Driving home from the Pearl District, after a media preview for 50 Plates, I felt a little bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Here I am, a low class (yet intelligent) food writer who is picked up by a gorgeous new restaurant that treats me like a king for an evening in hopes that I'll write something particularly nice. I know, that's only tangentially like the plot of Pretty Woman, but I know how I feel, dammit!
I'm telling you now, it's hard to resist gushing about the place (and thus, feeling like a whore). Not because the free valet service treated my beat up Mercedes as if it were a brand new SLR McLaren Roadster. And not because the evening's menu included Kobe beef and lobster. It also has nothing to do with the oysters and cocktails and the fact that when the valet returned my car there were two boxes of fudge in the passenger seat. No. It does have to do with the fact that the kitchen staff obviously knows what the hell to do with American food. However, I will save my final judgment for a more appropriate time and refrain from making any (more) grand statement about the dinner last night.
The idea for 50 Plates is actually pretty fun: The menu is designed to represent a panoply of regional cuisines from the U.S. that will change regularly. 50 Plates, 50 states in the union... Get it? The danger with this concept, however, is that it there is the distinct possibility of a menu that feels scattered and incoherent.
The dining room is minimal, modern and has a very low flash factor—that is, if you discount the huge, colorful cakes in a display case opposite the front entrance. The petit fours included a little "dirty rice" beignet, castroville artichoke rolls with a substantial chunky artichoke presence (imagine an artichoke dip filled spring roll), and fried green tomato toasts.
In terms of dinner, by the time it was over, I felt as is I had eaten about a quarter of the 50 Plates. In fact, I believe that is actually the case. Here I will note the "clam bake," the pan roasted sablefish on a clam chowder mash, a molasses BBQ shortrib that's been slow cooked for 10 hours, and a brown sugar ice cream. I'll say those three words again: brown sugar ice cream.
The bar is solid with the estimable Lance Mayhew showcasing his skills. Among the cocktails on Mayhew's menu is a mint julep that's crystalline cold with caramel tones, which he sends into the world with a little slap on it's minty behind.
You'll definitely be hearing about this place, if not eating there. I don't think the PR people left anyone out of the loop on this dinner and just about every media mover in town was in attendance. Expect a full review of 50 Plates in about a month or so. Just enough time for them to get in the groove and for me to realize that they don't really want to marry me, they just want me to give them good head... I mean, press. I kid, I kid. I know this whole thing is a thinly veiled seduction and I appreciate it. Still, like Julia Roberts, I want the fairy tale!
50 Plates opens on July 24th
333 SW 13th