Campton Place – Encore une fois

After my last visit to Campton, I’ve been telling people of my near perfect experience at Campton. Talking about it way too much, I decided with some good friends to return for another visit so they could experience it for themselves. The couple joining us had been doing degustations for the past couple of weekends at The French Laundry (their first time) and Manresa (they’ve been there many times) so it was great to have their fresh comparisons. With all my blabbering, the four of us arrived on Sunday with extremely high expectations.

I don’t want to bore everyone with another “essay” length review, so I’ll try to be a more brief and talk about what went well and unfortunately, what didn’t. The service again was stellar. I can’t speak highly enough about Eskender, one of the most gracious, educated, and attentive servers anywhere. Additionally, Inga, the Director of Food and Beverage is wonderful. We’ve exchanged a number of emails and she always delivers on her promises – letting me know of menu changes and new exciting dishes as I’ve requested.

The amuses were the same as last time except the puff pasty with leek was completely over salted – to the point of being disgusting where I wanted to spit it out. The next course was OK – Cold Nage of Wellfleet Oysters. The use of tapioca pearls seems way too similar to Thomas Keller’s Oysters and Pearls but nowhere near as good. The cold cream is too thin and lacked the necessary texture, similar to having an oyster in milk. The foie gras crème brulee course was great as I’ve described in my last review. The Chef’s “Chaud-Froid” was a success however, the use of a large spoon that didn’t fit inside the urchin shell was frustrating – they need to use a demitasse spoon for this. The Trio of Hawaiian “Poisson Cru” was not quite as good as the last meal. Perhaps I was more critical since I was dining with someone extremely well versed in Japanese cuisine, but the cuts just didn’t seem that clean or angled properly to the grain of the meat. The next course was wonderful but my foam was collapsed before I could get two spoonfuls (everyone else’s was great). The next foie course would have been perfect except the torchon was way to cold – like eating really cold butter. The John Dory prepared “Sous Vide” was excellent this time (I didn’t like it last time) – I think the chef really improved this dish. The white truffle course was excellent and they were extremely generous with them. A turban of pasta was filled with an egg, topped with spinach then surrounded by nice foam. The dish was very light – perhaps too light. I think the chef could have made the dish with a little more butter – a little fat goes a long way to enhance the flavor of the truffles. The “Cochon de lait” was really tasty – the best dish of the meal with nice crispy skin and tender, tender meat. From cheese onward, the meal was great and pretty much the same as our last experience.

I know this review sounds negative, but the meal was very good (I’ll still give it a 5 although it really deserves a 4 ½ or so). It just didn’t live up the level of our last experience. Gone from this meal was the chef’s perfect seasoning. Other than the amuse problem, the seasoning was not was off, but it didn’t have the level of perfection (that was so good, I found it almost scary) from our last meal. No one has ever seasoned things as perfectly as the Chef did with our last meal. Additionally, the meal lacked the type of transition courses of our previous experience. If I were to desire a repeat dish, it would have been one such course, the sweet corn sabayon with blueberries and bacon brittle from our last meal – but no luck.

I still think Chef Humm is one of the brightest rising stars in the culinary world but he’ll have to get his consistency up.