Well, we really didn’t dine and dash, but we did get a fabulous free meal last night. It all began last week when Steve, Valerie, Kevin and I went to local upscale restaurant, [Clary’s](http://www.eatatclarys.com/), to celebrate Steve’s birthday. The meal was less than perfect and owner James Clary wanted to make up for all the problems we’d encountered so he invited us to be his guests at his table this week. The Chef’s Table at Clary’s is a bar-type area facing the kitchen where James can chat with his guests while he prepares a meal specifically for them. We started out with some white wine and his signature appetizer, tuna nachos. They were crisp and delicious. He followed up the appetizer with a fantastic pasta course of gnocchi with goat cheese and portabella mushrooms. The gnocchi was tender and creamy and the goat cheese added just the right zip to the meatiness of the mushrooms.
Then James asked about what types of food we liked and we all agreed on fish so he started preparing a grouper dish for our next course. During the preparation he discussed the right way to sharpen knives (even demonstrating a sharp edge by shaving the hair on his arm!) and how to get a nice crust on pan-seared fish without it getting greasy. Kevin and Steve, foodies that they are, loved it, but I also found it fascinating. The fish, served with wasabi mashed potatoes and miso broth, was crisp and tender.
Next up was a beef course. James explained different cuts of meat and why the prime cut beef is so much more expensive. It’s all in the cut, by the way. We had the beef tenderloin medallions served with a potato gratin that was delicious. I think the potatoes had goat cheese in them, but I’m not sure. All I know is that the top was really crisp and the cheese had a nice zesty flavor that enhanced the potatoes. I let Steve finish my beef since I was getting full and knew dessert was around the corner.
Clary’s is known for their dessert soufflés so we knew that’s what we’d be having. Each evening, the restaurant serves a chocolate souffle and a flavor of the day. Because we were being treated to a special meal, James prepared a souffle flavor just for us: Grand Marnier/Cherry. Unfortunately, my souffle was the only one completely done, but the flavor was terrific. We ordered decaf coffee, but James also treated us to an after dinner drink of [Grand Marnier Cuvee de Centcinquantenaire](http://www.grandwinecellar.com/sku12737.html) I’m not one to drink much hard alcohol, especially without a mixer, but it was a nice gesture and I did enjoy the flavor (in very small sips). At the end of the meal, James thanked us for letting him cook for us and we thanked him for a great meal. We asked Austin, the host, for a bill for our alcohol and he told us James was taking care of everything. We did insist on tipping the waiter who took care of our drinks, but were floored the alcohol was included. It was a nice way for him to treat us and I know we’ll be back.
While sitting at the Chef’s Table is something we can rarely afford (it’s $100 just to have James cook for you, but it’s split among the party) I’m glad we got to experience it. James was entertaining and personable but also gave us some time alone to chat each each other. We did discover that the Chef’s Table holds some perks: we didn’t have to chat with anyone else in the restaurant, and he’ll prepare whatever kind of food you want. Next time (if we can every afford it) we’ll do Mexican which is James’ favorite kind of food to prepare.