil and Pumpkin Stew, Poached Egg, Spicy Lemon Froth
We had previously enjoyed poached egg as a soup component at a previous dinner: The pairing of flavors and textures was beyond harmonious
- Pistachio Risotto, Braised Pumpkin with Ras El Hanout, Harissa, Smoked Tofu
The inclusion of Moroccan spices here was a most welcome surprise with the risotto. Smoked tofu: Funky and really fun.
- Carrot Soup, Coconut Royale
Pure silk, with the creamy coconut custard cubes coming up with each spoonful.
- Salad of Kabocha Squash, Grapefruit, Raw Kholrabi, Cocoa Nib Crunch, Tarragon, Cardamom Vinaigrette
I must say this is the only dish that was totally lost on us: a very minimalistic and esoteric composition not living up to the valuable ingredients invested in its composition. In any case, I thought the word salad was a real misnomer, as there was not one salad green in sight. A nice leaf salad would have been most welcome at this point.
- Blueberry Sorbet
This blueberry lover was in heaven: Pure blueberry quintessence!
- Roasted Duck Breast, Rye Polenta, Apple/Kohlrabi Salad, Crispy Leg Confit, Beer Glazed Blue Potato, Bitter Cocoa & Caraway Jus
- Roasted Lamb Rack, Absinthe, Burnt Carrot, Eggplant with Fennel & Chili, Natural Jus
- Dry Aged Grow & Behold Pastured Rib Eye, Nutmeg Cream, Chestnut Savarin, Roasted Mushroom & Chestnut
These three dishes above were absolutely fabulous, and could very easily have been plated as a trio on one single plate. That duck was one of the best I ever tasted. The vegetable preparations that adorned the duck (polenta, blue potato), the lamb (diced eggplant, carrot) and the ribeye (mushrooms, chestnut) were every bit as interesting and delicious as the meat itself.
- Yam Crème Brulée, Candied Chestnut, Coconut Cream, Banana/Lime Puree
- “Baked Alaska” Gianduja Mousse, Burnt Meringue, Preserved Strawberry, Hazelnut/Bread Crunch
- Pain D’épices, Walnut Ice Cream, Candied Cornflakes, Kabocha Squash, & Lentil
Huh? Desserts made with veggies? You bet: Please don’t ask me to choose between the three: We didn’t leave a crumb. Candied corn flakes, yams, lentils and whatnot: I’ll bet you’ll be eating your cereal and your vegetables more often! Still I hope he will include a chocolate dessert next time!