I haven’t dined before in this part of the city and I was excited to find that there wasn’t any parking. I took a nice little stroll down the side a really nice park, and there I arrived. Outerlands.
I tried to make a reservation on Open Table to no avail because of the same day 4pm cutoff. I then tried emailing, which was never returned, nor was the phone answered around 6pm. I decided why not try and walk in around 8:45. Nopa and Aziza are close by and great back up options.
The wind was blowing quite fiercely as the ocean was visible distance away. A patron walked out as we entered in a large blanket. I didn’t notice any signage anywhere, with the exception of a small logo on the door. My dining companion informed me that the wait was going to be 30 minutes, and then suggested we stand inside because she was chilly. I am not a fan of hovering around tables while they eat, but I agreed. Once inside, I made some observations.
The hostess, who was indistinguishable from anyone else, obviously was exercising CYA in telling us 30 minutes – there were multiple tables getting up and I glanced at her tablet to see a dearth of reservations left. I was happy to be accommodated, but as we were offered outside I suggested if it was too cold we could move inside later – this was shot down immediately as we were reminded that the restaurant closed in an hour… I certainly understand how this made it simply impossible to move our seat, but luckily the heat lamps were fantastic. “Ok, you are all setup out there” we were told as she walked in the other direction. We walked outside, not knowing where she meant us to go and found a quaint two top sheltered from the bracing winds.
Dining was tricky, as the gaps in the outdoor tables were large I kept feeling like something was going to fall – nor were they balanced. After about 4 minutes we were greeted with a “Did you want to start with any drinks?
I was slightly chilly, and decided on the Hot Lemon Ginger Cider, which was perfect. The temperature was fantastic, and just the right amount of Buffalo Trace Bourbon put this drink in fantastic balance. Great for a chilly evening near the beach, and fantastic that I could even have a drink like this in the depth of High Summer.
My companion decided on a special cocktail, having lost the menu in my bag somewhere I can’t recall the ingredients. We both LOVED this presentation, but the drink looked better than it tasted which was slightly watered down.
The bread, which arrived shortly after the first two courses was fantastic. We probably did not need the bread, as I did notice that it came with my soup (would’ve been nice to have been reminded of this) but then again, the house cultured butter here was like the Amish butter I used to get as a child. Rich, creamy, and not served ice cold – something I can’t stand. A highlight for me and seriously delicious.
The dish I felt best executed was the Turnip and Smoked Onion Soup. Picturesque presentation; the pork had an almost pulled texture in the soup, the flavor was subtle and the garden herbs were a great complement. Not quite as hot as I would’ve liked but nurturing and satisfying.
As the next dish came to the table, I began to notice that delicacy is very prominent in the overall plate design; most of the flavors very light and the presentations nimble. The fish course was great – red snapper with seared mushrooms on a light creme, thin squash with squash blossoms to accompany (the course was not announced as it was delivered). I thought the blossoms were a bit listless here but the plate was fantastic. Notice the paring knife cuts on the mushroom face, to expose more surface area and extract greater flavor.
On the side we ordered some caramelized parsnips with vadouvan spices on top of creamed spinach. To me this dish wasn’t successful. Though I had no major qualms with the flavor (love vadouvan) the format of the parsnips made them precarious to eat, the spinach hidden underneath was cool by them time we reached it, and the dish was inadequate for mixing the two vegetables.
The last dish was a play on sweet and savory. Braised Adriatic figs (Banyuls?) with pistachios, shortbread, bay leaf cultured cream, and peppercorns. This was enjoyable though I felt the balance on this dish wasn’t quite there, and the presentation was not incredibly appetizing. The other two desserts sounded really divine, I was just too full to try any more.
I wish there was a deeper motivation to inform us as diners about the Chef, the concept, and cuisine etc – a drive to create more dining atmosphere and experience rather than ‘here is the food, eat it’. Most of the issues I noticed here were service based. The creativity at Outerlands is exemplary, with echoes of Faviken and Chez Panisse peeking out of certain dishes. I will certainly revisit to see the evolution of the concept and the menu.