Latest Adventures

The Dining Room at the Langham Huntington - Part Deux


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There is a reason why Chef Michael Voltaggio is Top Chef. It's because he makes amazing food, and I (and my belly) are extremely lucky enough to sample it. On top of that, he is an über nice guy, very pleasant and personable, but more on that later.

This marks our second trip to The Dining Room, the first since Chef Voltaggio took the reins and redesigned the entire menu. The menu itself is divided into a beginning, a middle, and an end. To better describe it:

"Chef Voltaggio's menu features a selection of innovative small plates showcasing artfully inspired new American cuisine prepared using classic discipline and modern trends, utilizing the bounty of seasonal produce that California offers while showcasing the best quality ingredients from arond the globe. The menu is comprised of small savory and sweet plates, ranging from the lightest to the heaviest dish..."
It's no wonder why The Dining Room received a Michelin star, along with other accolades and smashing reviews. In fact, the food was so good that I'm finding it a little challenging to find words to describe it. So I'll just tell you what we ate, show you pictures with the occasional commentary. We chose four courses, so that meant two dishes from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end (dessert...yay!).

First, the amuse bouche, strawberry foam with... I think the server said something about nasturtium flowers. It looked like a sorbet or an ice cream of some sort, the flavor combination was unexpected at first, and by the time we finished the course, we were definitely wanting more. The sweet tartness of the strawberry just worked. I wish I had asked the server to repeat himself.
Next came the first course. I ordered the Langoustine, served with a poached egg, white asparagus, mushroom cracker with a sauce poured tableside upon service. The langoustine itself was cooked to perfection, combined with the sauce, and the asparagus, just an overall great way to kick off the meal.

Here's the Kurobuta Pork Belly, served with bok choy "kimchi," kabocha squash preserves and peanut butter noodles. The pork was well cooked and very tasty. Note to self: write down the server's description of the ingredients.
In between courses, we were served a truffled brioche, which is essentially brioche bread baked with black truffles throughout. It was served with a goat's milk butter. The tanginess of the goat's milk in the butter perfectly complemented the lightness of the bread. Translation: we want more! Which, upon request, was granted to our delight.
Next, came the Pastrami Pigeon, served with sauerkraut geleé, with rye jus and gruyere cheese puff. I am still trying to figure out how Chef Voltaggio made the geleé and the puff, but it ultimately doesn't matter because it was perfection. It tasted like a great pastrami sandwich, only many notches higher.
The Jidori Chicken was chicken thigh served with sunflower root puree, poached egg, sunflower seeds and winter truffles. The picture does not do it justice. It was my favorite dish up to this point, and my only disappointment was the fact that I didn't order it for myself. The chicken was cooked perfectly, and the flavor profile was spot on. I could have seriously eaten at least three of those.
My main course was the Wagyu Short Rib, Chef Voltaggio's version of Pot Roast. Braised beef short rib, with smoked potato "tots," Nantes Carrots, candied tomato hearts  and white ketchup. The beef was so tender it practically melted in your mouth, very satisfying dish.
The other main course we ordered was the skate wing, which was cooked sous vide in brown butter, served with two textures of cauliflower and caper powder. The skate was perfectly seasoned, and was pure flaky goodness. The cauliflower was great, too. We were also given seaweed mashed potatoes. The combination sounded a little strange at first, but one bite of those potatoes took away all the doubt because it just worked. I thought if anything, it was a little salty, but it was really yummy.

If you didn't think Chef Voltaggio could outdo himself with dessert, then you're wrong. Before the actual dessert course, we were served pre-dessert, which the server called "cookies and milk." It tasted like vanilla and chocolate Dipping Dots. They were great. Now, on to dessert. First up, the Fool's Gold, which is chocolate ganache with a salty hazelnut praline top, and topped with golden flakes. It was also served with a milk sorbet. Unfortunately, I don't remember what comprised the rest of the dish. I do remember the creamy consistency and texture of the ganache. 
Based on the server's recommendations, I chose the Sticky Toffee Pudding, which garnered him a few extra tip dollars, solely because it was so good, to the point where I still debate if the Jidori chicken was better than this delectable dish. So this show stopper was served with a rice ice cream, caramelized banana, banana custard and lime foam. Let me tell you, the tart citrus foam stole the show. Its acidity really cut through all the sweetness of the pudding, the caramel and the banana custard. The rice cream tasted like rice, yet was sweet, and pleasant. Fantastic. I'm with the server; I could eat five of these things in one sitting.
To finish what I've already declared was the best meal of my life, we were served these little goodies: passion fruit candy with an edible Japanese rice paper wrapper, macaroons and a dark chocolate lollipop with a hidden surprise - pop rocks. Genius.
The food was amazing, the service impeccable, and I even got to meet Chef Voltaggio in his kitchen to congratulate him on his Top Chef win, and to thank him for the excellent dinner. I was so starstruck that I didn't even take a good look at the kitchen or process the questions that he was asking, and he was so gracious about the whole thing. I'm sure he gets that a lot, people asking to meet him because of his celebrity status.  

If you're reading this, Chef, thanks again for an amazing meal.