Restaurant Review: Encore

Last Friday night we went out to dinner at Encore in Peabody Place, to celebrate La starting her last year of grad school. We have been wanting to eat there since they opened in late-2005. This was a highly anticipated dining experience for us.

Encore is the brainchild of Master Chef José Gutierrez, who was the long standing Chef de Cuisine at Chez Pilippe in the Peabody Hotel. He is a local culinary hero with a laundry list, as long as your arm, of awards & accolades.

We have an affliction that I call "Early Bird Syndrome", as in early bird like your grandparents. We showed up at 5pm & we had the place to ourselves, which was nice. The decor was fresh, hip & relaxed with an eclectic mix music being piped in. The dining room has a weird layout with all the tables over on one side of the room, rather close together, I might add. I would like to see the place when packed but I am not sure I would like to eat there with a full house.

To start things off, we each had a glass of Bouvet Rosé while we looked over the menu. This sparkling rosé hails from the Loire region in France & is made from Cabernet Franc grapes. It was an excellent aperitif that sufficiently whet our appetite with its dry, mineral & berry notes. Later, we found this wine at the wine shop & had to get a bottle to enjoy later, we liked it so much.

For dinner La decided on soup & salad. The combo was a one, two punch of Spring Asparagus Soup with Onion Soufflé & Caesar Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing & Warm Garlic Shrimp. We have no idea what made the asparagus soup 'Spring' but it was really light & had a very nice asparagus flavor. The onion souflé floating in the middle of the green concoction, is what made the soup though. It was sweet & buttery & it melted in your mouth.

I went with Caramelized Salmon with Cauliflower Risotto & Balsamic Reduction. It was really good but not knock your socks off good. The salmon was a little more on the well-done side than I like my salmon, but it was far from being dry. The glaze gave it a nice sweetness that was not overpowering & complimented the fish very well. I feel the risotto stole the show though. It was so creamy & chock full of cauliflower that every bite had me wishing for a big bowl of it. The balsamic reduction set every bite off with a nice tart sweetness.

La's salad was an excellent twist on an old classic. The red pepper dressing was piquant with a touch of sweetness that covered just enough of the whole head of romaine lettuce. The shrimp were there to bring it all together with it's garlic soaked, buttery flavor. For just soup & a salad it was quite a meal.

We only have one beef....or three beefs that is. As I mentioned earlier I studied the menu on-line, as well as the wine list extensively earlier & knew what wine I wanted to have with my salmon, so I ordered a glass of Burgundy, the Joseph Drouhin Chory-les-Beaune. Guess what they were out.....& guess what else, they were out of the wine La ordered too, the LePin Viognier. We had to regroup & choose again. After much perusing of the wine list, again. We made our decision, La went with the Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran that our waiter recommended & I went with an old favorite, Gundlach Block 13 Pinot Noir. Not two minutes after we placed our wine order for the second time, our waiter emerges empty handed. No Gundlach Bock 13. Strike three. Our waiter went over the list AGAIN with me & suggested some other wines, but it was just "blah-blah-blah" to me. I specifically wanted a Pinot Noir to go with my salmon, because it is one of my favorite pairings & I wasn't about to drink a bargain red I'd had many times before (Mirrasou) & for the price of a glass I could have bought a whole bottle. I was ready to stick with S. Pelligrino when our waiter came back again with a taste of Aquinas Pinot Noir from Napa Valley. This was a nice gesture & after a taste, it proved worthy of my glazed salmon. I really wanted to try the Burgundy and the Aquinas was no Block 13 but it was god none the less.

We choose to dine at Encore because they supposedly had a respected wine program. It may have been an off night, I don't know, but I was extremely put off by this snafu. It did not ruin the meal, though as the food was excellent & the service was stellar, but we will think twice before heading back to Encore...or at least call ahead to see how well their cellar is stocked.

On a five point scale we would have to give Encore a 3.5


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