Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bogart would have approved

Last week I had the privilege of dining at Bogie's Place, a tiny steakhouse hidden away inside a downtown bar called JM Curley.  I was there on the invitation of a friend, who was herself invited by the hosting couple.  Although I had arrived a few minutes early, I ran into Fred at the bar, and not seeing the rest of my dining companions to be, stopped a moment to catch up.  A little while later, the rest of the group arrived, at which time, we promptly launched into the first round of martinis - 3:1 with Plymouth gin, orange bitters, orange twist.

I must apologise in advance for the lack of photographs of the night due to the "No cell phone use" rule (how civilised!) displayed so clearly at the door.  Or perhaps I should say curtain, a heavy velvet curtain to be precise, reminiscent of that velvet rope of exclusivity.  Behind the curtain was indeed another world entirely.  After finishing the first pre-prandial cocktail, we were directed from the main bar to this curtained-off back room.  In a sense Bogie's Place is a reverse speakeasy, a restaurant hidden within a bar.

The change in surroundings was as marked as it was sudden.  Whereas JM Curley sports exposed brick for a polished industrial feel, Bogie's Place was dressed in red velvet, dimly lit by wall sconces.  Dave Matthews Band versus Ella Fitzgerald; burger versus dry-aged steak (although admittedly, JM Curley's burger is excellent).

If the ambiance was not clue enough, the menu proved with one glance that the evening would have a midcentury, Draper-esque theme.  As we settled into our seats, another round of cocktails was clearly in order - Rittenhouse rye manhattan for me, champagne cocktails, an old-fashioned, and a sidecar for the rest.  As the gentlemen conversed on all matter of things from musical talents to reminiscences of distant lands, the ladies launched into one of many conspiratorial sidebars.  However, I was certainly not going to complain as they proceeded to order both the dinner spread and the wine for the table.  My only decision was what cut of steak and its doneness.

As we finished the last drops of our pre-prandial cocktails, the appetisers began to appear in earnest.  Clams casino dressed to richly with toasted breadcrumbs providing crunch and bacon lending an unmistakable smokiness.  A fabulous macaroni and cheese topped with steak tartare, an unexpected combination that was at once both comforting and titillating.  Decadent seared foie gras best considered when at its simplest.  The beer and cheese soup's luscious texture belied a sharpness on the palate.  Perhaps most surprising was the fact that I ate any of the wedge salad at all, given my disinclination for lettuce.  A bottle of Gentil Hugel was the first wine to be enjoyed.

At some point after the dishes from the first course were cleared, shots of fernet appeared on the table, and who would really argue with the value of a mid-meal digestivo.  After all, the steaks were shortly forthcoming.  Not only was I quite pleased by the 30 day dry aged New York strip that I ordered, but the accoutrements, including roasted Brussels sprouts, bone marrow, and a foie gras compound butter, were also quite delightful.  Moreover, one of the gentlemen at the table had ordered a "side" of petit filet to be shared.  The steaks were excellently paired with a bottle each of Domaine Joseph Voillot Bourgogne Rouge and of Domaine de Marcoux Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape.

Perhaps surprising no one, the steaks were concluded with yet another round of fernet.  A bottle of Gaston Chiquet Special Club champagne found its way to the table for dessert.  While the consequence of the bubbles may have been some mental loss of focus, I do have a vague recollection of being employed on drums in an improvised jazz trio air band.  Needless to say, I soon took my leave and stumbled off through the snow in search of a single malt nightcap, being exceedingly thankful for an evening of excellent food and even more charming company.

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