Putting The Pass Behind Me

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While the title may suggest that my experience at The Pass was negative, it was anything but. It was, in fact, one of the most complex and satisfying culinary trips I may have ever taken.

However, my first time dining there could well be my last. Let me explain.

Everything about my evening at The Pass was an event in the making. Ever since my dinner at The Just August Project and since the first rumblings that chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan were putting down roots, I waited [im]patiently for the perfect opportunity to go to their new dual-sided restaurant: The Pass & Provisions.

With a friend's birthday as the catalyst for my long-awaited dinner at The Pass, I entered the restaurant-within-a-restaurant behind the black wall, a startlingly bare room containing little more than dark furniture. We were luckily given a booth right next to the open kitchen, where all our attention was immediately drawn to the army of people in the trenches, including both executive chefs -- Siegel-Gardner and Gallivan -- preparing the intricate dishes.

Impeccable service was not provided by one server but instead by what seemed like a carefully calculated rotation of several people. I smiled as I looked at the menu and noted that they printed a special birthday message to commemorate the evening. We chose the eight-course dinner with pairings ($160 per person). The drink pairings don't begin until the second course, but when they did, a drink cart was rolled up to us and each spirit was lovingly described, like a proud parent boasting about his child's accomplishments. The only thing left to do was sit back and get comfortable as we dove into our three-and-a-half-hour dinner.

Before I knew it, the time had flown by. At six courses in, I was already full -- and happily buzzed. I recommend that you order the eight-course like we did, as my favorite dish -- Ham & Eggs -- is not on the five-course dinner menu.

The Ham & Eggs is the very essence of what The Pass, to me, is all about: whimsical and decadent. A sinful amount of caviar is served atop a bed of crème fraîche dusted with dehydrated and crushed bits of the usual caviar accouterments such as onions, capers and eggs. The ham is a pork cracklin' dome sprinkled with ham dust for full pig-on-pig action.

It's clear that the drink pairings were well thought out, too. The Chardonnay served with the Ham & Eggs boasted lovely sea notes in the back of my palate, reminiscent of the fresh oyster served in the first course. Other standouts were the potato bread course, a lobster roll with a dehydrated aioli and fresh corn relish, and the duck course with citrus, foie gras and pickled blackberry sauce that Gallivan himself drizzled over the dish. The Fernet course was as delicate as it was beautiful: a lovely milk chocolate creation, plated to look like a forest. The meal ends with petits fours and lemon cakes wrapped up for you to take home.

So how does all this explain why this may be my last time at The Pass? By all accounts, it was simply magical. And therein lies the problem.

I know about the hidden door, the stark room, the bustling kitchen, the surprise extra courses, the impeccable service -- the magic is gone now. You only get that first-date feeling once and this one was just so perfect that I don't want to ruin my memory of it. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but The Pass is not a restaurant you'd pick to go to on just any random weekend. It's far too special (and expensive, at that). But it is a remarkable experience and one that I am happy we can have here in our great city.

I've put The Pass behind me, for now.

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