Friends are in town and they want to take us out to dinner. There are any number of places I could have recommended, but these folks have great taste and I wanted to see what they would come up with. Lo and behold they hit on Baker and Banker--a place that has been on my must try list for some time. Run by a wife and husband team, the place shows up on any number of best of lists, thus my want to give it a try. When we got there for our 8:30pm reservation the place was packed--which wasn't surprising for a Friday night and the place is--cozy would be the word I use. It was full of dark wood and low light, and while a bit noisy it could make an excellent date night restaurant. We didn't get our table right away due to slow diners but we were treated to a nice glass of rose bubbly on the house while we waited--points for that. (Below is a shot I took right before we left closer to closing time.)
The menu is small but focused 6 starters, 6 entrees, 4 desserts and 1 cheese plate. It's more of that local, sustainable, organic kind of thing that is so trendy now. One thing to note--this is a pricey place--apps start at $14 and go up, entrees start at $26 and go up. There is a chef's tasting menu for $75 but as a table we couldn't all agree so we each ordered on our own. After much thought I first went with the heirloom tomato salad with tofu-yuzu, aioli, unagi, compressed cucumber, green fava beans and miso vinaigrette.
I'm ambivalent about this dish on the one hand it was great presentation, very inventive and individually the pieces were fresh. Mixed together was another story. The aioli and vinaigrette honestly added no flavor to the dish or bring it all together. I didn't get any of the citrus from the yuzu nor did I taste the miso--which is normally a strong distinct flavor for anyone who has tried it as a soup. The eel, while it added different texture just seemed misplaced though is was fried up nicely and tender. The heirlooms were good, but then it's hard to go wrong with a nice ripe tomato. For the entree I chose Devil's Gulch rabbit, speck, fresh summer beans, San Marzano tomatoes and pickled chantrelles.
Again a very pretty dish laid out like a fresh stew without the gravy--showing all the colors and fresh vegetables. I even liked the little rabbit rib roast the chef did in the middle of the plate. The rabbit meat was tender, perfectly cooked and no it was not gamey--farm raised rabbit shouldn't be and this was tasty but a bit bland. Even the bits of rabbit that were wrapped in speck we just okay. I was looking to be wowed by this dish but I was just--it's okay. The pickled mushrooms added a nice tang that wasn't overpowering but I just felt while eating this dish that it needed something....more. Seasoning, salt, a different sauce? Not sure, I only know my taste buds didn't pop for this.
Since there were 4 of us we decided to get one each of the desserts and share them. Here they are:
In order they are XXX-triple dark chocolate layer cake, nectarine and pluot crisp with brandysnap ice cream, candied bacon doughnuts with bourbon cheesecake filling, fresh cream and maple glaze dipping sauce and warm chocolate fondant with milk chocolate and peanut butter filling, caramel corn popcorn and caramel ice cream. These were without a doubt the star of dinner. These bring out the baker in Baker and Banker. 3 out of 4 of these are some of the best desserts I have had in this town--and I've had many.
The crisp was good but not my favorite. The topping made it taste like a really sweet oatmeal cookie with some fruit compote--good--but compared to the others it lags. The layer cake was creamy, cake, chocolatey goodness in a hefty slice--pleasing to the palate and the eye. The warm chocolate fondant was just that--warm--and when you cut into it the warm chocolate peanut butter filling oozes out to delight in this dense creation I thoroughly enjoyed. Except for the caramel corn, I realize it was there to add some texture as between the cake and the ice cream things may have been too much soft for some folks but not me. I just pushed it to the side and enjoyed the cake and ice cream combo. My hands down favorite though were the doughnuts. Like little light beignets with a luscious cream cheese filling made even better with a not too sweet maple glaze to dip, they were airy yet still cakey enough to satisfy. I could easily have eaten a bakers dozen of these. It was a fantastic way to elevate an okay meal to the next level for me.
While I personally was not wowed by my starter and entree the friends I was with enjoyed their salmon and duck. Who knows, maybe I just ordered wrong, it's happened before. There was also a long wait time between the starters and the entrees arriving, the wait person said the kitchen is small so they get backed up but not really buying that. Once dessert hit the table, all became right with the food world for me. If you want to give this hotspot a try--float a loan and go on by. I would definitely give the place another try though I'd just sidle up to the tiny bar and order one of the desserts and a glass of wine--unless of course someone else was paying.