Owner-Chef Bruno Chemel’s 2 Michelin Starred Baumé Restaurant, located in the less-crowded area of Palo Alto, offers an intimate environment to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. With only 7 tables in the entire restaurant, it was a great place to commemorate the passing of another year for one of the BarFly’s birthday. Very European in style and service, all service charges, but not the sales tax, is included in the prix-fixe chef’s tasting menu.
Service is very interactive and all of the food is beautifully executed and plated. We were never presented with an actual menu, but rather a list of ingredients that is featured for that evening. Using this list, one can inform the server what food allergies and preferences he or she might have so that the kitchen can make substitutions as necessary.
We perused the wine list and noticed that it tended to be very Bordeaux and Napa Cabernet heavy, so we opted to pass on the wine pairing options that are available in petite and regular pours. Instead, we decided to start with a bottle of a rosé Champagne from Cramant. This was an excellent way to start the celebration, and it paired very well with the first few courses:
The server brought us a lemon sponge to cleanse our palate and start off the dining experience. The first course was a layered dish with cauliflower espuma (mousse foam), kabocha squash and frozen uni (sea urchin), all topped with a crispy lacinato (dino) kale. The pumpkin and the uni played on our visual senses since they are similarly colored, but they were very distinct in flavor and texture:
The caviar course made the dinner well worth it. A generous amount of domestic paddlefish caviar was served with egg blinis, a dollop of lemon crème fraîche and parsley in purée and paper forms. We had to use our math skills to equally divide the fish roe among the 3 excellent blinis:
The sous-vide Jidori egg was served with lentils, pickled daikon, wasabi sprouts and prosciutto. In this case, we found that it was better to eat some of the items (such as the pickled daikon) separately from the rest of the items; regardless, the dish was very tasty:
The Artichoke Soup was served with roasted pistachio nuts, bagel “oyster crackers,” and black garlic disks made on the Anti-Griddle. The black garlic cream (melted by the heat of the soup) was a good match for artichoke, but we found the bagel crackers to be a bit chewy with a weird consistency:
The fish course was comprised of turbot served in a leek fondue, and topped with a purple tatsoi leaf and crispy micro sardines (look closely, the black dots are the eyes). This course represented a great fusion of French and Asian techniques and flavors:
The Lobster course was served with sunchoke risotto and chips and topped with tarragon. Since it was a celebration, the kitchen pleasantly added slices of aromatic Perigord black truffles which made the dish that much better:
As we finished the last of the champagne, they brought out a palate cleanser of a tart satsuma sorbet spiked with a Vodka granité. Celery salt and micro leaf added a savory element to this transition course:
Like the menu, the wine list includes service charges which is something to keep in mind while perusing the list. They were out of the Gigondas that we initially ordered, but we stuck with the Rhône region and ordered this very good Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This collaborative effort between Laurence Feraud from Domaine du Pegau and André Brunel from Les Cailloux was surprisingly drinkable for such a young wine:
The wine paired really well with the Beef course made with tender filets that were cooked sous-vide. Various types of raw beet chips were artfully arranged with the buttery mashed and laced potatoes:
After the very satisfying beef course, the cheese cart was rolled to the table. All of the cheeses were French imports, with the exception of one Belgian blue. Cow’s milk cheeses were on the left side of the cart, while the right side featured cheese made from sheep and goat milk:
The server provided a tasting of every cheese type over 2 plates. Walnut levain bread, honeycomb, asian pear and dried persimmon accompanied the excellent cheese course:
Dessert was a ring-shaped platter containing 3 piles of poached pears, cubes of vanilla ice cream, microwaved chocolate cake and a very decadent chocolate ganache dip:
A cassis (cherry) marshmallow bite iced with jasmine “milk” was served signaling the end of the meal:
We actually were discussing all the modernist cooking techniques that were used in preparation of this tasting menu when we made a comment about how we were surprised that we had not seen a lot of foam. On cue, as if they heard our conversation (we always suspect restaurants have hidden mikes), they brought out a green tea foam flavored with maple syrup. This was a tasty “foam” that we would gladly eat (or drink) again any day:
As a parting gift, they supplied us with a copy of that evening’s tasting menu signed by Chef Chemel along with a couple of squeezable tubes of chocolate and hazelnut (a modern version of Nutella?):
Baumé strives to make sure that all diners have a memorable experience. Service was friendly and efficient and it truly was a great way to celebrate a birthday. The only minor nitpick that we had was that even with only 4 tables served that evening, our table for 2 was close enough to the table of 4 next door that we were practically part of their conversation. Perhaps we expected too much that a place of this caliber would offer a serene environment with quiet conversation.
We really enjoyed our meal and will likely come back as repeat diners, even if we don’t have a special occasion to celebrate. The dining experience alone is the celebration.