We last visited the Catbird Seat in Sept of 2017 and they have changed teams since. Chef Brian Baxter now leads the u-shaped kitchen of 22 lucky people who scored a seat at the serving bar. His last cooking positions were at Husk and Bastion. A ‘chef’s table’ has been added which is a booth for a party of 3-4 in the back corner of the room, but the counter does not get all 22 seats filled due to Covid restrictions. When you arrive you see a wood door next to the Catbird sign but it is locked. You can not enter until it is the exact time of your reservation. Up the short flight of stairs is a ‘speak-easy’ bar that is a fun place to have a cocktail while you wait. Staff will come for you and then you can enter that door and ride in the elevator, complete with a bench, to the large room that houses the restaurant. All diners are served a 10-12 course tasting and when you make your reservation you can request an extended tasting. Pairings are available but you don’t have to decide on beverages until you arrive. We ordered the extended tasting and bought our own bottle of red wine and a glass of white to begin with. Older rock music played in the background.
After a moist cloth to clean your hands they served a infusion of key lime, coconut, lemon, seaweed, yuzu flowers and many more ingredients. It was mild and hydrating.
A trio of bites included tuna and seaweeds, scallop xo and lobster wonton and fermented chili. The Gold Yellowfin tuna was thinly sliced and on a seaweed cracker. Good. The scallop cracker was topped with an XO bacon. It was an amazing burst of salty bacon flavor. Yum. The lobster wonton was sitting on and dusted with the chili. It was a combination of claw and body meat and the sauce had a bit of sweetness. The thicker coating was filled with creamy goodness.
Swordfish ham topped crispy grits with green garlic and tamari (Japanese soy sauce). The thinly sliced fish was glazed and wrapped around a crisp log of grits with a bit of horseradish flavor in it. It was another great burst of flavors and a good contrast of textures.
A chilled oyster from British Columbia was in a green curry with pickled watermelon rind and juniper. The plump oyster was small but blended perfectly with the lime and juniper. It was a wonderful bit and a left a great aftertaste.
Kombo cured flounder was mixed with kumquat slices. The lightly cured flounder mixed nicely with the kumquat and then the finish was a wedge of large kumquat that you ate all of. It was a perfect finish to the ultra fresh fish. Well paired tastes and textures here.
Maitake mushroom was on a uni Béarnaise and rose sauce. The mushrooms were glazed in steak sauce and then placed on a Béarnaise sauce made with uni and rose vinegar. Amazing flavors here in a perfect pairing of ingredients with a lick-the-plate result. Also a great aftertaste.
Kakura sweet potatoes cooked in kombu were served with barbecued tofu and sweet potato leaf. Furikake rice was with the tofu in a seed like mix on the top of the potatoes. The perfectly cooked potatoes were in a delicious sauce and then accented with texture on top. Wonderful.
Scallop from Maine was mixed with cut white asparagus and topped with sakura (cherry) blossom. A butter sauce surrounded the scallop and long shreds of asparagus for a milder flavor profile, but still well blended with good textural contrast.
Grilled trout, fermented green tomato and lovage was next. Some trout roe was mixed with the green tomato juice for a Nashville tone. Really good smoke flavor infused the trout and the roe made a pop of textural contrast. The fish rested on a bed of smooth potatoes and sunchokes and the crisp skin on the fish brought out another element. A great combination.
Stinging nettle custard was mixed with morel mushrooms and King crab. The chawanmushi-like custard was amazing and went well with the crab, morel and truffled dashi. You didn’t want to leave a drop of this lusciousness in the bowl. Flavor explosions.
Fish cooked in embers with green garlic and porcini shoyu was next. The printed menu says Tilefish but I wrote down Black Grouper from the Gulf of Mexico in my notes. Regardless of which it was, it was terrific. The green garlic butter was around it when it was baked under the coals. The bones were used to make a sauce and mixed with porcini for a wonderful broth that accented the fish perfectly. The sticky good sauce made for a flavor explosion with every bite.
Fried crispy pig tails were combined with fermented pepper juice and strawberry like crackling. This was a couple bites of chewy goodness. Yum.
Beef belly ham and paw paw were on a johnny cake of corn meal. The paw paw on top of the cake was a mix of tropical fruit like mango and passion fruit. Beef belly ham wrapped over the top. It was a one bite option. The cake on the bottom got crisp and topped with fun fruit and the richness of the belly is was a terrific bite of yumminess. Great one.
Bear Creek farm beef and liver was plated with onion. The beef was a Denver cut and the onion was buried in the hay and baked overnight. A Bordelaise sauce with beef liver covered the tender meat. The sauce was great with both the beef and onion. Terrific.
Another presentation of the dish was some tartar of dry aged beef with spices on a round of potato bread and topped with fermented honey. It had so much flavor you hardly knew it was tartar. Wonderful.
Lastly there was sweet onion salad presented in the shell of a large yellow onion. The sweet onion was mixed with herbs and some green tops. It was so sweet you wouldn’t know it was raw onion. A lovely light dressing and seeds made this another good one.
Ambrosia salad was creme fraiche with coconut ice cream in 3 layers. Even frozen strong flavors of rhubarb, kumquat and horseradish came through. Cold, it was a good transition course.
Yeast donuts stuffed with foie gras cream and topped with guava was the first dessert. The yummy balls were filled with goodness and covered with sweet goo. Delicious.
Grapefruit, fromage blanc (like cream cheese) and elderflower made up the next plate of goodness. Cheese and corn ice cream was mixed with elderflower sabayon that topped the pieces of fresh fruit. It was rich and great.
Burnt vanilla sundae was with black trumpet and “luxardo beets”. The burnt vanilla was in the ice cream and cherry chocolate cordials cooked in the mushrooms. The preserved beets were just like the famous and tasty Luxardo cherries.
Mignardises included banana cream pie with cinnamon, mango orange dusted black yuzu was tart and black sponge candy was covered in chocolate. It had a honeycomb like interior covered with strong dark chocolate. All were fine as the glow of wonderful meal settled over me.