Magical words for a magical meal at Arcadia’s Sesame Grill
By Erica Wayne 03/20/2014
I can’t believe that Arcadia’s Sesame Grill will be celebrating its 20th birthday next year. It still looks like a kid, especially with its whimsical new lollypop-colored acrylic ceiling decorations (reminiscent of giant mutant poppies from outer space), gaily painted walls and glowing Technicolor wall sconces over each cozy booth, all right out of a psychedelic Cirque de Soleil/Dale Chihuly style dreamscape.
More important, Sesame Grill still acts like a kid, its kitchen busy exploring lots of 21st century cooking trends. The menu’s chock full of come-hither words like sofrito, Callebaut, micro-greens and burrata. For starters, how about a roasted marrow bone with beef shank marmalade and a radish salad for $15.95? Or perhaps you would like pork rillettes with cornichons and a toasted baguette ($10.50), or a short stack of crispy fried eggplant with lava sea salt and wildflower honey ($9.95).
Entrees? Try a venison chop with butternut squash puree ($45) or saffron linguini with spinach and porcini, king oyster and black trumpet mushrooms ($23). There’s also pan-seared Maple Leaf duck breast with lentils and red wine pear jus ($25) and 36-hour short ribs with potato puree, cippolini agrodolce and young carrots ($25).
Unlike some of the more avant-garde restaurants that have opened (and closed) in the past few years, there’s still plenty of stuff that will resonate with your elders while you chow down on the more contemporary items, such as Scottish salmon with lemon caper sauce ($22), linguine with fresh Manila clams ($16.95), prime New York steak with red wine reduction sauce ($45) and inch-thick pork chop with sautéed apple ($23).
No matter what you select, the dishes come to the table dressed to the nines, pretty as the proverbial picture (check out Yelpers’ photos for proof) and almost too lovely to devour. Artists in the kitchen use swirls, blotches, dots, streams and puddles of translucent and opaque sauces, scatterings of vegetable confetti, sprinklings of nuts and seeds and clusters of herbs to create Jackson Pollack-like masterpieces using the tabula razas of each white ceramic plate and the main item it contains as backdrops.
For instance, what sounds like a relatively pedestrian jumbo lump crab cake with tarragon aioli appetizer ($14.95) shows up on a curvilinear rectangular plate balanced neatly on a scoop of yellow corn flecked with red pepper, underneath of which runs a snaking ripple of orangey remoulade. Two laterally placed asymmetrical see-through emerald pools are bisected by the remoulade river. The left one is, in turn, punctuated with deep burgundy drops of beet puree. The right one is cut through with a vertical slash of the same substance. Truly, its beauty is mesmerizing.
Similarly, tuna tartar ($12.95) arrives as a small seafood cylinder with a charming headdress of unruly micro-greens, set upon a cucumber slice on the right side of another rectangular plate. To the left is a butterfly pattern created by overlapping potato gaufrettes. The center of the plate is bare except for a miniature “action painting” of soy, with a small dollop of wasabi and even smaller drops of chili.
Entrees and desserts are equally delightful in appearance. Grilled colossal prawns ($25) are piled on sofrito-spiked creamy jasmine rice, drizzled with remoulade, decorated with barely wilted spinach, topped with a frizzle of fried leeks, sprinkled with sunflower seeds and surrounded by a dark circle drawn in balsamic reduction. Flourless Callebaut chocolate cake with a festive whipped cream hat is centered with a scoop of ice cream on a base of chopped peanuts to one side and a strawberry half on a ribbon of kiwi puree to the other. Banana cheese cake, flanked by strawberries, is bedded on a combed river of chocolate.
Of course, if visual appeal were all that Sesame Grill offered its clientele, it would be an art gallery rather than a thriving restaurant. Fortunately, its flavors are as vivid as its colors. On our last visit, a two-sided trout was fish of the day. Laid over a magnificent multicolor succotash of green beans, red and yellow peppers, and zucchini and carrots, it was sautéed with a touch of Old Bay seasoning before being bathed in a pale tan mushroom cream. It was, as is everything at Sesame Grill we’ve ever tried, absolutely delicious.
All of Sesame Grill’s menu items can be ordered a la carte. But the best bargains are definitely their three-course dinners ($28 and $49.95) and, especially, their $19.95 three-course lunch, a somewhat less expansive version of the cheaper evening pre-fixe menu. The missing dishes that might lead you to postpone your three-course repast till dinnertime are starters such as pork rilletes, burrata caprese, beef carpaccio with shaved parmesan, rocket and lemon oil, or crispy fried shrimp with pineapple slaw and sweet garlic dipping sauce. Evening-only entrees include the pork chop and duck breast mentioned above.
The $49.95 dinner meal includes pan-seared diver scallops with fennel orange salad and cream corn, tuna tartar and fried oyster with squid ink crust, and jumbo lump crab cake with crispy shrimp among the first-course possibilities. The prime New York steak, Chilean sea bass with lobster emulsion, Australian lamb chop with braised fennel, and (for a $10 supplement) lobster pasta with fresh manila clams and New Zealand green-lipped mussels are among the entrees. Desserts for both prix-fixe dinners include the luscious chocolate cake, crème brulee, vanilla panna cotta and tiramisu.
The reasons for Sesame Grill’s 19-plus years of successful operation are evident from the moment you walk into the restaurant. It’s obvious that pains are taken to insure patrons will be pleased from start to finish. Service is attentive, décor is charming and the food is wonderful.
Of course, their location at the far end of a mall with lots of free parking counts too. Best wishes for a wonderful 20th birthday in 2015, continued good fortune and a long and prosperous life.
308 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia
Beer and wine