Never underestimate the power of service. Some diners will take superior service and a mediocre meal over fantastic food and shoddy service any night of the week. When A-level service converges with stunning, imaginative cuisine in one dining room, well, then, you’ve just experienced dining nirvana.
I don’t need to waste any time telling you about Stephan Pyles’ glorious culinary past. I’m just here to remind you that the man’s still got game, and his staff, many of whom have worked for him for years and know the food as well as Pyles himself, will ensure an unforgettable night of fine dining.
Which brings us back to service. Jimmy Shamus was our waiter one recent Thursday, and he catered (but never too intrusively), informed (with stories about the winemaker and why popcorn is served with the Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche), and entertained (but not in a bad comedian sort of way). He was convivial and educated but not sappy or arrogant. He was, simply, our favorite part of dinner at Stephan Pyles.
And the guy had some serious competition for top honors—namely the almost indescribably delicious dishes and the equally complex and delightful Rocket Science Proprietary Blend. Think coriander-rubbed lamb chops, so rosy and tender, served with cranberry relish, the sweetness tempered by spicy serrano peppers. Or a whole fish, this night bronzini, scented with fennel and vanilla, spiked with salty olives, and served with soft pearls of couscous. Tomato-mozzarella salad (heirloom and Paula Lambert’s, respectively) was taken way up a notch with watermelon and serrano ham. The almost ethereal Heaven and Hell cake is as good as cake gets, the layers of angel food and devil’s food cake clinging tightly to the peanut butter cream.
Suffice to say Stephan Pyles the restaurant is still on top. With service like that, it will stay there.
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