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CLOSED. The hotel dining room has been shuttered after the departure of chef de cuisine Curtis Duffy. A new concept is slated to debut in 2012.

Our Review

In taking the reins at Avenues at the Peninsula, Curtis Duffy has a job that’s two, maybe three times as difficult as that of his predecessor, who only had to convince the world that he could make magic in an institutional hotel dining room. Now Duffy has to follow Graham Elliot Bowles’s for­mid­able act, and do it in a market that’s far more competitive than when Avenues first drew the national spotlight. As Grant Achatz’s right-hand man at Alinea, Duffy was an important soldier in the city’s post-Trotter’s/Tru/Trio surge to prominence, but his selection suggests a conservative continuity that doesn’t do him any favors either. About that dining room: it acts like fog, its only virtue the view of NoMi’s Chihuly chandeliers across the street. It’s so stodgy I had trouble focusing on the first few courses--out of more than a dozen we tried from the spring prix fixe menu. But gradually Duffy got my attention, anchoring the familiar powders, granules, bubbles, and froths in concert with unprocessed ingredients like baby greens and tiny blos­soms. By course number four--a spoon­ful of Dungeness crab claw with macerated cherry--I was in his thrall, and wowed over and over again as the rest of the courses, each with a dizzying array of elements, arrived: entries like tangerine-oil-poached lamb with mint blossom, mint-oil powder, Greek yogurt, dessicated bits of black olive, and a black olive jus. Before dessert a devas­tating piece of grilled Wagyu with smoked coconut and basil puree simply destroyed me. When it was over we were exhausted but awed, and not too worried about Duffy or the substantial bill. That came the next morning like a hangover.

Mike Sula

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Price: $$$$$
Payment Type: American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

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