Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soma 107: Promising

Before I discuss Westchester’s new gem, Soma 107 in White Plains, I want to mention that yes, I am currently writing up my visit to Tom: Tuesday Dinner. It’s taking longer than I expected, and I’m not entirely sure when it’ll be ready. But I’m working on it, folks! As a matter of fact, I intend to work on it some more, right after this post. In the meantime, here’s a report on the lovely dinner I enjoyed this past Sunday.

In a nutshell: great food, horrible pictures at Soma 107—my apologies. The dining area, while aesthetically agreeable, was dark. Dark restaurants are a pet peeve: I enjoy sitting in a dimly-lit room to eat, but appreciate a brighter bulb over the table to showcase the food, so I can engage a meal with all of my senses. I'm wary of restaurants that use poor lighting to mask old, limp, or rotting food, but this is clearly not what was going on at Soma 107. So crank those bad boys up a notch! If I wanted a better look at my Charred Baby Octopus ($13), it was simply to behold one of the best dishes I’ve had in my life:
Gene Lum, owner of Lum Yen in Mamaroneck, snagged well-respected James Cawley, most recently chef de cuisine at MacMenamin’s Grill & ChefWorks in New Rochelle (now Don Coqui & ChefsWorks), to head up Soma 107’s kitchen. Cawley’s CIA background and internship in France were immediately apparent in the quality and complexity of his sauces. The octopus came with pickled red peppers, red onions, and a creamy, garlic kim-chi scallion vinaigrette. Unexpected flavors and textures made this dish sing. Octopus is in no way rubbery when prepared correctly, and ours was perfectly cooked—the charred finish was absolutely divine. I will remember this dish years from now. It was that good.

Killer sauces were also the name of the game in two of our entrees, the Togarashi Spice Dusted Ahi Tuna with Cashew-Cilantro Jasmine Rice, and Miso-Soy-Hijiki Vinaigrette ($30)
…and the Cedar Plank Roasted King Salmon with Asparagus-Oyster Mushroom Saute, over Thai Red Curry Sauce ($28)
No question the tuna was the superior dish. Strong, robust flavors, and a comforting, nutty rice all balanced together to create something unique yet immediately familiar. Is this what chefs are referring to when they say food has soul?

The salmon, by description, sounded powerful, but the cream sauce was delicate, with only a hint of curry. All elements were again perfectly executed, but I think the salmon might’ve benefited if it were a tad more crisp, just to add some texture.

Our final entrée was the Applewood Bacon Wrapped 8 oz. Filet Mignon with Roasted Poblano Mash, and Sweet Corn Relish ($38)
Here’s where I’ll address prices at Soma 107. They’re high. All around. I don’t mind so much when I see a chef passionate about what he does, with food that is so inspired. But when you’re approaching $40 for a dish, I start getting demanding. I start craving knock-my-socks-off innovation. Here we had a tender filet, sweet syrup permeating the meat from the applewood bacon—a good dish and well-executed. Do I think it was worth $40, regardless of the quality? Give me more of that $30 Ahi Tuna while I make up my mind.

For dessert, we shared an Apple Filo Napoleon with Butter Rum, Ginger Caramel Sauce, and Vanilla Gelato ($10)
Again, $10 in my book is too high for apple pie, and I found the dish on the dull side. To be fair, my companion absolutely adored it.

Servers were eager to please and friendly, if not a tad scattered (one server disappeared for so long that Mr. Lum dropped off entrees himself; dishes were also repeatedly placed with the wrong diner), but I’m sure these kinks will be ironed out quickly (service is already light years more personable than zombies at BLT Steak).

A fine meal, albeit expensive.

Soma 107: I’m rooting for you!

Soma 107
107 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10601
(914) 682-6795

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