Saturday, July 06, 2013

Smallwares & Barwares

4605 NE Fremont Street
Late Night Happy Hour: 10 PM - 1 AM

When we first started writing this blog, the three of us would go out for happy hour together and each share our own perspective. Whether they were three very different opinions or three like-minded takes on the place, we thought that what we shared would benefit both the consumer and the restaurant. Just because we are close friends does not mean that we came up with the same conclusions regarding a restaurant's happy hour offerings. We are all very different. I am the vegetarian. E is the only one of us who really enjoys beer. O loves evaluating the swankiness of the locale. We look for different things in a restaurant, in the menu, and the service. It adds more value to the blog, in my opinion.

It's been forever since we first started writing, though, and it is pretty obvious when you read for the in-between-review extras. All three of us are married now, we own our own homes, and E is pregnant with our first blogging baby. We don't have as much time to go out for happy hour together. We still spend time with one another (we do all work in the same middle school, after all) but we rarely get the chance to write up the same restaurant. Until now.

We were invited to attend the Canton Dinner Series, hosted by Domaine de Canton's VP of sales and the executive chef and owner of Smallwares. It wasn't happy hour, but it was such an exciting event that we didn't want to pass up the opportunity to blog about all of the great flavors.

The flavors that I enjoyed were not the same as the others, however, because I don't eat meat. I suppose that's not completely true. The first dish was almost exactly the same but with silken tofu in the place of prawns. It was an easy substitution and one that I was incredibly grateful for. The tofu soaked up the sauce and went perfectly with the textures provided by the sea beans and thinly sliced onion.

The second course listed on the dinner series menu called for octopus. Although intriguing, I've been living this meat-free life for over twenty years and wasn't about to break my streak. Instead, I enjoyed a salad regularly available on the menu at smallwares. It started as a simple green salad, but was topped with rhubarb (something that I have enjoyed only with piles of sugar in the past). The salad was dressed with a light peanut sauce and included celery and herbs. I loved every bite and am especially thankful that it is something that I can enjoy again and again.

With every course came a cocktail created to celebrate the flavors of Domaine de Canton while at the same time accentuating the flavors of the dish. The four courses specially designed for the dinner each used the ginger liqueur in the sauce, in the dressing, or in some other way. With my meal being a little different, I was unable to catch as many of the connections between flavors of the food and flavors of the drink. That does not, however, mean that I didn't enjoy every sip.

My favorite cocktail was The Miso. It was served with the third course--a course that highlighted both the ginger and vanilla flavors of Domaine de Canton and the sweetness of miso whether you were eating the halibut made especially for the evening or the roasted artichokes (a vegetarian option available on the regular dinner menu). The Miso is a bourbon-based cocktail made with Den Miso and fresh lemon juice. I am becoming more and more of a bourbon fan, especially when paired with citrus. The combination of flavors gave the drink a grapefruit quality and reminded me of a better-that-well-made whiskey sour.

The roasted artichokes were halved and topped with torn basil and roughly chopped pecans (usually walnuts, but knowing my intolerance ahead of time they were able to make a quick switch) and dressed with Den Miso and balsamic. It was a salty treat and something that I would love to share with others next time I am at smallwares.

The finale to this four-course meal was by far my favorite. The plantain foundation carried the weight of the many flavors stacked on top without taking over the overall makeup of the dish. Atop the oxtail (or braised greens for me) was a combination of  hoisin, smoked pineapple habanero jam, star anise and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. I did my best to savor every last morsel, putting down the fork in between bites to keep me from finishing the dish too quickly. And when I had gone through every bit of the stacked deliciousness, I used my fork to carefully gather all that I could of the sauce left on my plate (without becoming too embarrassing, that is).

Service at smallwares was beyond exceptional. Yes, it was a special event. I know. I have a feeling, though, that it is always this way. We had a chance to meet the owner. From the way she and the bartenders were working together, it became quite clear that they all take ownership in making the experience (food, service, atmosphere--everything, really) enjoyable.

Late night happy hour is available at the adjoining barwares weeknights from 10 PM to 1 AM. They have discounts on food (including chicken lollipops at just two dollars each) and drinks. There are nightly specials (those chicken lollipops are just a buck on Tuesdays) and an extra discount for the service industry on both Sundays and Mondays.

Disclaimer: Our dinner was complimentary, but all of our opinions are our own. We were not under any obligation to post a blog entry or advertise for either Smallwares or Domaine de Canton.

Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


1 comment:

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