How has the menu-rotating restaurant's fare held up after its big move?
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Nov. 18, 2005
407 Colorado, 374-9012
Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm; 5:30-11pm; Saturday, 5:30-11pmI truly enjoy dining at restaurants that celebrate seasonal ingredients by using them creatively on their menus. Chefs who change their menus according to availability of seasonal and often local ingredients engage the curiosity of the diner by guaranteeing the freshest flavors possible. Starlite has been one such establishment since the beginning, and it's good to see they remain on the cutting edge of this trend.
While the restaurant recently moved to a bigger downtown location and gave up the funky, retro atmosphere of the little blue cottage for a stark and modern look, the food put forth by chef Joshua Hines and his crew has not skipped a beat. What's more, they added the talents of acclaimed pastry chef Phillip Spears to create equally delicious seasonal desserts.
The new Starlite is open for lunch weekdays, serving fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, and light entrées. Unfortunately, they now close on Sundays and hence have done away with their brunch. Dinner begins with an amuse bouche. The warm creamy grits topped with ricotta salatta, fresh basil, and balsamic reduction were heavenly. On another occasion, we enjoyed thin apple slices with shavings of aged farmhouse cheddar and cider gastrique. For first course, we sampled the Roasted Farmhouse Apple Salad ($9) with mâche, Maytag blue cheese, snow pea shoots, and caramelized walnuts encased in a crispy meringue crust, dressed with a grilled mission fig vinaigrette. The Lolla Rosa Lettuce and Pear Salad ($8) features red lettuce, thin slices of fresh pear, tiny cubes of spiced pear chutney, pumpernickel croutons, and slices of boucheron cheese dressed with a verjus vinaigrette, a condiment made from semiripe wine grapes that is similar to vinegar but with a more subtle flavor. The combination of sweet, tart, salty, and spicy worked wonderfully, and the croutons added an earthy touch.
On our recent visits, we enjoyed the same soup of the day, a thick and creamy Butternut Squash Bisque ($7) with two different garnishes. On one occasion it was topped with thin slices of sautéed shiitake mushrooms and basil concasé; on another, it was a fluffy pumpkin crème fraîche spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, which balanced out the saltiness of the soup.
Among the appetizers, the Dungeness Crab Galettes ($14) are a delight of pure crabmeat dusted with just enough bread crumbs to hold them together, served over a tangy avocado goat cheese cream and a drizzle of ponzu sauce. A boneless maple and tamari BBQ Quail ($11) with guajillo chile and pepita vinaigrette was tender and flavorful, but the sauce could have used more chile zing.
The entrées at Starlite are diverse and adventurous, combining sometimes unexpected flavors that ultimately work well together. For instance, the tamarind mirin Glazed Duck Breast ($24) served over edamame purée comes with a side of chickpea crepes layered with five-spice-flavored duck confit and caramelized melon, topped with a generous slice of seared foie gras and a delicate orange and fennel salad on the side. The "kind" Veal Osso Bucco ($26) with saffron and grilled calamari risotto, cabernet reduction, and sautéed grapes was melt-in-your-mouth tender. We enjoyed the Berkshire Pork Tenderloin ($25) wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with earthy black truffles, served over apple and celery root purée and a side of sautéed Rainier cherries. A marvelously tender porcini-dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin ($29) came with celery "3 ways": braised hearts, celeriac mousseline, and crispy fried celery leaves, but the cranberry port demi-glace was perhaps a bit too sweet for the flavorful steak.
Pastry chef Spears' desserts shine at Starlite. A cute Pumpkin Baked Alaska ($7), with five-spice ice cream, white chocolate ganache, and sesame seed brittle was delicious, and the cream cheese ice cream that came with the Deconstructed Carrot Cake ($7) was amazing even by itself.
Although on both our visits we waited considerably between ordering and service of the first course, the staff is courteous and knowledgeable, and dining at Starlite continues to be a pleasure.
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