Monday, September 10, 2007

20.21 - A dinner that stares back

Earlier this summer, I took a potential employee for my company to Wolfgang Puck's 20.21 at the Walker Art Center for a pre-interview-day dinner. I enjoyed my last meal at 20.21 and I have enjoyed the Puck cuisine at other restaurants, so it seemed to be a safe bet.

My last visit to 20.21 was with J the BF on a very crowded Saturday night. I forget what we were celebrating, but I've been reminded several times since that my ADD that night which seemed to keep pulling my eyes toward the wait staff, as opposed to my BF was not at all appreciated. Besides his irritation, I remember that the place was too loud & chaotic, the tables too small for the elaborate dishes (requiring most of the items to be plated by the servers at the table to prevent disasters) and the food was superb.

This time, it was Wednesday and it was business, so I expected the scene to be less chaotic, but the food equally superb. If I failed to give my dining companion proper attention, it wouldn't be perpetually thrown back in my face. After embarrassing myself getting us lost in the museum trying to find the bloody restaurant, we got in and were seated in a prime location in the signature window overlooking the Downtown vista hovering over the busy street below.

I started with my favorite dish, the crispy calamari salad - perfectly crisp tender bites of calamari over a fresh blend of greens tossed with a sweet/spicy chili sauce that is intoxicating. We ran through a few more mediocre dishes before being greeted by the grotesque disappointment of a whole crispy sea bass. Somehow, they managed to fry any flavor out of the fish to the point that even the fish looked shocked. The server was nice enough to take away the carcass and it's horrified stare before we labored to complete the meal. I fear that 20.21 is moving into that realm of places with great cocktails and tasty apps, but I'm not going to risk the $$s on the main dishes again any time soon.

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