Solace & the Moonlight Lounge - Matt Gordon Tasting

>> Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Date of Dining: 1/15/2013
Price: $100 for 8 course tasting
Location: 25 East E St, Encinitas, CA

The Quick Bit

+ high quality menu packed full of bold and rich flavors
+ great creativity and use of technique to create interesting dishes
+ most dishes were very aromatic
Δ is there such thing as too much of a good thing?

As we were enjoying the previous TBL3, the brain trust of myself, Rodzilla, Yao from {insert-food}, and Foodie Flirt was hard at work in determining which restaurant to visit next. One of the candidates was Chef Matt Gordon, who was interested in creating a tasting experience. After contacting Chef Gordon, we were able to arrange such a tasting at his Encinitas Restaurant Solace & the Moonlight Lounge.
Chef Matt Gordon is the Executive Chef and part-owner of Solace & the Moonlight Lounge - the second restaurant to open after Urban Solace. Prior to moving to San Diego, Chef Gordon worked in such kitchens as Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar, Scott's Seafood, and Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. 
Just prior to our visit, Chef Gordon had an interview published on Eater. Our group found this interview extremely enlightening on his approach to food. We also noticed that he was inspired by Chef Trey Foshee of George's California Modern. When Foodie Flirt invited Chef Foshee to join, I felt extremely fortunate when that invitation was accepted. Before the meal began, Chef Gordon explained that the menu was inspired by foods he liked to eat himself and hoped we would enjoy them as well.

First Course

sea and smoke - smoked oysters, duck fat, clam dip, squid ink crisps, lemon shallot chutney
I started this course my sampling a small bite of the clam dip, and I was immediately transported into unctuous decadence. The clam dip was made of cultured cream, clams, and duck fat, which amalgamated a real complexity in different fats, textures, and saltiness. When I felt that I might have been potentially overwhelmed, the chutney immediately refreshed my palate. The chutney also did a great job of lingering on the palate, which infused the successive bites with fresh acidity. Finally, the squid ink crisps were extremely tasty and enabled a fun component of dipping into the sauce.
I really felt that this dish was an impressive way to start the meal because it was extremely rich, yet balanced in flavor, acidity, texture, and restraint. It might have even been my favorite dish if not for...

Second Course

offaly interesting - confit of sweetbreads, chive crusted bone marrow, white onion gruyere puree
onion soup
This course was Chef Gordon's take on French Onion soup. If other french onion soups are this good, I will order it every time I see it for the rest of my life. The bone marrow was a great flavor burst and acted almost like the bread component. The different preparations of onions were really enjoyable in their textural contrast as well as how the flavors melded together into an even more complex flavor. Finally, the sweetbread was prepared perfectly and was immensely fulfilling. While many dishes were great, I felt that this dish was the one I enjoyed the most for the entire evening.

Third Course

is that a carrot in our pocket? - sable fish stuffed with poached and roasted carrot, watercress
sunchoke star anise sauce
The sable fish was prepared perfectly as was extremely delicate and flavorful. The carrot puree was infused with curry, which was a nice contrast to both the anise and the sweetness of the carrots. The roasted carrots were also extremely well prepared, and we even enjoyed eating the carrot tops. However, I really enjoyed the sunchoke anise sauce. I felt the anise spice really accentuated the various flavors of the dish.

Fourth Course

curds and whey - housemade ricotta roulade, green olive juice, candied kabocha squash, honey jelly,
mizuna, caramelized whey reduction
I enjoyed various elements of this dish. The ricotta was well prepared and had a great flavor. I also enjoyed that the honey jelly was "spiked" with a real kick of cayenne. Finally, the caramelized whey was very clever and inventive. 

Fifth Course

uni-laterally banned - cornmeal shrimp cake, uni gonad, seared foie gras, foie gras mousse,
uni shellstock reduction
For many at our table, this was the first time that we were able to experience uni and foie in the same bite. Overall, most of us felt that it worked because the uni was able to stand up to the foie.
The best part of this dish was the foie gras mousse ball. When the ball was cut into, the foie mousse covered the rest of the plate and mixed with the reduction to make a rich and flavorful sauce. The combination of the liquefied uni and foie against the whole uni and foie was a thrilling juxtaposition of textures and flavors as the flavors were each unique. All of this was tied together by the prawn contrasted against the shrimp corn cake. These were welcome additions to use in soaking up the rest of the uni and foie sauce.

Sixth Course

deer prudence - pine smoked sous vide venison, chanterelles, potato mille-feuilles, red wine syrup,
pickled baby red onion
 The venison was cooked perfectly and contained a very smoked flavor, which lingered on the palate. This smoke infused the mushrooms, potato, and onions with the same smoke flavor. The mille-feuille was a technical marvel as all the layers of potato were cooked well and contained a light texture.

Seventh Course

popper bonilla - cauliflower pot de creme, brown butter cake, sweet jalapeno caviar
cheddar crisp, vanilla bean whipped, bacon dust
For dessert, we were surprised as Chef Gordon invited Chef Jeff Bonilla to create desserts. You may remember that Chef Bonilla created my favorite dessert of 2012.
After eating my first dessert of 2013, it is going to be awfully difficult to surpass. The pot de creme was extremely light and airy, yet retained a rich cauliflower flavor base. The jalapeno caviar contained all the pepper flavor of the jalapeno without the heat from the capsaicin. This allowed a really fresh taste of pepper be infused along with the caviar. However, the cheddar crisp is what really tied the dish together. The crisp contained the salt needed to accentuate all the other flavors while also acting as the crunchy textural contrast, which made the dish incredibly fun to eat. 

Eighth Course

terry's milk - aerated chocolate, gran marnier gel, chocolate genoise, satsuma foam, candied orange glass
chocolate sauce
The chocolate genoise had the perfect texture of cake, which really carried this dish. I also enjoyed the orange glass, which added a nice amount of acidity and texture. The various chocolates acted as distinct and different sauces in which to dip and enjoy the cake. 


While I was initially excited about tasting Chef Gordon's food, the entire dinner exceeded my highest expectations. Chef Gordon warned me not to expect food on the level of TBL3, but I felt several of these dishes were on that level of preparation. With the great company I had for dinner, I felt the meal was a smashing success. I hope that in the future, Chef Gordon may be willing to make his tastings available to the public by arrangement, similar to how TBL3 is arranged. When that happens, I will definitely be willing to return for an encore engagement.
While I can't give Solace itself an award, I will go ahead and give Chef Gordon's tasting dishes the gigabyte award. Hopefully this tasting will be more available to the public in the future, so the award carries more meaning.


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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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