A week ago, we went to a specialty dinner hosted by the Madison Beach Hotel, close to where I grew up. I spent a lot of time in Madison as a child, as we had many family friends who lived there, and went to a synagogue close to the center of town. It’s home to my favorite cinema and bookstore, as well as some excellent restaurants. I’d even been to the old hotel on the wharf for a few parties, but hadn’t yet had the chance to see the new property.
The hotel hosts multiple dinners a month, often centered around a specific theme or hosted by a brand. We were here for an Asian wine dinner, featuring the wines of Chateau St. Michelle. We started the evening off with a glass of 2012 Eroica and a few appetizers in the lounge. Our favorite noshes were the spicy salmon handroll, packed with more smoked lox than rice, and the baby banh mi sandwiches.
The main dining room was decorated sparsely, but featured neat table settings, including cube-shaped clear vases closely resembling melting ice cubes. We started our meal off with a thick-cut hamachi sashimi, atop wakame-sesame salad with wasabi and pickled ginger on the side. I could have eaten this for all three courses- the fish was fresh and tender, and with the wasabi on top, the perfect foil to the 2012 Chateau St. Michelle Dry Riesling alongside.
Our second course was a pho, with tender slices of beef, rice noodles, bean sprouts, julienned root vegetables, and a savory broth. It seemed unanimous that the broth needed a little more heat, so the small pots of housemade sambal to the side were put to good use.
Finally, we finished up the savory courses with a gigantic grilled prawn in a lemongrass broth, with stirfried vegetables. I thought it was a little redundant to have two broth dishes, but was quite happy with the gigantic shrimp, infused with smokiness and a hot pepper bite. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the broth coaxed the natural sugars out of both elements.The dessert was easily one of the most well-executed plates I’ve ever had. Pastry chef Erin Kelly personally served us coconut tapioca pudding with mango-chili sorbet, black and white sesame brittle, and cilantro syrup. I think that pudding is a bold choice for a dessert- this felt like a blank canvas that she went Jackson Pollock on. The flavors were seamlessly integrated, and we used shards of fortune cookies to lick our plates clean.It was a damned fine evening- it was the first time I’ve enjoyed rubbing elbows at a communal table, and the Bedfellow and I really felt like we got to know everyone at the dinner. It felt like a very convivial group of food-lovers, from one diner who brought his own homemade hot sauce, to the ladies who made us laugh ’till we cried. We left full of comfort and cheer.