A Less Than Perfect Valentine’s Day Meal at Public

I have been incredibly lucky in my Valentine’s Day dining experiences. I have dined high on the hog. I have slummed it and enjoyed it. And I have always, somehow, gotten my money’s worth in both food and special atmosphere.

Well, don’t worry if you are feeling jealous. It seems as if the lucky streak has ended. I had a seriously disappointing Valentine’s Day meal at Public.

I have wanted to come here for a long time. It’s well-regarded as an Australian inspired Michelin starred restaurant with a chef who excels at cooking game meat. It’s also supposed to have a great bunch, and its website promises a super romantic atmosphere.

I could get down with some romance.

However…this isn’t what I would call romantic. Dark and candlelit, yes. Also  jammed in like sardines with a deafening din and such narrow aisles that I was nervous about servers bumping into my chair all night. It is very hip and totally fun – but not what I would call romantic. Sorry, not at all.

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The bread sounds great but it is standard. The Aleppo pepper is literally undetectable in the cottony roll, but the orange foccacia comes out better with a strong citrus aroma and tangy flavor.

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Pear and lavender gazpacho with smoked tofu and truffle oil

Better than I thought it would taste. The lavender is very mild just adding a hint of floral scent to uplift the smoky, meaty taste of the tofu. The truffle oil adds another savory level to the sweet, fruity aroma of the soup. However,this lacked flavoring for – there were no spicy notes, too much smoke in the tofu, and it was generally boring.

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Roasted carrots with cilantro, avocado, and Meyer lemon confit

Enjoyable. The carrots are sweet and covered in nutty sesame seeds. the avocado is buttery, a nice texture juxtaposition to the tender-crisp carrots. The lemon really perks up the dish, adding zest and brightness to such a grounded, earthy dish. The cilantro is a very good addition, keeping the dish from being to one note. This is good, but not destination worthy.

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Wagyu carpaccio with fried polenta and truffle aioli

By far the best dish of the night. Mm, mm good the beef is thinner than tissue paper, so well marbled that it is pale pink, not red at all. The fat actually melts on the tongue, with the meat following up with a gently mineral taste. The fried polenta is a hot, crunchy counterpart and the truffle aioli releases its heady scent thanks to the polenta’s heat. This is what I want all the dishes to taste like – it’s well seasoned and varied in texture. It lets the raw ingredients shine while still providing interesting cooking techniques. It is a definite high point.

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Lamb with Bone Marrow Toast, White Beans  and Romanesco Sauce

This is forgettable. The lamb is tender but not grassy or deep the way that lamb can be. The beans are buttery but where is the creamy, warming, hearty nature of them? The romanesco has some salt and garlic, but mostly parsley…who wants a mouthful of that?

I really can’t remember a whole lot about it, and no I wasn’t drunk. I just ate so much awesome food this last weekend and I can’t distinguish this dish.

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Sticky chocolate cake with milk foam

A very strong finish to an up and down night. The cake is indeed sticky and dense, taking more like milk chocolate than the bitter, dark stuff. It’s like a mixture between a brownie and sticky toffee pudding, with soft innards and delightfully crunchy, caramelized edges. Teh milk foam is a creamy, light component that is a fun play on vanilla ice cream.

If this restaurant didn’t get so much hype, I would have liked it more. If it hadn’t advertised itself as a cozy, romantic spot instead of a buzzy hip one, I would have liked it more. If i hadn’t had other wonderful Valentine’s Day meals out, I would have enjoyed it more. But it did. And I have. I can’t excuse a restaurant for a merely okay meal and okay service when they are charging  a premium, no matter how busy the night. Because I have had exemplary food and service on Valentin’s Day. And I hope that Public is capable of more – I feel that with the Wagyu and the dessert, there may be hope – it will just be awhile before I get up the nerve to go back and see.

Comments

  1. SkippyMom says:

    The food looks fabulous.

    I was wondering, having been a server on Valentine’s Day, if the restaurant didn’t cram in extra tables and split their 4 and 6 tops down into 2 tops to accommodate couples on VD day? I have helped move extra tables out of storage just to make room for more reservations.

    It’s a common occurrence in restaurant land on this day, and may have added to the cramped atmosphere you experienced.

    Perhaps you could peek in another day and see if the restaurant is rearranged. Just a thought.

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