Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gaslight & S's Birthday Operation FI3

[*Updated 7:50 am, 16 May 2011]

Twice baked goat cheese souffle with ratatouille

S had a big birthday about a month ago. Since I am such an abusive slave driver (you know, always throwing recipes at her and making her cook, etc), and it was a milestone birthday, I knew that the usual dinner party and cake just wouldn't do. Being slightly neurotic, I began planning about two months before her birthday. 'Operation FI3' (can anyone who wasn't involved guess what that stands for?) came together with the help of a few 'agents' and a lot of secretive emailing. 

Butternut salad, arugula, pumpkin seeds, feta

On D-day, I was surprised at how (almost) seamlessly the plan was executed. Basically, we planned something akin to the 'Amazing Race', except that she wasn't racing against anyone. She was given clues and tasks that she had to successfully complete in order to get her next clue and progress to the next destination. S actually solved some tasks more quickly that we had anticipated, but she finished the entire mission more or less on schedule. Thanks P for playing paparazzi!

Steak frites with sauce borderlaise

J started it off by surprising her with the rules and her first task at 11:00 am. She had to decipher five clues to figure out which five items she had to bring on the mission as 'toll payment', e.g. "An _____ a day keeps the doctor away". After that, she had to solve another clue to figure out where I was waiting for her (at the basketball courts). There, she had to make either five free throw shots or one three point shot. Then she had to find the next agent, who made her play a taiko drill by stamping her feet - the video of them doing this is brilliant and a definite keepsake. Following that, she was supposed to recall missing lines from at least one of two Malay 'pantuns' (poems) that another agent had prepared - poems that we all learnt as kids. She failed at this - the penalty for failure to complete a task was a tequila shot per offence, to be paid at her party that night. Her last task was to find a spot to photograph the hospital so that the entire building would be in the shot. This had to be done to P's satisfaction - P's an excellent photographer and was following S throughout her mission to photograph the action. Finally, she had to use the first letters of the five items she had collected at the beginning of the mission and five other letters we had given her for completing each task to work out what the final destination was - Gaslight. 

Gnocchi with fume, lardons and fungi (spicy bacon and mushroom)

So, at about 1:00 pm, everyone showed up at Gaslight for a much needed feed. I had dined there once before and thought that the simple, decent food and comfortable, casual, aesthetically pleasing ambience would be perfect for an occasion like this. It's quite new and of course, as with anything new, had a few teething issues, but for me, the overall experience of dining there twice was positive. 

Fettuccini with fungi

I have a lot of photos of what everyone else ordered, but obviously can only really comment on what I tasted:

Fettuccini with fungi: I had this the first time I had dinner there. Initially I thought that the pasta was a little bland. But as I ate, I realised that the mushrooms were so well seasoned that you just had to make sure you had a mixture of mushroom and pasta with each bite to get the nice, subtle, earthy flavours of the mushrooms. Simple, rustic and quite tasty.

Gnocchi with fume, lardons and fungi: Had a tiny bite of this from B's plate. Thought the bacon was a little tough.

Fettuccini Marinara

*Fettuccini Marinara (southern littleneck clam in a rich chive cream): I didn't taste this, but thought it was really odd that their 'marinara' was a white cream sauce. People often think that 'marina' means seafood (I did too when I was a kid) but marina sauce is actually a specific style of tomato based sauce. This is the first time I've seen a cream based 'Marina' sauce in a restaurant and I don't know if it's just a misnomer, or intentional.

Pan-fried fresh fish, caper butter, wet polenta with feta and spinach

Pan-fried fresh fish, caper butter, wet polenta with feta and spinach: The fish was tasty, albeit a little over-seasoned. I really didn't like the wet polenta - it's just not my thing and had a strange texture. Otherwise, OK.

Chocolate croissant pudding

Chocolate croissant pudding: I think this really should have been served warm, instead of stone cold. It would have been pretty nice if it was warmed. I liked the crispiness of the top crust, and the thick layers of chocolate running through it, but bottom half was too stodgy and cold. Disappointing.

Chocolate mousse pots with white chocolate mascarpone: Absolutely delicious. Thick and luxurious with little surprising chunks of chocolate (or honeycomb?) throughout the pot. Wanted to order it again at S's birthday lunch, but they had run out. The mousse was rich and sweet enough on it's own without requiring the additional white chocolate mascarpone. 

I am keen to re-visit Gaslight to try more of their pasta and French dishes. Their prices are reasonable and as a whole, it looks promising. When they iron out whatever needs to be addressed and hit their stride, I think it could be a favourite Dunedin haunt.

Gaslight Cafe
73 St Andrew Street
Dunedin 9016

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