La Fine Mousse

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L’art de la nourriture, à la différence de la peinture, de l’écriture et même de la musique, a un aspect éphémère qui lui est particulier : les ingrédients qui se trouvent dans la cuisine peuvent pourrir, et les créations du chef disparaissent au moment de la consommation. Pour un cuisinier, la difficulté reside dans la reproduction de chaque plat, tandis que pour un consommateur, il est souvent difficile, voire impossible, de se souvenir de toutes les saveurs et de toutes les textures des mets qu’il goûte lors d’un repas.

Pourtant, le restaurant La Fine Mousse, qui se situe dans le 11ème arrondissement, profite de l’évanescence de la nourriture pour proposer une carte qui change toutes les semaines, avec seulement six éléments (deux entrées, deux plats et deux desserts), ce qui permet au chef Victor Leclercq de n’utiliser que les ingrédients les plus frais de la saison. Pour le client, ce changement constant donne l’impression qu’il visite un nouvel établissement à chaque fois qu’il dîne dans ce restaurant. On peut choisir un menu entrée+plat+dessert (35€) ou un menu dégustation (deux entrées, deux plats et deux desserts, 42€), sachant que tous les mets qui figurent sur la carte sont faits avec soin et habileté. Il est vrai que cela ne permet pas au client de revivre une expérience gustative qu’il a déjà eue, mais c’est en effet la possibilité de découvrir de nouvelles créations culinaires qui donne envie de retourner.

En automne, c’est souvent le butternut qui est mis en valeur : sa douceur et sa texture crémeuse et légèrement granuleuse se prêtent à toutes sortes de soupes et de purées. Chez la Fine Mousse, il se mange avec des légumes marinées et un oeuf poché : l’acidité des légumes compense la richesse de la gourde et du jaune d’oeuf, et l’aspect croquant des légumes sert à ajouter une nouvelle texture à la purée de butternut. Pour les amateurs de fromage, il est possible de choisir une salade de feta avec des légumes marinées, un mariage harmonieux entre croustillant et friable, frais et onctueux, aigre et doux.

Parmi les plats que propose le chef, il y en a certains qui sont confectionnés à partir de viandes que l’on ne cuisine pas souvent à la maison, comme le cerf et la pintade. Le cerf est servi sous forme de ragoût, avec un écrasé de pommes de terre parsemé de petites légumes, ainsi qu’une sauce à base de vin rouge qui complète bien le goût de gibier de la viande. Il est vrai que la forme de ragoût enlève un peu à l’unicité de la texture du cerf, puisque les morceaux de viande deviennent trop petits et filandreux pour permettre au consommateur de distinguer toutes les différentes nuances quand il la mastique, mais le plat reste quand même singulier dans la présentation, dans la technique et dans le mélange d’ingrédients.

La pintade, un type de volaille qui est considérablement plus difficile à préparer que le poulet à cause de sa chair délicate, a une cuisson parfaite : comme toute viande cuite à la poêle, sa peau est croustillante et la viande en dessous reste tendre et juteuse. Elle est aussi servie avec un écrasé de pommes de terre, mais l’élément qui est presque aussi impressionnant que la pintade, ce sont les champignons qui l’accompagnent. Ce qui est remarquable, c’est l’umami qui frappe le palais : la couleur de la sauce fait penser à une sauce à base de vin rouge, mais en effet le goût des champignons ressemble plutôt à celui des champignons shiitake. Ils sont à la fois aigres et doux, mais cette aigreur est beaucoup plus moelleuse que celle d’un vinaigre.

Pour terminer le repas, un bon dessert ne se refuse pas : même après un repas copieux, on a toujours de la place pour une des créations sucrées du chef, qui sont à la fois raffinées et légères. Comme les entrées et les plats du menu, les desserts mettent en valeur certains produits de saison : il est possible de déguster une mousse à la pistache, garnie de prunes et de grains de grenade pour donner un peu d’acidité à la richesse du goût des pistaches, ou bien une tarte aux marrons et clémentines, un mariage de saveurs atypique qui atteint un équilibre de saveurs acides et onctueuses.

Bien que les plats que propose La Fine Mousse changent constamment, la qualité de la nourriture reste toujours à la hauteur. De cette façon, La Fine Mousse est un restaurant qui surmonte la fugacité inhérente de la nourriture, car il réussit à laisser une forte impression sur ses clients et donner envie de découvrir et redécouvrir l’adresse.

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Plentea

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On a chilly San Francisco winter day, my high school friends and I, after running around Chinatown looking for lunch, stopped by Plentea, a popular milk tea place. What makes this little café unique is that the drink comes in a glass bottle instead of the usual plastic cups, and customers get to keep the glass bottles and bring them back the next time they get a drink for a 10% discount. The store was fairly crowded when we went, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get our drinks. Though I’ve always felt that pearl milk tea is overrated, I thought that the bottles were incentive enough to check this place out.

It’s a lively place, probably because it’s popular among the young people crowd; pretty much everyone in the store was under the age of 30, or maybe even under 25. Like many shops in San Francisco, there are two levels: street level is where customers place their orders and can sit down at the small tables scattered around, and the upstairs loft has additional seating. The shop décor was pretty cute, though there was a pile of boxes in the corner that made the shop feel small and messy. The upstairs loft was comfortable enough though, and it was a good place for a larger group of people. Unfortunately another group of people had the same idea and it got pretty dang loud, but our group was able to tune them out for the most part.

