American, French, and African

We got off to a bad start.  Not just a bad start—an I’m never going to speak to you again and hope you go down in flames start.  Seriously, I was beyond unhappy.  But, after a couple weeks without any contact, I thought I’d try again, just one more time.

Thank goodness I did.

Our story begins, as stories are wont to begin, during Restaurant Week.  At about 6:33 pm on the Tuesday of Restaurant Week, actually, about 18 minutes after our reservation.  (Our excuse for being late?  Babysitting problems, of course.)  We were told when we arrived that they could only hold our table for 15 minutes, but we were welcome to eat at the bar if we wanted.  We stared at the menu for another 15 minutes at the bar before deciding that we were too angry to enjoy the food.  (We ended up at 100 King, an excellent French Bistro with remarkably friendly service and very, very good food.)

But my bus takes me by Farrah Olivia by Moreau every morning and evening, and how could I pass up an African-French-American meal?  So when our neighbor volunteered to watch Jane the Thursday before Valentine’s Day, we decided to celebrate love a week early and give Farrah a second chance.

The service is impeccably polite, from the maitre d’ to the server to the buser.  The dining room is classic, if small—it’s roughly the size of a
New York restaurant, but with half the tables (I didn’t count, but Jamie thinks there were about 20).

The meal started with bread—a white and a raisin—with four types of spreads: a mayonnaise with an aftertaste of horseradish, an excellent butter, a sundried tomato spread, and something green that looked like pesto, but was a good deal earthier.  The mayonnaise was the best of the four, but the butter was also beyond belief.

For the evening’s amuse bouche, the chef sent a sip of curried clam chowder.  The chowder was creamy and smooth, and whetted our desire for more.

Jamie was intrigued by the concept of bacon powder, so she ordered scallops dusted with same; I had the blackeyed pea fritters with fried tomatoes and tail pepper honey.  Sure enough, Jamie’s scallops came with a pile of red dust, and I had three balls of blackeyed pea fritters.  The appetizers presaged the meal to follow in three major ways:

(1)   the food was amazing (keep this in mind—you don’t want to hear me use superlatives to describe each dish, so I’m using it here);

(2)   he enjoys both sweet and savory powders in addition to the artistically smeared sauces on each plate (and we did too); and

(3)   every dish (except, thankfully, dessert) balanced sweet and savory aspects.

For example, my white tuna (which turns out, probably, to be escolar) came with “citrus caramel,” a sweet citrusy flan that perfectly complemented the fish, as well as a slightly sweet, slightly peppery crème anglaise.  (And Jamie’s lamb was perfect, a far cry from the not-bad lamb stir-fry I’d prepared a couple days earlier.)

The only note that wasn’t perfect the whole evening was Jamie’s dessert—the pineapple cake was merely very good, largely because it is not pineapple season, and the fruit, in spite of being grilled, could have been slightly sweeter.

The real surprise of the evening, though, was the cheese course.  I never get cheese, but Jamie convinced me (as I drooled), and we had Virginia sheep’s-milk cheese.  Wow.  A hard, but creamy and smooth, chees, with bread, granola, grapes, and a caramel sauce.  If every cheese course is like Farrah Olivia’s
Piedmont, I may be done with dessert.

Or not.

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4 Responses to American, French, and African

  1. Becky says:

    Sam, Wonderfull description as always! I look forward to continuing to read about your dining exploits! Also, how expensive was the resturant? And how hard to get a reservation?

  2. eatingwell says:

    Becky,
    Fairly pricey–it’s $$$$ in every review that rates expense on a scale of $-$$$$. I think, including tip, we were under $150 for the two of us, but not significantly.

    As for reservations, they’re not too hard to get (provided it’s not Restaurant Week). I got mine on OpenTable less than a week before (of course, we went on a Thursday night; it may be harder weekends, and I assume you have to know somebody to go on Valentine’s Day).

    It’s also worth noting that Farrah Olivia has a pre-fixe menu, three courses for $35, if your reservation is between 5:30 and 6:45. I actually meant to get the pre-fixe, but had misremembered the timing (remember, I wasn’t thinking straight the first time I was there, I was so mad), and thought that it was served Mondays through Thursdays. Oops.

  3. […] later), it would be worth it for the good vibe you get.  The maitre d’ recognized us from our previous visit, a month earlier.  We got a great seat on the second floor by a window overlooking King Street. […]

  4. eatingwell says:

    We had a babysitter tonight, so we went back to Farrah Olivia. This time we tried the three-course tasting menu (available from 5:30-6:45 p.m., $35 per person exclusive of drinks, tax, and tip). Again, every dish was a winner. Jamie loved the soup she started with. Bon Appetit magazine declared gnudi the dish of the year this year, so Jamie ordered the gnudi (with morels and white asparagus). It’s a lot like gnocchi, only lighter. And man was that morel good.

    I started out with halibut cheeks, and moved to the quail. To finish off, Jamie had fried bananas (essentially churros with a banana in them) and I had the citrus cheesecake.

    And our waiter explained what the four spreads for the bread were. One was a bok choy pesto, another a lavender butter, the third (that we thought was a horseradish mayo last time) a cottage cheese, and the fourth a sundried tomato (I think).

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