In taking the reins at Avenues at the Peninsula, Curtis Duffy has a job thats 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 Bowless formidable act, and do it in a market thats far more competitive than when Avenues first drew the national spotlight. As Grant Achatzs right-hand man at Alinea, Duffy was an important soldier in the citys post-Trotters/Tru/Trio surge to prominence, but his selection suggests a conservative continuity that doesnt do him any favors either. About that dining room: it acts like fog, its only virtue the view of NoMis Chihuly chandeliers across the street. Its 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.
Payment Type: American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa