One of my favorite things to do is to go to a restaurant and let the chef create a tasting menu for us. It’s one of the perks of being in the biz and/or knowing the chef at a particular restaurant. For me, it’s an opportunity to see what the chef can really do, how creative is he/she and they have an opportunity to show off and try new things and get instant feedback. I relish the opportunity and for each one of these dining adventures, I have rarely been disappointed.
I have a client in Morgan Hill who loves food and wine just as much as I do. When we get together lunch can be an afternoon into evening affair at times. Three and a half years ago they introduced me to one of their favorite local restaurants called Odeum, owned by Michelin star chef Salvatore (Sal) Calisia.
From the first time I went to Odeum, I knew there was something different about this place. The restaurant is located in the old granary that was used by local farmers for years prior to it becoming repurposed into a commercial space that now houses Odeum. On the way in you pass the small vegetable garden and orchard supplying some of the fresh fruit and vegetables for the restaurant. We were greeted by the hostess and Chef and led to our table. I don’t recall exactly what that first meal was at Odeum but I do remember it involved octopus that was so tender it melted in my mouth.
Since that first time I’ve been there many times for both lunch and dinner and the food and service is always exquisite. The menu changes with the seasons and according to the inspiration of Chef Calisia. Since my clients are buds with the Sal the experience is always special.
Last week we were there again and brought our selection of wines for our afternoon long lunch. The sommelier opened our wines and decanted the bottle of Chateau Nuf De Pape to be consumed with a later course. For this particular meal, Sal pulled out all the stops.
Our first course was a Curry Blood Sausage with napa cabbage, apple and bacon topped and Belgian Waffle with Foie Gras Torchon, strawberry compote and shaved truffle. OMG does not even begin to describe the party of flavors that was going on in my mouth. The curry enhanced the flavor of the blood sausage and took it to a whole new level. Paired with the acidity of the napa cabbage and it was heaven in the mouth. The biggest surprise was the Belgian waffle combo. The waffle was savory with the foie gras acting melting into the nooks and crannies slightly acidic strawberry compote and truffles blending in perfectly to form a symphony of flavors in my mouth. This paired beautifully with the 2012 Small Vines Chardonnay that we used to wash it all down with. Unique and so flavorful, pretty much my favorite dish of the day. There are times where I use expletives in place of more mundane adjectives when I really like something because it’s just that good and requires something above and beyond. This was one of those times and I gave it 3 expletives because it was just that good.
Next, we were regaled with a Wild Boar Chop and Canelli beans served with sautéed escarole and a spring salad of baby beets and snap peas. The flavor of this was exquisite. The beans have a light sweetness that added to the escarole and boar. I loved the spring salad on its own. The fresh crunch of the peas with the sweetness of beets acted like a nice palate cleanser between bites. We paired this with a 2009 Cinquain Cellars, Claypot Vineyard Tempranillo that was just superb. Another dish that required expletives to punctuate how good it really was.
Next, we were treated to a Spanish Game Hen and Seared foie gras with Israeli couscous, onion marmalade, and chicken stock reduction with black truffle pan sauce. I love foie gras so once you put that on top of anything and I will pretty much like it.
That having been said there was a lot going on in this dish. The fried onions added a nice delicate crunch to the hen. with the onion marmalade cutting through the fat of the foie and rounding out the flavor. The couscous was perfectly cooked and worked well with all the components. The sauce, although delicious could have had a bit more truffle flavor to it. This one was very good although probably my least favorite dish of the day. We paired this with the 2004 Chateau de Beaucastel, which worked well but some of us still had a bit of the Small Vines Chardonnay left which worked even better.
Last but not least we had Wagyu beef and foie gras with fingerling potatoes, sautéed leeks, and asparagus. This was simply divine goodness on so many levels. Meat and potatoes kicked up many notches. The sautéed leeks were a welcome surprise giving sweetness to every bite. The seared foie gave the fork-tender beef an added smokey richness that also worked with the fingerlings. No butter needed on these potatoes. The simplicity of this dish of elegant ingredients is a home run in my book. We paired it with our 2000 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon.
Needless to say, this was one of those meals that I feel privileged to have experienced. Sal is clearly a Michelin Star Chef. The seasonal menu is always first rate. Although this article focused on a unique menu, the attention to detail, quality of ingredients and creativity of his food show up in all that he does from the moment you walk into the restaurant.