Saturday, March 21, 2009

Foundation Room at House of Blues

On Friday I enjoyed a fun, scrumptious meal during a “soft-opening” for lunch service at the Foundation Room at the House of Blues downtown. Beginning on Monday, March 23rd, Foundation Room is open to the public for lunch. Normally a “member’s only” club, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience the VIP treatment (and one would assume also a great way to spur memberships if the experience achieves its potential). I must say that if this lunch is typical, they will soon have a loyal following.

Decorated as an Indian Palace – with gorgeous embroidered wall coverings, lanterns and soft lighting, it was as though I had stepped into a different world from the downtown sidewalk – with a feeling of escape and dare I say, intrigue?!

The bar area is gorgeous with cozy seating in every direction. The cozy booths and private dining areas are the kinds of spaces that inspire intimate table conversation (love that!). I was having fun even before we began our meal.

Executive Chef Brett Sparman has created a mouth-watering menu with something for everyone. We ordered from a special menu for the day that included salads, small plates, flatbread pizzas and entrees.

I began with the Ahi Tuna Tartar from the “small plates” section of the menu. A generous portion of fantastically fresh ahi tuna sat perched atop a cucumber quinoa salad finished with a splash of “wasabi foam” to complete the visually stunning dish. Fortunately, the flavors were just as interesting as the presentation. I’ve always wanted to love quinoa and today I truly did - it was perfect with the tuna – the cucumber being the key element. The wasabi foam had a very subtle flavor for which I was thankful. Had it been too pronounced, it would have overwhelmed the dish and the fact that it did not, signaled to me that Chef was taking great care in each component of his creation. And that feeling is the kind of thing that makes me excited to taste everything he has to offer.

I also sampled my tablemate’s Grilled Flat-Iron Steak Salad with baby arugula, mandarin and lemon-honey vinaigrette. The thin-sliced pieces of hanger steak were tender (not always typical for hanger steak), greens were fresh and the vinaigrette struck a perfect balance between the citrus and honey. Excellent.

For the second course, I chose the Kobe Beef Burger (I just can’t help myself – I’m always searching for my next best burger). I did struggle with my choice, though because there were some interesting options on the Entrée section including a Reuben sandwich and Veal Osso Bucco with papperdelle, ricotta and parmesan reggiano. Note the diversity within the menu.

The burger was sublime. Cooked medium-rare as I ordered it (yay!), crisp thick-sliced Nuski’s applewood smoked bacon (one of my favorite bacons!), pretty veggies (including ripe tomatoes). Perfect bun – not too bready nor too thin – it held up to the juicy beef. The parmesan truffle fries were also tasty but they played second fiddle to the burger. Again, my buddy and I shared tastings of each other’s plates – she had ordered the Flatbread Pizza with caramelized mushrooms, tomatoes and the same sainted bacon. Wow. The pizza was really outstanding. Crispy, flavorful crust and just the right amount of toppings that complimented each other so well. Our other friend thoroughly enjoyed her salmon (pan roasted with spinach garlic whipped potatoes and crispy leeks).

It is apparent that Chef is working with quality ingredients for his cuisine along with a real knack for adding subtleties that take it to the next level with creative combinations and complimentary flavors in every dish I sampled. Entrees were in the $13 - $19 range – certainly reasonable for the superiority of ingredients, flavors and large portion-size.

Did I mention they offer $1 martinis for lunch?! I’m not even a martini drinker but thought it was awfully clever for the Foundation Room to bring back the 3-martini lunch during these challenging times. I absolutely look forward to returning soon – I can’t get that Veal Osso Bucco with the pappardelle out of my head.

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