As I mentioned earlier, we were generously treated to dinner and drinks at Suite & Tender. I’m not sure how I got on the list, but I’m glad we were invited! Suite & Tender opened at the beginning of the year and is billed as the trendy hot spot downtown for fancy cocktails and luxurious food. You can find their menu online, and I suggest you take a look to follow along.
Food bloggers and other writers were invited, and I half-joked to Travis that I was going to Google the event to figure out who was there. Well, now I know Darlene, Jenny, and Mary were there, so we’ll see if anyone else writes it up. We’re all probably wondering what the other will say about the night. I’ll admit that we were completely taken care of, from the first bite to the wine pairing to the valet parking, by the restaurant, with the exception of the two cocktails we had at the bar because we got there an hour early.
When you get to Suite & Tender, you walk through an enormous door that must be perfectly balanced to swing open with such a slight push.
We all gathered downstairs in the bar area while bites from the bar menu were passed around: Wagyu beef sliders, mini corn dogs, and Kobe beef carpaccio. I didn’t actually get to try the beef sliders, but they looked plump and tasty! The mini corn dogs had a tasty corn battered shell and it tasted more like a sausage than a hot dog. It was flavorful and I can see it being a nice dish during happy house, but mine was a little tough to bite through the sausage skin. And I think I had sausage grease drip down my chin. But tasty! I don’t know if the bar-menu carpaccio is served as we had it – a slice of tender beef on a slice of toasted baguette with pickled scallions – but that’s what we enjoyed. My “crouton” wasn’t very crisp, but it’s still a nice two-bite appetizer. When we visited for Restaurant Week, the carpaccio was served on a plate with the croutons along the side, and it was a generous portion.
Once we all headed upstairs to the restaurant, then the fun began. Beverage orders were taken and then wine glasses were brought out to pair with the courses. The amuse bouche was presented (I love amuse bouches!), a black mission fig with Roquefort cheese. I didn’t think the fig was sweet enough to stand up the sharpness of the blue cheese.
We started with a “quad plate” of some appetizers: hamachi fish tacos, maple glazed bacon, lump crab cakes, and fried rock shrimp. There was a choice of wines, and Travis and I shared the William Fevre Chablis (because I’d already had a very boozy Manhattan, I’m a lightweight, and we had an entire night to get through), which was a crisp white, slightly dry, and drinkable until we got to the second wine (which probably means it was in the correct order).
My favorite was the fried rock shrimp. It felt more dusted than battered; a very light coating. There were candied walnuts and a slightly sweet dressing. The shrimp was cooked perfectly – still tender and moist and not at all rubbery. The fish tacos were cold; maybe they were supposed to be? We were told the bacon is soaked in maple syrup for 24 hours before being cooked. It’s thick cut bacon and not cooked to a crisp, so you get to enjoy that meaty chewiness. In all honesty, it’s bacon. In maple syrup. Bacon. How can it not be enjoyable? The lump crab cakes were also good. Nice big lumps of crab, a crisp outer coating, and just a hint of spice in the saucee (which I guess is a remoulade). If we were going to order appetizers, I’d be happy with the rock shrimp or the crab cakes (Travis would choose the crab cakes, hands down).
Two plates of salad were set out for each table. We shared the duck confit and baby spinach salads, which were paired with an Evolution Sauvignon Blanc (a slightly sweet, fruity wine that was very drinkable, but also made the Chablis taste drier than I think it actually is). I was looking forward to the duck confit salad because I love anything with duck, but the baby spinach ended up being the winner, mostly because of the pine nut butter spread on the bottom of the plate. The duck salad had crunchy candied walnuts, but the vinaigrette seemed missing (read: cabbage tasted like non-dressed cabbage) and the duck was too moist and mushy for my tastes (sorry!)
