I ran into a fellow food writer at last week's Science of the Cocktail fundraiser at Science World and as she introduced me to her friend she described me as "obsessed with prices." It wasn't meant as a put down, just a matter of fact introduction and I fear she was right. Who else pours over wine lists calculating mark-up and then broadcasting the results to everyone? The truth is I am sort of obsessed with price—when you read a review from me that's because I've dug into my own pocket and spent my own money on the occasion, and, yes, I care how much I have to spend. But of late I'm feel like I'm growing into someone who looks for value as opposed to just dollars and cents—a $38 steak can either be a steal or a rip off depending on sourcing, preparation, etc.
All of which is to say when a group of friends braved last Tuesday's snow flurries to head to Fraser Street's new Say Mercy, I wasn't going with price in mind. Notwithstanding the inclement weather, the place was packed. The four of us were led to a table at the back and the server, noticing we had brought a bottle of wine, hurried off to get a decanter as we chatted. We had a cocktail, the wine returned and we kept on chatting. Finally, the server had very casually and politely returned for a third time to see what we might want to order, suggested we could just have the chef cook for us, and we happily agreed.
In times past such a suggestion might fill me with dread. For starters, I like picking my own food. Every time a chef is in charge of ordering there always seem to be a lot of uni involved (which, sorry, I don't get excited about). Also, I had never been to this place— I had no idea if they're generous or mercenary with such things. But liquor has a way of tamping down such irrational thoughts.
I'm not going to give a full review here, as I wasn't taking notes and had a few pops along the way. But here's the short and dirty version: amazing. We started with Parker House rolls and bread, then a super cool deconstructed vittelo tonnato and some shrimp and grits as appetizers. Then a pasta course of barbeque bolognese (sort of signature dish that was too sweet for me) and a sunchoke risotto and then a meat course of a honking big beef rib garnished with an amazing side of "dirty" faro and a full sea bream. I feel like a I might be missing a course, but you get the gist. Four grown adults couldn't finish it all.
We skipped dessert (well, technically we had a third bottle of wine for dessert) and when we asked for the bill, it was the first time it occurred to me that, given the feast we had just had, we might be in for a little pain. Nope. $55, that's what the set menu—called Jesus Take the Wheel—costs. So you can see the bill below: two bottles of wine and corkage on a third (don't judge, you puritans) and enough food to easily feed five people and the per person total is $96.85. Add on my customary 10% tip.....I'm kidding.
More importantly, the food is great, the service is that perfect blend of casual but professional and we had a great time. Even if it had been 35 percent more, I'd have been happy, But it wasn't—it was $55. I'm happy for this Fraser St. version of Jesus to take the wheel anytime.