View from the loft
View from the loft
Green milk tea
Green milk tea

The green milk tea that I ordered was fairly sweet, which isn’t surprising since green tea and milk are both naturally sweet. At least the sugar they added didn’t mask the slightly bitter and grassy tea flavor. I tried some of my friend’s oolong milk tea as well, which was sweeter and had a more of a honey flavor compared to the green tea. After sipping, it took a while for the tea flavor to manifest itself. It left a dryness in my mouth, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The black tea was smokier than the other two teas, and it had a sharper tea flavor.

There were plentea (har har) of other options on the menu, including fruit and taro and cream-based beverages. I didn’t find anything super special about the tea itself, and it was fairly pricy at nearly $5 for a standard drink, but it was more about the experience overall than the actual drink. I mean, the glass bottles are such a cute and business/environmentally friendly idea! If I ever find myself in San Francisco craving a milk tea, which admittedly probably won’t happen, I’ll most definitely return to get my 10% discount.

Rating: 4/5 spoons

Kaw Thai Restaurant

Lake Tahoe’s not really known for its restaurant scene; it’s more of a “beach” place during the summer (quotations because they aren’t real beaches) and a ski/snowboard place during the winter. My family goes there every year with friends, renting a house, hitting the slopes, and eating and making merry with everyone. It’s a really nice way to spend the holidays.

On our way back, we stopped by a Thai restaurant in Davis called Kaw Thai Restaurant. What’s interesting is that the building also has a Western-style restaurant called Cindy’s; it’s like two restaurants in one. They even share a menu. Everyone in our party ended up ordering from the Thai menu though, and Mom and I split a yellow curry dish as well as a Pad Gra Praw.

Since we ordered the lunch special, our meals came with a soup and salad. The soup, which included cabbage, peas and carrots, had a consistency that was in between thick and thin. The cabbage was soft because it was boiled, but at least it wasn’t mushy. The flavoring, while not terrible, definitely wasn’t natural; I could taste the MSG and not much else besides maybe a bit of black pepper and onion. My salad actually came with only the vegetables and no flavoring, so I took some of Mom’s salad to try to balance the amount of dressing on our respective salads. The lettuce and carrots weren’t that fresh, and the clear and slightly runny dressing was too sweet.

I had never had yellow curry before, and I found it to be a bit more sweet than the other curries I’ve had, probably because it’s coconut based. The curry also had plenty of spices, which gave it flavor and a piquancy that was necessary to balance out the sweetness of the coconut. It was slightly spicy, but even someone who has as low of a spicy tolerance as I do could handle it when eating it with rice. The chicken was thin and dry, which was disappointing, but I thought that it was a good idea to add potatoes and carrots to the curry. Those were cooked better, as they were neither overcooked and mushy nor undercooked and raw.

While the yellow curry wasn’t bad, the Pad Gra Praw was barely acceptable. The flat noodles were okay; they had a decent slippery but soft and slightly chewy texture that they’re supposed to have, and the broccoli was crunchy without being too dry. The beef was pretty dry and overcooked but at least edible. The biggest problem with the dish was definitely the sauce. It was simply too sweet; it was almost like they used the sweet Yoshida’s Gourmet sauce from Costco to sautée everything and just added a little bit of soy sauce for saltiness. Usually there’s supposed to be a bit of black pepper in the sauce to balance out the sweetness, but I couldn’t detect much, if any.

I didn’t have very high expectations for this restaurant, especially since it was located in a bit of an out-of-the-way neighborhood. For travelers to and from Tahoe like us, it was at least edible, which is ultimately what counts. Maybe those who stop by that joint would be better off ordering from the other menu and getting a more Western-style meal.

Rating: 3/5 spoons

SGD Tofu House

Whenever my family is looking for Korean food near home, SGD Tofu House is always our go-to place. There aren’t too many good restaurants around Almaden, but this one is at least decent; their bibimbap and soft tofu probably aren’t the best in the world, but they’re reliable. Plus, Korean food is always delicious! We usually order the dolsot bibimbap, two different soft tofus with rice, and/or a seafood pancake, but this time I wanted to try one of their new dishes: rice with black bean sauce, vegetables and chicken in stoneware.

The sauce was a bit sweet and had a consistency that was more on the thicker side. It looked like a smooth paste, but it had a slightly grainy and sticky texture to it. The flavors of the sauce, sweet but slightly smoky with a hint of garlic flavor, paired well with the carrots, potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, chicken and rice, but I felt like there was just a bit too much of it. Sauce is supposed to enhance the flavors of the ingredients in a dish, but the sheer quantity of the sauce, as well as its thickness, made it feel like I was eating more sauce than anything else. The rice became almost soggy, and the strong flavors of the sauce just overpowered everything in the dish.

Overall, though, it wasn’t terrible, and I ended up eating most of it and taking home the rest. I’m not sure if I would order that dish again, though; I’d probably be better off sticking with the classics.

Rating: 3.5/5 spoons