Although we were invited to experience the new fall menu, the “Suite & Tender” items (surf & turf) were also presented as choices. Travis chose the Alaskan King Crab and Veal Tenderloin, while I went for the lamb chop. In hindsight, I should have chosen a fish dish, since I know how to cook a good lamb chop and Suite & Tender seems to excel at their seafood dishes. Before the entree comes out, you’re presented with a tray of handcrafted knives from around the world
My lamb chops came with a goat cheese/sweet potato puree that was delicious. A slice of lamb, swish of puree, and dab of the tomato jus made for a perfect bite. The lamb was cooked to medium and it was quite tender. Also, thick. There was plenty of lamb on that plate, at least to me it was. Travis’ veal was also cooked perfectly and is probably my favorite meat option over the short ribs or pork belly that we tried on our previous visit. But, you really can’t beat a piece of crab that tastes like it’s been doused in butter. It reminds me of the buttery lobster we had eaten before.
By this time, I was getting full, yet I was still excited about all this food being presented to us. So, I know we had a red wine with this course, but I have no idea what it was. Sorry. I can tell you that it was a big wine, very boozy, with a dry finish. Probably doesn’t help you much, though.
The dessert cordials/port list was brought out, as well as a coffee and tea service cart. If I was a better drinker, I would have loved to partake in a cordial, but alas, I chose decaf coffee. The last time I had regular coffee after 4pm I was wide awake well after midnight.
Similar to the appetizer plate, four desserts came out on a quad plate: the Suite & Tender cheesecake, a 5th Avenue torte, ice cream sandwiches, and a chocolate truffle cake.
The truffle cake was served with a peanut butter ice cream (yum) and it wasn’t as dense as you would expect a truffle cake to be. It was moist and chocolatey and easily finished. The 5th Avenue torte was served with a shot of Frangelico and milk. Why they brought one shot out when four people are sharing a plate is a bit confusing. When the rest of the desserts were gone and the shot was left standing, I just went ahead and poured some into my spoon. It tasted like… milk with a splash of Frangelico! The almond-y ice cream that went with the torte was nice and refreshing. The torte itself wasn’t as peanut-buttery as I thought it would be from the description. If I hadn’t been expecting peanut butter, I’d say it was still a good slice of cake. The cheesecake was not nearly as dense as the one we had last time. It was light and airy, like it was whipped? Even though I prefer the thick, rich cheesecakes, this one was much easier to eat and finish, which is saying something considering how much we’d already tasted by now. The ice cream sandwiches were filled with a rocky road ice cream – nice, chewy hunks of marshmallow in chocolate ice cream. And they were sandwiched with thin brownie slices. I think the truffle cake was my favorite, aside from the almond ice cream on the plate.
As if that wasn’t enough, we were all presented with a lovely gift bag to take home. It had some menu brochures, a press release on the upcoming Stone beer pairing menu (for November), a CD with menu files and photos, a mini cocktail shaker, and some house-made candies (ginger and cinnamon, I believe). I took some of the candies to work… they taste really good, but after a while they get kind of sticky in your mouth. No chewing, you just have to let them melt away.
In addition to the generous hosting of the restaurant and Kelsey (with Wagstaff), Travis and I also enjoyed the people watching. There was a smooth jazz player in the bar and some ladies who were definitely out for a night on the town. Or maybe just a night ogling the saxaphone player. We also watched the valet guys try to jimmy open a car whose keys I assume were locked in. They were at it for well over an hour, but the car was gone by the time we left, so maybe someone finally got it open.
I’ll be the first to admit that Suite & Tender is not really the budget-friendly dining destination, but I think it’s doing well at what it set out to be. You’ll find all sorts of people in the bar and lounge and I bet it’s quite fun on weekends. And, while the food may carry a higher price tag, it’s really good food (except for the duck salad… could someone work on that?) I hear they have great happy hour bar specials, so the carpaccio and rock shrimp would be good choices. I’d even give the mini corn dogs another chance (of course, I do love corn dogs in general). The service is excellent and everyone’s really friendly.
Travis and I had such a fun time. I also really enjoyed getting to meet Darlene and Jenny in person, people who have left comments here (sometimes I even reply!) and whose blogs I’ve been reading for a while (but I’m terrible at leaving comments). You may not know it, but I bought my seat belt purse because I saw it on Darlene’s blog and just loved it! I also got to meet Mary and now I’m getting caught up on all the tasty things she’s found in San Diego. It’s still a little weird to me, having this blog as a part of my identity, but I’m learning how to have fun with it.
So, thank you Suite & Tender for all that lovely food and drink, and thank you Kelsey for inviting us and letting us participate!