Wednesday, October 31, 2007

John Bentley's - good food on the peninsula

Tonight was a celebration dinner for my mother's birthday, and we went to John Bentley's in Redwood City. I've heard the ambiance at the Woodside establishment is better, but I wasn't worried about how romantic the place was. It's all about the food.

The staff is quite good at suggesting wine pairings, so if you go, and you don't have something in mind, don't hesitate to ask them. I had the grilled marinated quail appetizer on arugula with a warm pancetta vinaigrette to start. The quail had perfect grill marks, and the bitter, peppery quality of the arugula complemented the rich flavor of the bird perfectly. The photo you see here is of their goat cheese terrine, which is just lovely. Lighter than you'd expect, and so flavorful with the mint pesto and fig tomato marmalade. My father got a salad. He seemed to be intrigued by a pear in a salad. He doesn't eat at "fancy" restaurants often, despite his rather discerning palate when it comes to Asian foods. My fiancee got a pulled pork crepe, which was excellent. A good blend of sweet and savory.

The entree I selected was the sweetbreads in a whole grain mustard sauce. That's right folks, I went for the offal. Chefs claim you can tell the ability of a chef by what they do with the bad parts of the animal. Well, this place makes me think they know what they're doing. The sauce is a little sweet, and compliments the richness of the sweetbreads. They are lightly crisp on the edges, and buttery. Fantastic stuff. My father's short rib was also wonderful, and you can truly taste and appreciate the beef flavor, not just the sauce. My mother's Moroccan lamb was excellent as well. Perfectly cooked, and just a hint of exotic spice. My fiancee's pork chop was also excellent, but not necessarily something that I'd go out of my way for.

Needless to say, we had dessert. My mother went for the flourless souffle cake, and my fiancee had an excellent duo or sorbets. I had the winning dessert, hands down. It was a milk chocolate panna cotta. The texture was luxuriant, and the flavor was rich, but still managing to be light. I am a huge panna cotta fan, mostly due to texture, and this did not disappoint. This is a dish to be had again and again. I am not even a huge chocolate fan, but the flavor was highlighted, not the heaviness I often feel from chocolate desserts. It may be worth it to go here just for dessert again! I'm sure to return for the food of course, and for some reason, the price doesn't seem to irk me. It's not cheap, but the portions are generous, the service is good (you never need to ask for a water refill, the crumbs are cleaned immediately, and fresh bread is brought out when someone just happens to walk by and notice). It's not pretentious, and that speaks volumes to the place.

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