The upstairs dining room at Botanique.
A friend with a sharp eye spotted Botanique even before it opened, when its pretty little two-story yellow-brick building with a long row of windows was being renovated. A couple of months after the opening, she invited me to dinner upstairs in the “gastronomic” dining room, where a tasting menu is served in the evening.
The rollicking ground-floor dining room, full of partying 30-somethings that evening, offers
gourmet tapas in a room decorated with a wall of glassed-in wine racks and a big mirror.
Upstairs, all was calm in the attractive dining room with brick and stone walls and simple wooden tables and chairs, where the smiley chef Sugio Yamaguchi was working in the open kitchen with his small brigade.
The waitress came over to give us a quick rundown of the no-choices tasting menu and to find out if we had any food allergies or aversions. With our emphatic no, she was off to the kitchen to fetch our amuses-bouches, starting with very tasty and crispy chopped and fried Brussels sprouts (not my favorite vegetable, but these were better than potato chips), spiced up with chilies and followed by the now-clichéd but very seasonal (as was
everything on the menu) pumpkin soup, topped with crunchy granola.
It was hard to control consumption of the wonderful crusty dark bread and (a bit too) salty butter, but with several more courses facing us, it had to be done.
The meal proper then started with “bonbons” of foie gras. One was a smoky-flavored biscuit topped with a half-sphere of foie gras. Along
with it were a dollop of foie gras mousse (also a bit too salty) and, to complement the rich fatted liver, a spoonful of grape confiture and a layer of grape gelée on the plate. A fine start it was.
The fish course was an excellent “stew” of scallops, oysters, mussels and cockles with shiitake mushrooms and some cabbage and
turnip in a shellfish jus. This is the kind of dish that can be a disaster if the fish is the tiniest bit overcooked, but it was perfect, with each ingredient barely cooked. The highlight was the flavorful, almost raw oysters.
That delicate dish was followed by a hearty meat course: a Black Angus hanger steak with a strong, gamy flavor, accompanied by chervil
root (which tasted a bit like parsnip) and a perfect gratin of potatoes.
Then it was time for dessert. Not just one dessert but effectively three. First, a highly refreshing pink grapefruit and hibiscus jelly
topped with iced yogurt and sprinkled with lime zest, followed by a small apple tart filled with crème pâtissière. It had a brilliant shortcrust pastry and a little crème anglaise
underneath and caramel ice cream on top. The whole was decorated with sticks of meringue and sugared hazelnuts. Wonderful by any
standard, but my favorite was the tiny tart that appeared on the plate of mignardises, filled with chestnut cream and topped with coffee-bean brittle. Sublime! With them were lovely homemade caramels with a citrusy flavor and tiny chocolate cakes.
All the other elements of the meal were in place. The bottle of 2013 Binner Alsatian Pinot Noir was a treat and went well with everything. The service from the two young waitresses was unremittingly friendly and accommodating, and the music (on a good sound system at reasonable levels) was so much to my liking that I suspected they had hacked into my iTunes.
When we left after that fabulous meal, the noise downstairs was deafening, but my friend and I are eager to return anyway to try the tapas at lunchtime, when it will presumably be quieter there.