Abacus, that bastion of fine dining helmed by noted chef Kent Rathbun, invited me over for a (supremely delicious and extensive) sampling of new items added to its menu for the winter. Will their seasonal selections warm the culinary cockles of your heart? Read on …
There’s no overarching theme to the menu newbies, just expect hunkier meats, seafoods of the season and heftier accoutrements. Oh, and a new chef de cuisine: Dan Burr is a Rathbun empire vet, having worked at Jasper’s locations in Plano and in the Houston ‘burbs.
Highlights: In order of fabulousness, I have to start with the butter-basted John Dory (above), a flavorful whitefish that was pan-fried and is typically served with crispy artichokes (but served atop a crumbly polenta cake slice, just for us foodie elite). The fish’s clean, fresh-from-the-Gulf flavor and supreme flakiness delighted my tongue, and its perfectly salted coating paired nicely with the sweet polenta cake. I could eat this dish every darn day.
Another fave of mine was a snow crab and avocado pressed sushi roll (above). Chef Kent showed us the nifty kitchen tool in which components are loaded then, ahem, smushed into a compact, extremely delicious rectangle. Aside from the roll’s fresh crab and piquant sriracha aioli highlights, I loved that the pressing deletes the need for the seaweed wrap (nori) that usually encircles traditional sushi; this one was easier to chew and somewhat lighter, too.
My next favorite dish spotlighted super-seasonal components: a set of seared Georges Bank scallops were drizzled in pumpkin seed oil and nestled over roasted acorn squash polenta (above). Serious mmmmm. The shellfish were cooked to quivery-fleshed perfection and the polenta side was worthy of swimming in … so creamy and luxurious. The greens on top added a lovely, wintry touch.
Finally, one wouldn’t think of a salad as winter fare, but with the addition of a fried quail egg, Abacus’ warm Sonoma mushroom salad hits the spot. I L-O-V-E a grilled-leaf salad (the grilled romaine one at Nonna comes to mind), and the mildly bitter grilled radicchio in this dish was a nice counterpoint to the pork in the bacon-balsalmic vinaigrette. Mixed together, the runny, buttery yolk, the greens, the meaty ‘shrooms and the bacon made for gustatory nirvana, a satisfying start to a meal, or a meal itself.
Lowlights: [crickets] Um, my table didn’t get the third basket of pastries we begged for …?
In sum … Abacus’ winter additions make the always sublime menu even more deliciously varied and interesting.