trying too hard, or not hard enough
It wasn't easy finding a place for three of us (two omnivores and a vegetarian) to eat, but when we read the menu of Millennium online, we had no trouble reaching consensus. It sounded like we'd found a high-end vegetarian restaurant that served elegant food and paid special attention to wine, an important point for us.
We ordered the Sunshine menu, with the wine pairing. To the server's credit, she talked up but didn't hard sell the more expensive tasting menu. Then the food started to appear. And so too did the cracks in what we hoped was going to be a memorable gastronomic experience.
Rather than trusting in the excellent and often unexpected ingredients on the plate (orange apples, creamy baked grits, tomato confit, fine blueberry sorbet), the kitchen feels compelled to add layers and layers of jarring tastes just to compensate for what? Feelings of inadequacy? When a raw soup is topped with a garnish of crisp celery and apples, an excellent opening gambit to stimulate appetite and cleanse the palate, what does adding raw chilis and Thai basil do for the freshness? It kills it. Why do tempeh (woefully over-cooked and chalky as if it had been left in a cafeteria steam tray too long) and grits need a sticky glaze, a nut ""cheese"", a fruit chutney and bitter greens all at once? Obviously, they don't. This is vegetarian cooking with a chip on its shoulder, with something to prove. And it fails to convince.
Almost more disappointing, the wines were an unmitigated failure. Maybe it has something to do with natural vegan wines available, but surely anyone who had tasted the food (or even the pared down flavors that should have underlined each dish) could have guessed that the fruity Spanish wine was never going to stand up to the acidity of the soup, or that the hit of tannin from another red wouldn't go with the Indian spices or the b?chamel-ed greens or the saut?ed fennel on the potato pancake. The low-point was the pinot noir served with a tasty bean and tomato confit stew (one serving of which was ruined by a handful of raw garlic; the other two plates of the same dish were unscathed). I pushed away my glass and was commenting to my fellow diners that the one-note Burgundy lacked any depth or character, unaware that our server was right behind me. She cheerfully agreed with me, saying she really liked the pinot noir they used to have, but that this one was really not very good. But did she apologize, offer to take away the glass, or suggest a substitute? Of course not. She delivered her judgment then went on her way,
That was a indicative of the service overall, chirpy, friendly and oblivious. Plate after plate and glass after glass were taken away half-eaten or undrunk, but no comment was ever made and no concern about our satisfaction or lack thereof was ever expressed. Our last pairing, a ""port"" from California, arrived a good 25 minutes before the dessert. Neither the wine nor the dessert were worth the wait. Why try to imitate a cr?me br?l?e if the best you can do is make a pudding rendered grainy with thickener? We wanted to ask what the ""cr?me"" was made of, but by the end of the meal, and despite the fact that there were still four others tables eating, there was no one around to ask, and no one to wish us good night. By that time, our culinary curiosity had long been stifled, and we left with a not pleasant aftertaste in our mouths.
There were flashes of inspiration (the beans, the grits, the potato, the soup) but every last one of them was marred by carelessness or sensory overload. We might have been more-forgiving in a place that didn't make claims to greatness, but with a reputation to live up to and at over $90 a head, there is really no excuse for such glaring faux-pas.