Off-menu adventure at Marisol

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As these panko-crusted giant scallops can attest, menus are for suckers.

by Brian Clarey

You know about the Feed Me, right?

The Feed Me is when you go into a restaurant — a real restaurant, with a real chef and real cuisine and at least two forks per table setting. You go into the restaurant and, after you take your table, tell your server that you’re hungry, the dietary restrictions of your party and how many courses you want. Then let the evening unfold.

To order the Feed Me is to cast yourself to the whims of the chef, the ingredients on hand, the time with which the chef has to think and prepare. Don’t order the Feed Me on a busy Friday night — if you must, you should call ahead. And don’t expect just any old line cook to be able to pull it off.

We knew we were in good hands at the Marisol — last month, Chef Tim Thompson bested this year’s Fire in the Triad cooking competition bracket after six weeks of thinking on his feet.

And on that night in his restaurant, he came out swinging.

Our first courses came as a plate of Parisian gnocchi, made with ruffled wheat flour instead of potato flour, giving the dumplings a lighter bite than their Italian counterparts. Cold lump crabmeat topped the dish, because crab tastes better when it’s cold. On the other side of the table, a slab of house foie gras sat atop a crostini, drenched in cherry sauce.

Thompson’s penchant for the interplay of strong and subtle flavors would grow more evident as the plates came out.

For Course Two, a stout crabcake came paired with a vinegary red-cabbage slaw and micro cilantro. And a plate of lean duck sausage took on new meaning with Lusty Monk mustard and crispy shallots.

Thompson learned the secrets of sausage early in his career, when he studied under a German chef. His small-batch sausages should rightfully be the talk of the local culinary commentariat. As it was, they endured in my memory long after the plate was cleaned.

A final course brought a couple of massive panko-crusted diver scallops bathed in hoisin and blessed with sriracha, with a cold salad of Mandarin oranges and almonds for color and taste.

The other plate, a take on grilled white rabbit, exemplified everything the chef was trying to do. The dish was fairly redolent of truffles, a signature ingredient of the meal. But truffles, in their musky and mysterious way, can overpower a mild protein like rabbit. Thompson incorporated the char on the meat into the overall profile, which kept the truffles in line.

Chocolate pate.
Chocolate pate.

Dessert is implied in the Feed Me, and that night Thompson brought out a layered chocolate pâté with crushed pistachios and homemade coffee ice cream. Nothing wrong with that.

Like the sausages, the pasta, the bread and just about everything else, the ice creams and sorbets are made in house. Samples of mango, coconut and raspberry sorbet made their way to our table and quickly disappeared, even though the idea of more food at that point was downright scary.

That’s the thing about the Feed Me: You’ve got to be really hungry, and willing to push your limits just as the chef is doing for you.