This summer seems to have been taken over by alcohol-paired dinners, which isn't such a bad thing. Especially when it's done the way O-Ku and the Cocktail Club did it on Tuesday night. The four-course dinner paired farm-to-shaker libations with fresh fish, beef, and vegetables. Mixologists Lindsay Ranes, from O-Ku, and the Cocktail Club's Jackson Holland alternated courses to showcase their skills. Not wanting to be outdone, the chefs created plates that vied for our taste bud's preference.
The first course was simple, delicate, airy. A kanpachi crudo drizzled with olive oil and a splash of citrus made for an impressive start, but the real scene stealer was the Hawaiian sea salt. The crunch of the salt added just the right amount of seasoning as well as a pleasant texture. If summertime had a flavor profile, then the Hendrick's Gin, fresh melon, cucumber, and citrus chunks (mostly lemon) cocktail would define it. It was light and fresh and went down a little too fast.
The next course paired a watermelon purée and prosecco cocktail with a caprese spring roll. One could tell the basil and tomatoes had just been picked, and the mozzarella was exactly what you want it to be: slightly sweet but with a richness. The one thing missing from this dish was texture, a crunch. The rice paper spring roll held together a dish full of soft elements — making a delicious but mushy bite. But bring me seconds or thirds or fourths of that cocktail, please.Then the meal got heavy — in a good way. The light bites were done, and it was time for some full-portioned protein. A beautiful piece of salmon sat perched a top mashed potatoes that melted in your mouth. And then there was the parsley that accompanied the dish. Sauteed and garlicky, parsley will never just be a garnish in my mind again. The Orangerie Scotch fizz was a nice balance to the dish. The citrus in the drink nicely complimented the fish, and the egg white froth added some weight without making it heavy.
No matter how much I tried to pace myself, after three courses and three cocktails, I couldn't imagine eating another bite. But then the Wagyu flank steak arrived. And the fried squash blossom stuffed with tofu and crab. And their take on jambalaya with black rice and Andouille sausage. No word will suffice other than delicious. The duality of the dish is what amazed me. It was meaty and full-flavored but not heavy. My plate was practically licked clean. The accompanying Bulleit Bourbon with Snap liqueur and citrus was shiver inducing but kept me coming back sip after sip.
Finally, the dessert cocktail was set down. A chocolate sorbet melted by Dumante liqueur and citrus vodka with a raspberry oozed flavor and richness. A nice touch to the end of a great meal.