Sunday, July 27, 2014

"We Have Butlers."

Tucked away in the stunning mountains of Fayette County, overlooking the scenic Mystic Rock of Nemacolin Woodlands, rests Falling Rock, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired hotel that exemplifies a chic and luxurious take on organic architecture. Its restaurant, Aqueous (1001 Lafayette Drive, 15437), with its sublime service, ambiance and menu is undoubtedly the best I have experienced in years, if ever

(4 stars, 4/4)

Aqueous on Urbanspoon

Now, if you need to read the rest of this review, go ahead.
JEG and myself... cousins, friends, nearly sisters
"Oh, that's okay. We have butlers. They will take care of you." This cheery, and entirely sincere response was what the waitress told me when I indicated that I might be in imminent danger of slipping gently a food coma. Thus, I think that is all I need to say about the memorably impeccable service.  

Another definitive memory that lasts long after one pulls onto Route 40 from the Nemacolin Woodlands property is the resort's exemplary attention to detail. As one can see from the pictures, there are elements of organic architecture blended with luxury and chic (I am not sure if Frank Lloyd Wright would appreciate its bombastic effect, but I certainly did). With a wraparound view of the Mystic Rock golf course, the combination of natural and interior lighting is relaxing and worked well with the earthy, yet geometric design elements. The furniture, in particular the chairs, are reminiscent of Wright's work; the tableware is complementary. 
And then there is the most definitive and memorable part of the Aqueous experiential trifecta: the meal itself. From its inception to its final moments, this meal surpassed any expectations with such fervor that I found myself pausing every so often to breath. Yes, I understand that this sounds quite exaggerated, but hopefully my commentary regarding each menu item below will convince you of my sincerity. 
Amish Style Milk Bread (apricot jam, goat cheese with chives, house sweet butter with smoked sea salt)
This complimentary loaf tasted like a warm, welcoming challah. The jam, cheese, and butter were superb; the butter was the favorite.
French Onion ($11, brandy, aged comte, fine herbs)
This soup had a truly rich onion flavor that was enhanced with the brandy, much more delicious than the typical salty mainstream versions.
Aqueous Mac and Cheese ($9, five cheeses, applewood smoked bacon)
Speaking of mainstream, just when I thought that I had experienced entirely enough mac and cheese at the many, many American-fare gastropubs and bistros and grilles, Aqueous went and knocked my figurative socks off with their version. The pasta nestled the cheeses and the pork was just enough cured flavor and texture to complete this blissful comfort food. Priced at $9, I would recommend going to the bar at Falling Rock and ordering the Aqueous Mac and Cheese with a nice glass of wine for a true treat (especially if one resides in Fayette County)!
Amuse-bouche (white balsamic, cream cheese, thyme, parsley, oregano, cream, salt, pepper, lemon juice, shallots, butter, garlic)
There is no other way to describe this pastry other than declaring it to be a little puff of heaven.
Soda (ginger lemongrass sorbet)
To cleanse our palates, Aqueous served a lime soda. If only the servers knew just how much JEG and I love lime soda... we could only shake our heads at this serendipitous moment.  
Vegetable Potstickers ($28, fricassee or spring vegetables, asparagus silk, "coleslaw," sweet soy glaze)
This dish had panache with its flavorful, handmade dough encompassing fresh vegetables; the sweet soy glaze ensured that every bite was delicious. I recommend this dish for anyone who wants a lighter entree, particularly in the summer months.
Sea Bass ($36, ramen noodles, honey miso market vegetables, kimchi, gingered pork broth)
This might sound pretentious, but I have tried a significant amount of sea bass in my lifetime (most often at Monterey Bay Fish Grotto); this was the best that I have ever eaten. I was served a generous portion of this white, tender fish wrapped in ramen and accented with vegetables and broth; I too recommend this for a lighter entree option, and I would have a difficult time trying anything else upon returning because I loved it so much. Oh, and had I been in the confines of my own home, I would have poured my remaining gingered pork broth right down my throat.
Kettle Corn "Cigar" ($10, formage blanc cheesecake, caramel, kettle corn sherbet, bourbon cream soda)
JEG's dessert selection was unique and enticing. The cheesecake was served similar to a cannoli, and the "sides" of sherbet, popped corn, and cream soda created the ultimate sweet conclusion to her meal. She paired hers with a coffee ($4).
Warm Chocolate Donuts ($10, peach, peanut butter, marshmallow, chocolate)
My dessert selection was equally unique and enticing. Ten points for a sensory pleasing presentation (see, I told you Nemacolin paid great attention to detail)! The donuts were warm as described, and each sweet dip was a different experience; the marshmallow was the favorite, with the peanut butter as a close second. I paired mine with a hot tea ($4).

Final thought: Upon entering, I felt home; upon leaving, I felt separation anxiety. Is that a first world problem?