So, I have been wanting to go to the Hazelnut Kitchen for ages and finally was taken there for my birthday. Hurrah. The ambiance is swell, and the food almost up to the standards of eating at home! Well, actually, loads of it was swell. While we had a limited view of the kitchen, what we could see was a tiny little kitchen and lots of very active cooking. And the heat vent we sat near kept us warm, and this despite the (then) unseasonably cold weather that evening. (And, since the weather was cold we were especially thankful to the parking goddess for a spot right near the restaurant.)
We were about 10 minutes late -- and it turned out nearly everyone was that evening because of the weather. The staff was perfectly fine about that and our nervousness was probably just because it is actually difficult to get a reservation.
What did we eat? Well, I had a special that involved (you'll be surprised, dear readers!) pork belly. I seem to have it whenever possible, everywhere. This was a good one, reasonably portioned and cooked beautifully. And yes, I do know this is bacon in disguise. The second appetizer was the cabbage salad, which was absolutely wonderful, despite being too much for a single person to eat for dinner let alone an appetizer. (Is this upstate NY portion control, or what?) The cabbage was right on the border of sweet and sour, and softly cooked. Yes, I kept snatching bits from the plate. It was cooked with local apples walnuts, cayuga blue cheese and cider-dijon vinagrette. (Yes, I remember it better than the pork belly, but to be fair, it is also on the web menu.).
For mains we had: (a) the roast normandy duck breast and duck leg confit, pomegranate molasses gastrique, potato-sunchoke gratin, and wilted watercress ($28) largely attracted by three things: a) the pomegranate gastrique -- because a gastrique well accomplished is a lovely thing (something we discovered making one for pears. . . and pomegranate molasses on its own is dandy; b) the gratin because sunchokes are something that still elude me in cooking; and c) the duck leg confit which was confitted (hmmm, one or two ts there?) in house. And I had the scallops. I rarely do these days for some reason, though I love scallops. And these were both beautiful and cooked perfectly. Their outsides were a carmelly brown and a tiny bit crunchy and the inside just cooked. On the menu it says: seared day-boat sea scallops with maple-mustard seed butter, mashed sweet potatoes & braised kale (for $26). The kale was okay to pretty good and the sweet potatoes were more like pureed than mashed sweet potatoes. It forced to complain, I would say the whole meal was a little too sweet. Perhaps the kale should havebeen made a bit more tart or ?
The sweetness, though, did not deter me from dessert. I had the coffee pot de creme, whipped cream, and dark chocolate sauce which came in a big coffee cup and looked just like that! I admit I did not even finish it -- but the pot de creme was the best I have ever had. I liked my dessert so much I did not reach across the table and snatch any hazelnut butter cake with sea salt caramel & hazelnut ice cream which looked dandy.
So, having finally been to the Hazelnut Kitchen, what do I think? Well, it is small and popular, hence the need for reservations way way in advance. And the food was good. I would go again, I would. I do not think I will be the devoted follower some people are -- simply because there are other restaurants out there to try. But I will definitely go again. And thanks for a lvely birthday dinner!