Monday, June 20, 2011


Good birthday dinners with a great group of friends is becoming a standard and tradition I'm lucky to have. Two weeks ago friends and family from both coasts joined me at Sprout for a birthday dinner. Since there were eight of us we were able to use their semi-private room at the back with a peep hole into the kitchen. It's a really cool small space in the shape of an oval with a crazy high ceiling. The menu is organized for a three course prix-fixe for only $65, though they say you can order a-la carte (not sure why you would). There are also two intermezzo selections of soup and cheese. We selected the optional wine pairings for each course for an extra $33(?), a great deal with well selected pairings.

 The menu is posted here for details, but as a group we selected many different and many similar choices. Dishes are labeled with a single ingredient, with side ingredients listed in smaller print. Our server gave a detail of any dish when requested to do so. I choose the scallop to start and the skate wing for the main, with corn as my dessert (more on that later). I believe we also had egg, tuna and duck on the table for course one.

 My scallop dish.


I really enjoyed my very large scallop starter. It was well cooked, tasty and accompanied by small pieces of salmon, pineapple and wild greens. A very nice dish that I would order again and recommend. I didn't tasty many of the other options but everyone seemed to enjoy their first course. James ordered egg, which was really like a salad with an easy over egg on top. It looked cool and fun.

Our first intermezzo was a small cup of chilled cauliflower soup. I thought it was very tasty and refreshing. Not too bland to be boring but simple enough to clean the palate.

If there was a disappointment in the meal it was the main course. The menu had many interesting options - seaweed, steelhead, skate wing, lamb, poussin, rabbit, steak and fettuccine. I had the skate wing, a few people went with steak in addition to seaweed, steelhead and lamb. My skate wing dish was interesting and likely too interesting for my taste. It came with greens, strawberry, bacon and beets. There was so much going on with many different flavors that you lost track of the point of the dish, the skate wing. I enjoyed the citrus hints with the strawberry, but I found it difficult to eat one bite of beets and fish, followed by strawberry greens, followed by bacon bits. If you tried it all at once your mouth gets confused what to process.

I tried a piece of steak from Erica's plate and thought it was tasty but uninspiring. It was by far the largest portion of food of the main dishes, and served with crab and a wasabi mascapone. My sister's seeweed dish is served in a broth with large prawns, marlin and pieces of sirloin carpaccio. Again, interesting and well flavored pieces of the dish, I found it hard to combine them all well into one complete dish.

Without debate our favorite two courses of the night were the last two - cheese intermezzo and dessert. We knew about the cheese from the start, but didn't know how it would arrive - in this case in the form of a small grilled cheese sandwich paired with a delicious hard cider from J.K. Skrumpy. It's not a full size grilled cheese but enough to get the point across and make you want more. We did love the hard cider enough to order an additional bottle before dessert.

Finally, our dessert course rocked the house for everyone. There are five choices and you can't go wrong with any of them. I ordered the corn, which is a bread pudding dish wit peanuts, truffle and caramel with ice cream. Fantastic. Two other popular choices were coffee (a mouse dish) and rhubarb - a belgian waffle dish. Somehow they goofed on someone's order so they just brought us an extra bread pudding for the table, it didn't last long.

 Rhubard waffle

 Corn bread pudding

Unfortunately for us (and me as birthday boy), Mr. Top Chef Dale Livitzski was not in the house - off traveling in CA getting menu ideas I was told. I doubt he would have had any direct influence on the food we ate because everything came out as intended and well prepared. I question slightly how many different flavors are needed in the some of the plates and wonder if he is trying a little too hard to make a splash. However, that is Dale's style of cooking and I appreciate being true to what you love to make. We had a great experience with wonderful service and delicious drinks. I can't give a 4 star rating because the main courses were not to that level but everything else was great. It's good value and a fun atmosphere. I would recommend Sprout to anyone looking for a fun and nice change-of-pace with the expectation of a workout for your palate.

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P.S. I hear from all over that the Sunday brunch is amazing and will certainly be on my short list for a big meal.

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