Archive for August, 2009

Pacific Rim

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

We arranged for a baby-sitter and headed out for dinner on a recent Saturday night; we went to Pacific Rim. The place was nice, with a sort of Japanese minimal decor. We didn’t have a reservation and were more than happy to wait for our table at the bar (with drinks, of course).

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While at the bar, Cati and I debated whether or not a Bellini (the drink) contains peach schnapps or just peach nectar and proseco. The bartender was nice enough settle our argument discussion with his O-fficial bartender’s reference guide (recipe book), and lo– there is no schnapps in a Bellini. I was wr-wro-wr…uh, sub-correct. I would have lost if Cati had actually bet me (she chickened out [whew]). Cati had a bellini (naturally, no schnapps) and I had an Irish whiskey I had never tried before—it’s called Powers. It was very good, but I don’t think it unseats Bushmills “Black Bush” as my #1.

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We were shown to our tables and the host pointed out that Hollywood mogul Rob Reiner was waiting for a table with his sizable group right behind us. Yep, there he was with his family, just relaxing and waiting to be seated. I stood up and shouted, “Hey everybody look—it’s Meathead!” I kid; we said nothing and minded our own business. Cati and I agreed that we had no interest in the guy or disturbing his night out with the fam. We started talking about whom we would bother for a picture if the setting were the same—we’d bother Bill Murray, Richard Dawkins (Alex only), Michelle Obama (Cati only) and/or Colin Powell. Of course there are a lot more people out there whose work we admire/appreciate, but as far as being star-struck goes, that’s all we came up with. Who would you bother?

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Back to the food– we started with the tuna tartare with taro chips. The menu described it as “diced sashimi-grade tuna mixed with avocado, walnuts, seaweed, scallions, and togarashi and taro chips.”

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We were not impressed with this dish. The avocado and scallion flavors dominated and it was essentially guacamole. Cati quipped, “Clever way to up-charge for guacamole and chips, eh?” So true. To further compound our negative first-impression, our server basically abandoned our table for a good 15-20 minutes; the evening was not going well. I wanted to let our server know we were not pleased with the level of service we were receiving, but I didn’t want to rebuke her, get upset, and burn my bridges for the evening.

Here’s how we handled it:
I said to the server (a young-lady college-student), “Do you have a lot of tables tonight?”
“No, not too many. It was busier earlier,” she answered with a smile.
“The reason I ask is because you seem to be gone a lot, and we’re used to getting a little more attention when we are out for dinner,” I said in all seriousness.
“Oh, ok, I’m sorry.” She said politely.
“I guess if you could pretend we are your favorite customers in the world, that’d be great.” I said with a smile.
“But you are!” she replied with a joking smile.
“Great, then we’ll all have a great night,” with friendly smiles abounding.

She was not only figuratively quick-on-her-feet, but she really improved the service from there on, and we have nothing but compliments for the service for the rest of the night.

Back to the food—I ordered the “black sesame-crusted rack of lamb” It is described as, “natural-fed Hannewald (local farm) rack of lamb with a spicy Thai peanut sauce, bok choy, and a Yukon gold potato-butternut squash gratin,” in the menu. Both of our entrees came with a tossed salad. By the way, although metal chopsticks tend to be ornate and attractive, I prefer wooden chopsticks. There is something more pleasant about slurping noodles (or eating any food) off a wooden chopstick versus sterile metal. Anyone else agree with me on this or am I a nutjob?

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It was incredible– just look at the pics above. Have you ever seen more beautful lamb chomps? Well, have you? The pics do not do justice to the flavor. The lamb was perfectly succulent and expertly prepared—if this dish can be improved, I don’t know how. Each bite hit the mouth with savory lamb flavor and lingered with hints of sesame and peanut. The slightly bitter bok choy was excellent for reseting the tongue for the next bite. So was the 2003 Spelletich Cellars Zinfandel that Cati and I were enjoying– really enjoying.

Cati ordered the flash-seared hamachi fillet—described in the menu as “sashimi-grade yellowtail thinly sliced and seared with hot sesame oil, with soba noodles, watercress-daikon salad, and a soy-ginger vinaigrette.”

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Cati had focused her attention on eating as much of my dish as possible as she thought it was vastly superior to hers. I, on the other hand, thought the dish she ordered was fantastic. The barely-cooked hamachi, noodles, and vinaigrette were a light and zesty front-of-the-mouth experience. My hearty and savory lamb was such a different experience from the hamachi, I thought one can’t really compare them. However, Cati had no problem comparing them and she wished she had ordered the lamb. We made the dishwasher’s workload a little lighter.

We ended the evening with some coffee and dessert which were both excellent as well. We had the warm chocolate cake described in the menu as, “bittersweet chocolate cake with our toasted coconut-Kahlúa ice cream and sake-macerated cherries (please order 20 minutes in advance).”

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Yeah, I hope my attempt to eloquently describe the food expresses that it was crazy-good, cuz’ it was. We were the last ones in the restaurant that night and we had a great evening. Pacific Rim ranks right up there with Eve* in our book of local eateries—we’ll definitely be back.

I am not sure if the food is this good every night at Pacific Rim or if they kicked it up a notch because they were expecting a multimillionaire actor/producer/writer/director. Rob Reiner could afford to buy the restaurant and burn it down on a whim if his steak came out overcooked, so naturally, they don’t want to blow it– and that’s good news for us!

PS- On a completely unrelated note, below are two of many, many reasons we are glad to be alive in the age of You Tube.

This little gem–

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and this one–

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Long live the stupid video!!

*Incidentally, our friend Jess informed us that the chef-owner at Eve (here in Ann Arbor) is a contestant on this season’s Top Chef on the Bravo channel. Whew, I guess we are lucky we went before all the hype.