Watching this past season of Top Chef, I was in giddy disbelief that one of the contestants had his own restaurant just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my backyard. He just wasn’t any contestant. Amar Santana ended up being a finalist for Top Chef season 13. Unfortunately, he did not win, but he had a great run, which included a comeback from Last Chance Kitchen. Perpetually Underwhelmed was visiting from Thailand, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out the food of a true Top Chef. I was super excited to see Amar Santana himself cooking in the kitchen! Surely the meal would be stupendous.
Japanese Hamachi Sashimi avocado sorbet, citrus sesame dressing, cilantro, wasabi tobiko
The dish was fairly unique. I can’t say I’ve ever had avocado sorbet and raw fish. I liked the flavor of the citrus sesame dressing a lot but it was a tad too goopy. Altogether, I found the flavors were bright with the creamy cold avocado and sweet tangy dressing. There was probably too much of the dressing though, which detracted from the natural flavor of hamachi. Perpetually Underwhelmed did not like this dish at all.
Pan Roasted La Belle Foie Gras wild mushrooms, porcini waffle, celery root foam, madeira sauce
The foie dish sounded and looked better than it tasted. The foie was nicely seared but the waffle just felt soggy and not all that flavorful to stand up against the foie or even complement it. The foams and sauces didn’t add the much needed balance here. The mushrooms were well cooked.
Crispy Pork Belly smoked heirloom carrots, sugar snap peas, miso caramel
They did an excellent job getting pork belly rendered and crispy. Again, the dish felt somewhat heavy and unbalanced in flavors. I wanted some acid here. The carrots and miso caramel were just sweet.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts chinese sausage, cilantro, sweet and sour
Yelpers seemed to really like the brussels sprouts here but I’ve had better. The flavors were too sweet, not enough sour, and not enough salt to balance it. They were crispy and well cooked though.
Grilled Marinated Prime Skirt Steak roasted fingerling potato, chimichurri sauce, caramelized onion jus
I really wanted to love this because the flavors were well balanced and the meat was well seasoned. Unfortunately, I found it overcooked and chewy. Perpetually Underwhelmed seemed disgusted by our meal by this point. Maybe that’s an exaggeration but she wasn’t impressed by any of it.
Lemon Ricotta Fritters lemon cream, candied lemon
Surprisingly, this turned out to be the best dish of the night. The fritters were crispy and light on the inside. The lemon cream in the fritters were not too sweet. We gobbled these down with few criticisms.
All of the dishes were well executed with the exception of the skirt steak. Unfortunately, we both agreed Chef Santana missed the mark on constructing well balanced dishes. The things we tried were either too heavy or sweet and lacking that extra zing to bring everything together. Perhaps we didn’t order correctly either. Maybe we ordered too many heavy dishes. The menu looked very appealing and I wish I could have tried more because Amar Santana didn’t get to the finale of Top Chef with lackluster food. I see the potential here, and I would definitely come back for a second shot. In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing what his other restaurant Vaca has to offer.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here