By Nora Zelevansky / August 2nd, 2010

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For anyone who has ever watched a Top Chef episode (or even a Hell's Kitchen, lord help us), "plating" is not a foreign concept.  We get it: The food needs to look pretty too (chili dogs notwithstanding).

Still, every once in a while, I come across a dish that's so spectacular looking that I hardly want to touch it for fear of ruining the pretty picture.  Such was the case this weekend, when Andre and I went and had an amazing dinner at Patina downtown.  At the waiter's suggestion, we ordered the roasted vegetable "Mosaic" (see above) and it arrived looking like something Willy Wonka would have dreamed up.  Is that an Oompa Loompa peeking out from behind the asparagus?

It's not easy to make vegetables look so tantalizing, but–of course–we shouldn't have been surprised, as the restaurant's new executive chef from NYC, Tony Esnault, hails from one, two AND three-star Michelin restaurants.  For this dish, he actually cooks each element individually, so that it retains its flavor and the right texture.

Truly, everything we ate was good.  But another highlight for me was the Hibiscus Honey sorbet (the pink one below).  See, for lactards who don't feel like cheating and eating dairy, dessert can be a sort of sad time.  Most of the best sweet treats involve butter, milk or, in my humble opinion, condensed milk (dolce de leche or tres leche cake, anyone?).  Sorbet is often the only solution and it tends to be kind of pathetic.  How much raspberry icey stuff can one person eat?

But this hibiscus flavor was really different than anything I'd tasted before with this subtle honey flavor and a slightly tart undertone.  I loved it!  And the coconut was pretty excellent too, super creamy with a texture more like ice cream.

What did I do this weekend?  I ate everything in sight at this special occasion spot apparently.  I totally recommend you do the same. Ooompa, loompa, doopety doo, I've got another puzzle for you …

xo – N.

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