Usually, after I eat a meal at a restaurant I am going to review, it is all I can do to jot down some notes after I roll myself home. I make a point of ordering a first course, a main, and a dessert, so as to have a sense of each part of the menu, and this can be a coma-inducing amount of food. Never before have I sat down to write a full review as soon as I got home. But the diminutive portions at Tailor have left me feeling downright sprightly, which, as my grandfather likes to say, is a plus. On the other hand, as I write, three hours to the minute after we arrived for our reservation, my stomach is rumbling, which, as I regret to say, is a minus.
The menu at Tailor is labeled “Salty” on one side and “Sweet” on the other. Our waitress, who throughout the meal observed an almost comical level of formality, calling Gourmando and me “the gentleman” and “the lady,” respectively, suggested that we order three dishes per person, selecting those three from the two sides as we saw fit. I opted for two salty and a sweet, and Gourmando for three salty, with the last-minute addition of a sweet.
The gentleman started with the foie gras and peanut butter terrine with cocoa and pear. I don’t particularly enjoy either foie gras or peanut butter, but feel that their richnesses blended well, even if I didn’t much like how they tasted. Gourmando found the dish only fair. The lady began with the peekytoe crab salad with smoked pineapple, basil, and pine nut purée. I do love the word “peekytoe,” which only increased my affection for this fresh, satisfying dish. The crab and the pineapple did a little two-step in my mouth, and I only wish there had been more of them to keep the party going.
Gourmando’s next course was duck tartare with marjoram pesto and pickled cherry jam. I know that duck is all dark meat, which makes it inherently different from chicken and turkey, those lower-fat fowl oft dined upon in my youth, but I nonetheless have a hard time sitting with the idea of any raw bird. My kitchen socialization tells me that beef, lamb, and fish have options in their doneness, but pork and poultry—these need to be adequately cooked. So…duck tartare? I don’t trust it. I tasted it (humans are large creatures; a little bit of something I’m afraid is dangerous is probably okay, right?) and have yet to suffer any adverse effects, but wasn’t blown away.
My second salty course was slices of rare snapper with avocado ice cream, candied pistachios, watermelon, and black olive salad with minced shallots. The snapper was fine, but once I had finished it, the real fun began. Once again, I proved incapable of resisting watermelon in a savory dish, and its seductive ruby juiciness did not disappoint. This avocado ice cream concept should be exploited on a grander scale, I think, and with the watermelon, the saltiness of the olives, the crunch of the pistachios, and the quiet zing of the shallots…I’ve found my new favorite trail mix. Messy, yes, but the flavors! A delightful combination.
Gourmando’s third salty dish was classic him: pork belly with miso butterscotch and artichoke. Far be it from my beloved to pass up pork belly. Ordinarily it’s not something I would order, but once I tried his, I wanted my own. Our waitress had asked if the lady was going to mind not having a plate in front of her while the gentleman had his third salty course, and I assured her that his plate would be in front of me as well. She knew of what she spoke. I managed to nab a second fingerful of the sauce, but I did end up feeling a certain deprivation at only getting one bite of the whole. Miso butterscotch sounds odd at best, but ignore your instincts this time: the sweetness is divine with the pork, and the artichokes play along beautifully.
The same part of myself that convinced me a few years back to get several inches of my hair cut off, just to see if I could handle being less cute (not a comment on short hair vs. long hair, I assure you—just on what looks better on me), convinced me to order a dessert that started with the word tomato-peach. Sometimes—although not often—I like to be the member of the couple who wears the culinary headlamp and waders. The tomato-peach, which ended up being peach purée reset into the shape of peach slices (providing, Formal Waitress explained, unexpected textural and visual impact), tomato foam, and some other cherry tomatoey bits, was accompanied by black sesame ice cream and whipped ricotta cheese. The peach was lovely and the dish as a whole was interesting and worth trying. Gourmando had the soft chocolate ganache with ancho chile and a molé sauce, which was pretty good.
Tailor is trying hard. Not everything hit the mark for me, but the sweet-salty concept is very hip right now, and it makes this a fun place to spend an evening. My biggest qualm is the paltry amount of food we ended up consuming, and solving that problem could be as simple as having waitstaff suggest that patrons order more courses. Chef Sam Mason, former pastry chef at wd-50, is doing a great job of making our palates think, and despite the occasional miss, he’s getting a lot of it right.