Culinary theater

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August 17, 2009 // UPDATED 9:37 am - August 17, 2009
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

Here I sat, treated like the diva I was meant to be,

mincing my way through a fancy, three-course meal at Cosmos, a world (and a story) above the hoi polloi munching French fries in Block E. Well, six tastes if you count the classy little amuse of diced shrimp on a pillow of polenta, an intermezzo featuring a sugar-sweet bite of peach suspended in cherry juice, and a finale of housemade bonbons while waited on hand and stiletto by a Marseilles-born server with an accent as beguiling as the food.
    
I’m talking about the restaurant’s pre-theater menu, which costs $35 if you sit down before 7 but twice the price, on the regular list, for those determined to be fashionably tardy.

Pre-theater? Who’re we kidding? This is theater, and drama at its best. Bypassing the appetizer salad composed of lettuces from the chef’s garden anointed with a roast shallot-and-Banyuls vinaigrette, for my starter I chose an elite tartare of ahi tuna, presented with a crispy ginger tuile aside a scoop of avocado ice cream (a flavor that, somehow, Baskin-Robbins has overlooked, a major marketing error) and enlivened with a dash of spicy sriracha mayo: all taste buds accounted for.

My pal’s eyes rolled heavenward over the tender, just-seared diver scallop floating in chorizo cream, adorned with salsify, spicy nasturtium petals and a cleansing jolt of grapefruit: sweet, salty, savory, sharp. Is this chef at the top of his game, or what?

After the intermezzo, more choices: My friend chose the sea bass, poached, then set to swim in tomato juice (excuse me: jus. This is a classy kitchen) along with an inspired cauliflower risotto, chives and capers — a sunny Mediterranean market on a plate.

Passing (this time) on the stuffed chicken breast with Asian accents, I next settled on the North Dakota Angus, a New York strip of natural beef outfitted with a savory blue cheese/potato gratin (worth the price of admission alone) amid accents of green peppercorns, truffles and spring onions, all posing for their beauty shot (which led this diva to feign nonchalance as she pursued the last dribble of sauce with a slice of bread).

Dessert? Well, I should hope so: Unable to play nicely when the word “chocolate” was uttered, we both ordered the petite gateau coupled with vanilla ice cream, transported from the ordinary by a sweet-tart shot of bitter orange. “Get a room!” they were about to cry at the next table. Fine. That’s a great excuse to return for the crème brûlée.


Cosmos

Graves 601 Hotel
601 1st Ave. N.
312-1168
Cuisine: American
Meals served: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Entree prices: Breakfast, lunch: $10–19; Dinner: $19-$32