Well Done

Chef Tom Snyder says he is “starting to feel in the groove” after a hiatus of seven months. He plans some new menu items in the near future at Seventh & Dolores, but the focus is still on steaks, deftly seasoned and grilled perfectly.

Our server popped an unexpected question just after the usual “I’ll be your waiter” routine. When someone at the table has a food allergy, informing the server is too often left up to the guest. But he came right out and asked, leaving us both appreciative and a little startled.

There’s a reason staff at Seventh & Dolores play it so carefully. Dinner begins with an amuse bouche of the chef’s choosing and he probably doesn’t want someone to keel over from an unwelcome bite of peanut or shellfish.

This opening scene suggests a level of responsibility, and that shows when it comes to the steak – in this case a dry-aged strip. Ordered rare, it was presented with a glorious magenta center under a swarthy patina scored from the grill.

Seventh & Dolores is a steakhouse, so you might not consider this much of an accomplishment. However, many restaurants allow cuts to drift beyond rare or medium rare toward destruction.

“The only thing I worked on with the staff was letting it sit properly,” explains Executive Chef Tom Snyder, who took over the reins at the beginning of March

Resting meat is critical, and not only because it gives time for juices to settle. It continues to cook after being pulled from the heat, so the trick is to finish just before – in this case – a steak reaches rare.

A country-style terrine wrapped in bacon and studded with pistachios leaves you in a reverie with postcard images of a hearty French farmstead lunch, right down to the hewn wood table. Hunks of rustic toasted bread lend a faint torched note while a swipe of mustard gives an earthy bite, but it’s the rich and mellow slices that stand out. Snyder cooked the pork slowly and eased in some currants and a touch of five spice blend before letting it cool. He modeled the terrine on samples he tried while touring Europe.

“With bread and mustard, that’s as good as any Michelin-star meal,” he says.

The chef is capable of a little flair to go along with this display of technique – decorating curried cauliflower with a tumble of golden raisins, for instance. Somehow the combination works, thanks to the muted earthy sweetness and curious bite from the dried fruit.

Snyder accomplishes this by soaking the raisins in a pint of India Pale Ale, a notion that came to him by association.

“I thought, ‘Curry is an Indian dish, so what are we going to do?’” he recalls.

Puttanesca and a garlic-laden aioli mixed in tuna tartare bring a low rumble and herbal breath that relish their own moments, seeming to tease attention from the fresh ahi. But there’s a rugged cracker – dusty brown with a nutty rye savor and covered in carraway and sesame seeds – that provides a stage, swinging the spotlight back to the tuna.

At this point, the server comes back into the scene. He made note of our praise for the cracker and mentioned that he had set aside some extras in a to-go box at the host’s station. That level of care just adds to the enjoyment of an evening.

From amuse bouche to the affogato, Seventh & Dolores deserves an A.

SEVENTH & DOLORES, Dolores at Seventh, Carmel. Daily 11:30am-3pm, 5-10pm; bar menu 3-6pm. 293-7600, 7dsteakhouse.com

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