Crimson Sparrow

August 16, 2012 Dinner at Crimson Sparrow, Hudson, NY

5:45PM arrival at Crimson Sparrow. No problem getting seated. Walk into restaurant into the bar area. Dark, rustic, hard wood floors and dark wall, but sun from outside is coming in to brighten up the bar area. Tables are dark wood with silver metal chairs. Nice contrast. The hostess stand is at the far end of the bar and as I walk towards it a waitress comes to meet me. She asks if I want to sit outside or inside, since it is such a nice evening I opt for outside. I had forgotten that I had read about the "outside" kitchen with window - a beautiful marble bar in front of the big window looking into the kitchen. I can look in while dining...very cool. I'm used to sitting at a bar looking at bottles in front of me, this is a lot nicer (I sat at the end where the chair is sticking out).

The menu is not that big, but everything sounds very interesting. It is split up into small plates, large plates and desserts. In addition to the food menu there is a Sake menu, drink list and wine menu. I am pretty hungry so I decide to order the monkey bread with calamata olive butter to tide me over as I think about what else to eat and wait for my food. I decide on the parmesan and onion soup with scallops and Za'tar, so when the waitress came to bring me my wine I ordered the soup.

The timing of monkey bread and soup were a little bit off. I ordered the bread about 10 minutes prior to ordering my soup, assuming the bread would come out and I could snack on that while I waited for my soup. Unfortunately that was not the case. About 3 minutes after my bread came out, my soup came out. This was the only mis-step the whole evening. The waitress almost apologized as she brought me my soup, but it wasn't her fault. She told me the monkey bread is made to order, which was why it took so long...whereas the soup is ready to go and the scallops were it didn't take as long. It was all good and after tasting each one, I was happy anyway.

Monkey bread w/scallions and chives and calamata olive butter - The three little buns, still stuck together, come out on their own little cutting board with the calamata olive butter to the side. The bread is glistening from the butter or oil brushed on top. Scallions, chives and coarse salt decorate the top of the buns - also glistening with the oil/butter. I pick a little bun up and it is HOT, and very soft. The bread is not raw, it is just nice and soft. Yummy! Some of the scallions/chives on top are crisped others are still a bit soft. The calamata olive butter is fully blended - there are no bits of unblended yellow butter to be seen, which can happen sometimes with herbed butters. This is a pure block of yummy purple butter.

Onion Parmesan Soup with scallop and za’atar - almost like french onion soup, but som much lighter, yet still creamy. Scallops are raw which wasn't noted on the menu. They were NOT fishy AT ALL - cool, sweet and tasty. A really nice contrast to the hot salty/creamy soup. Black sesame seeds are another contrast to the very pale soup.

Foie Gras with cashews, cinnamon phyllo dough, grapes and honey (also had a few pieces of a sesame seed bark) - like eating the tastiest, fattiest thing ever. Incredibly decadent. The crunchy phyllo, cashews and sesame bark break up the smooth fattiness of the foie. The honey, flavored with cardamom (I think), makes another interesting contrast to the foie. The cardamom flavor of sweet honey is just bright enough to shine through when taking a bite with the foie. When I was done with that bite, I tried another with the grapes...but not just any grapes, they were pickled grapes. Again another great contrast in texture and flavor - the crunchy sweet/brininess of the grapes with the smooth & creaminess of the foie. So many flavors and textures on one plate, but they all worked together so well. Who comes up with this stuff?

Squid with yuzu, chilis and cress - Compliments of the Chef tasting - the chef comes out and brings me a small white square plate with something mostly white in the middle, topped with bright greens and 2 small red chili pepper slices (I think). He proceeds to tell me what it is...I catch the squid part (SQUID!!! Why???) and toppings of various Japanese spices or herbs...not really sure. yuzu, Dashi...I have no idea. Since it's complements of the chef, I have to try...and boy was it good. I wanted seconds!

Pork Belly w/artichoke, barley, cedar and Cynar - Oh my goodness...I haven't had this much fat in ages! But, so worth it. The small diamond chunk of pork belly sits in the center of the plate flanked by barley and artichoke on each side. It is fatty and tender inside but grilled to a golden brown crisp on top. The cynar crisp's crunch and bitterness cuts the fats flavor and texture perfectly. Once again...who comes up with this stuff? Complements to the chef for blending flavors and textures so creatively well. Not just simple bitter/sweet, crunchy/soft, fatty/lean combinations. Really interesting ways to get "bitter" in the cynar crisp. Or crunch in the phyllo dough crisp. Very happy with my sample of small plates for dinner.

Chocolate cake w/bay leaf ice cream, pretzel, dates and caramel - had to take this to go, I was too full. But, the waitress was nice enough to ask me if I wanted to try/had room for the bay leaf ice cream. It came out right before the pork belly, so it was a bit like a palate cleanser. The flavor was a bit weird, but the texture was very rich and creamy. When I got home I had a bite of the dessert - yet another interesting combination of flavors and textures...but one of my favorite - salty and sweet. Caramel/Chocolate with the pretzels...yum. I'm not a big fan of dates, but there were only two slices and they seemed soaked in the caramel, so not bad at all. The chocolate cake is not too moist and not too dry...went really well with my coffee.

All in all a great meal. I really loved all the interesting combinations. I can't wait to, and look forward to, coming back with Sim. We can hopefully SHARE more small plates together and enjoy the colorful flavors and textures of the Crimson Sparrow.