The Perfect Caper Restaurant
121 E. Marion Avenue
Located in what was the Arcade Mall on East Marion Avenue, the restaurant can be a challenge to find. Only a cloth sign on the street identifies its site. From the entrance, a long hallway leading to the dining areas is decorated with a number of reviews singing the praises of the owner chef and her cooking.
The dining room has subdued lighting which highlights the golden earth tones of the mercifully uncluttered walls. A triptych abstract painting with brighter colors covers one back wall. The bar is separated from the dining room by another wall and the kitchen is open on another. White linen tablecloths with black cloth napkins and lovely tableware indicate the upscale nature of The Perfect Caper.
Several of us opted for the seasonal two-course, twenty dollar prix fixe dinner. Of the six appetizers offered, he chose the Sweet and Spicy Calamari and she, the Perfect Caper Pate. While we waited, a staff member offered the freshly baked “Bread of the Day,” a focaccia with Kalamata olives and rosemary to dip in flavorful olive oil. Another brought a complimentary amuse-bouche, a delightful striped bass tartare on a crisp wonton wafer topped with a chili aioli. His flash-fried calamari were pleasingly crisp without a hint of oil, seasoned with a dollop of sweet and spicy chili sauce. Her chicken liver pate plate included an artistic display of fig and onion relish, pear chutney, huge capers, and French bread crisps. The creamy pate was reminiscent of the best that Paris has to offer. Our dining companions enjoyed the lush flavor of the Celeriac Soup, a prix fixe appetizer, and the pear and aged goat cheese with frisee salad from the regular menu.
The entrees on the prix fixe are a lighter version of their counterparts on the a la carte menu. She ordered Pan Seared Sea Scallops, two impeccably sauteed jumbo scallops finished with a brown butter pan sauce complimented by sweet baby spinach and exemplary mashed potatoes. The delicate flavor of his Mahi-Mahi was enhanced by an accompanying mango butter sauce, wonderful toasted coconut Basmati rice, and intensely green haricots verts. Others at the table praised the Buttermilk Chicken and the New York Strip Steak, the latter served with a paper cone of matchstick French fries.
Desserts were outstanding from a simple coupe of raspberries garnished with a rich Cointreau cream ($9) to a special of a comforting Pear Tarte Tatin with mascarpone ice cream ($10). What is truly unique is that all the desserts, even the wickedly delicious Coconut Sorbet ($8) are made on the premises. The most spectacular dessert of the evening was the Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwich($9), two triangles of gingerbread filled with dulce de leche ice cream crowned with a filigree of caramelized sugar.
What distinguishes a great restaurant from a good restaurant is attention to detail: a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds on a salad, the play of colors on the plate, homemade biscotti and cookies with some desserts, and the unfailing attentiveness of the staff (not to mention an award-winning chef). Even the presentation of the check was softened by the gift of the chef’s peanut butter chocolates. The Perfect Caper is not only the perfect place to mark an occasion; the twenty dollar prix fixe menu allows any evening to become truly extraordinary.
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