Friday, December 16, 2005

Village Pub: Hardly Pub Fare

2967 Woodside Road
Woodside, CA
Chef Mark Sullivan (previously PlumpJack Squaw Valley; Slow Club; 42 Degrees)
Lunch weekdays only
Dinner nightly

Village Pub on Urbanspoon

Last tried: August 2008
Previously tried: August 2006

Given the per capita income in the Silicon Valley region, I have always wondered about the surprising paucity of good restaurants in the area. Thank goodness for the Village Pub, which I would count among the few in the area to which I would feel comfortable taking food-snobby New Yorkers to dine. In addition to an impressive and varied wine list, the restaurant also has a full bar.

Although this was my third visit to the restaurant, it was my first time to try the wine pairing there. Our server had just recently completed the introductory phase of the Master Sommelier series, and her suggested wine pairings were excellent. (Apparently the restaurant pays for all servers to become certified. Our server used to manage a restaurant in Southern California but came up here to work at The Village Pub for the wine training opportunity.) The wine of the evening was a 2003 Morgon Beaujolais-- an earthy wine with great minerality and nicely chiseled fruit, reminiscent of a Nuit St. Georges.

As an amuse, the chef sent out tiny brioche tartlettes dotted with smoked trout and mini salmon roe on a swirl of creme fraiche. The combination of buttery, salty, and creamy tastes in one bite jump started our tastebuds and appetites. Our server also brought us a glass of a 2002 Alsatian pinot gris to go with them. This is the first time I can ever recall a restaurant serving a glass of wine along with an amuse, and it was a lovely treat, especially since it paired so well.

Our first course was a half portion ($45 instead of $90; they also have a larger portion for $140) of the whole roasted foie gras on a bed of wilted swiss chard cooked with shallots and olive oil, with buttery brioche toast points on the side. The foie gras was served on a plate that looked like a painter's palette, containing a swirl of almond butter, a quenelle of braised red cabbage, a wedge of caramelized quince, tiny white grapes in a sweet and tart green paste (in the midst of enjoying the flavors, I forgot what that paste was), and a sweet and savory mustard. Each of these tastes added deliciously different flavors, highlighting different dimensions of the perfectly cooked foie gras, with its lightly crunchy caramelized crust and pinkish, caramel-colored center. The wine pairing was a 2001 sauterne (the restaurant offers d'Yquem by the glass, but we opted for a less expensive alternative, as it seemed a waste to drink a d'Yquem so young and secondary to all of the other flavors going on, instead of featured solo).

Next, we had a half portion of the pumpkin soup with candied pecan pieces and the sweetbread frisee salad. Although the soup was a bit too custardy for my taste, I still appreciated the sweet and creamy flavor of the pureed pumpkin, and the pecan pieces added a nice crunch. The sweetbread frisee salad with balsamic vinaigrette and pan-fried lardons was also nicely prepared. However, I would have preferred to enjoy the elements of this dish separately. The exterior of the sweetbread was perfectly crisp and the interior was tender and sweet, but these delicate flavors were lost among the vinaigrette and lardons. The frisee salad with the lardons might have been quite satisfying alone (perhaps with a poached egg on top).

All of the dishes, despite our server being kind enough to provide most of them in half-portions, were ample in size. Given the richness of most of the dishes we had selected, we were completedly stuffed at this point. It seems I am not all that different from my four-year-old nephew, who if left to his own devices would eat nothing but chocolate. In the absence of a chef's tasting menu option, I have been known to order several foie gras dishes in a row. We nonetheless forged ahead with the main entrees: butterfish (tasted like it sounds) with crispy skin and yukon gold potato coins; and duck confit with parsnips, escarole and candied walnuts. Although the duck was a bit salty, eaten together with the sides and combined with the wine pairing, it was quite tasty.

We could not, however, manage to squeeze in any dessert. Perhaps next time.

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