I may have mentioned that my birthday and my fiance’s birthday are a mere seven days apart. As a result, we decided that instead of scrambling within one week to get gifts for one another and essentially trade off festivities, we decided that each year we would take one another out to a great meal. The gift is essentially eating together at a place we wouldn’t normally go to regularly or perhaps even be able to afford on a regular basis. This year’s treat was Lumiere, which we heard about from one of Sophia’s friends.
1293 Washington Street
Service and Atmosphere
Lumiere is a mid-sized restaurant, but the layout allows for a lot of seating while still maintaining some level of privacy between sections. The lighting creates a warm dim tone and the decor is typical of a fine dining establishment. The menu boasted locally sourced ingredients prepared in the style of an elegant bistro. Our servers were knowledgeable, helpful, and attentive, which was as expected for the ambiance of the restaurant, but which we also appreciated.
After our server took our drink orders, the meal started off really well with some delicious, fresh bread and butter. The rolls weren’t skimpy at all and we were in danger of filling up long before our meals arrived.
West Village Cocktail – As my drink, I asked our server what he would recommend from their signature drink menu. He asked what kind of alcohols I enjoyed and then suggested one with bourbon called, “The West Village” (Maker’s Mark, Sweet Vermouth, Meletti Amaro, Orange Bitters). I was a little concerned when our server explained that it was a play on a Manhattan because I don’t really like very sweet bourbon drinks, but he assured me that it wasn’t too sweet. The cocktail was actually very well balanced, so I could taste all of the ingredients, and it wasn’t overly sweet as promised. The garnish of dark cherries marinating in the drink were delicious as well and I enjoyed them far more than the usual maraschino cherry plopped haphazardly into a drink.
Amuse Bouche - Our server brought over this next little treat as a “gift from the kitchen.” I absolutely love mid-course surprises because they’re like bonus rounds where the kitchen experiments on the guests with new ideas. This time around, the treat was a mix of gruyere cheese and haddock sandwiched between two thin lightly seared pieces of bread. I’m not sure which item was smoked between the gruyere or the haddock (I think it was the haddock), but the smokiness was evident in a wonderful way. The little bite tasted like a gourmet version of lox and cream cheese turned into a mini grilled cheese sandwich. In all honesty, while the food that night was pretty excellent, this item may have been the best thing I tasted all night!
Steak Tartare Special – I’m ashamed to admit that I had never had steak tartare before (although I’ve had salmon or tuna tartare plenty of times), so I jumped at my opportunity to get it. It was offered as a special that evening so I found myself extremely fortunate. When it came out, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I always imagined the idea of what steak tartare might taste like, but I was still surprised. The minced raw steak was so much milder than I imagined. It tasted very fresh and nowhere near as flavorful as cooked steak, but that is what made it feel very refreshing. It had a mix of ginger and other spices in it and the sauce that garnished the plate added some spicy heat to the dish, that could have been distracting if it had been mixed into the steak instead of just on the plate. The egg on top when mixed into the meat added a level of creaminess that complimented steak perfectly. The crusty bread contrasted with the soft texture of the tartare and added another dimension to the dish.
Maine Sea Scallops – Sophia ordered the scallops as her appetizer. All I can say is that these scallops were up there as some of the best I’ve ever had. They were cooked perfectly so that they had a sear, but weren’t chewy or undercooked. The sweet sesame vinaigrette on the plate didn’t overpower the scallops at all, but it did change up the flavor. The most impressive pairing on the plate though was the mushrooms underneath the scallops. They added a surf and turf element to the dish, but the earthy flavors meshed perfectly with the ocean creating an entirely new flavor. The only downside to this dish was that it only had two scallops on it. It was also one of the more expensive dishes when comparing volume to the price-tag.
Tonight’s Steak – There were two steaks offered that evening. One was their usual steak item on the menu and the other was a special. Sophia ordered the steak on the menu and I tried the special. I can’t quite remember the type of steak offered on the menu that night, but it was a leaner cut of beef sliced over a bed of creamy spinach. Normally, I’m vehemently opposed to restaurants cutting my steak for me before serving. I think it ruins a great steak. The juices run out, it cools down extremely fast, and it can dry out very easily. That wasn’t the case with this dish because the meat remained tender and juicy (albeit a little cool). I thought it had good flavor, but it’s not exactly the type of steak dish I would prefer at a restaurant.
Rib Eye Special – I ordered yet another special, thereby doubling up on my steak for the evening. The rib eye sounded great along with the wild mushrooms that accompanied the dish. It also came served over a bed of creamy spinach, but it wasn’t pre-sliced, which I was extremely thankful for. The mushrooms that came with my steak had a strong flavor. They were very good, but the flavor of the mushrooms actually came through over the meat, which I thought was surprising. Each steak dish had a dangerously delicious giant basket of french fries as a side dish. The steak itself was a very nice cut with a good sear on the outside. The problem for me was that I ordered the steak medium and it came out medium-rare, heading towards rare. Some people love a rib eye like that and I can definitely eat it that way (which I did), but when it comes to rib eye, I like it medium so that I can cut it easily. The marbling of fat in a rib eye gives it a lot of flavor and juiciness, but it also makes it chewy when rare (as opposed to a NY Strip, which I would get medium rare). In any event, no matter how you like your steak, I think when you’re paying a lot for one, you should get it however you order it. I wish that had happened, because it was a nice cut, but it was just too stringy and chewy for me at that temperature.
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta – We shared a dessert of panna cotta made with Greek yogurt and served with dried fruit. The panna cotta itself had a velvety texture and I could taste the Greek yogurt coming through. It wasn’t overly sweet and had that classic Greek yogurt tanginess. Sometimes that is a little much for me, but when eaten with the dried fruit, the dessert transformed completely into a perfect combination of sweet, chewy fruit, with smooth yogurt creaminess. I very much enjoyed this dessert as an end to a very good meal.
Bill Sweetener – The bill came with two tiny chocolate chip cookies that were actually a little soft, suggesting they were fresh. They tasted pretty good and I have no idea if they are made in-house or not. The truth is that Lumiere is a fairly expensive restaurant. It’s not the most expensive out there by any means, but I can understand how a little treat along with the bill may be an attempt to make it a bit more palatable!
We had a great meal at Lumiere and the flavor combinations for each of the dishes were perfect. It’s a bit pricey, so it’s not a place to come for a casual dinner, but I would still highly recommend it for special occasions. It’s also nice to see what chefs can do with local ingredients. The level of skill demonstrated at Lumiere is impressive and inventive across the changing menu.