OMG– I forgot to post the RESULTS of my Big Surprise from last weekend!

Victor drove my car (unusual for him since he has trouble seeing clearly at night) and we headed to Cary (about 30 minutes from our house). He had the GPS set for an address on Renaissance Parkway which I knew was near Ruth Chris’ steak house. So I hinted that I would love a good steak.

“”Well they might have steak at this restaurant,” he said, craftily. “But we’ve been to Ruth Chris’ before and we’re doing something DIFFERENT tonight. Besides, I’ve already ordered for us.”

OK, so we weren’t going to have slabs of beef. That was good. I always eat too much there and regret it later. But he had already ORDERED the food? Oh, this could be bad. What if I hated it? I am unfortunately, a bit picky about what I will eat and it’s such a pain to pretend to enjoy it. I was now officially in a negative space about this adventure.

We drove to the address but couldn’t find the restaurant. Finally Victor leaked the name of the restaurant – “AN” – and I began searching every possible venue. No AN in sight. We were just about to call the restaurant when I encouraged Victor to drive into a new area and voila! There it was!

It was a upscale Asian restaurant which didn’t thrill me but I was really turned off when the hostess led us straight toward the sushi bar. Oh no! I try to like sushi, really I do, but I don’t like it much. I eat it only under demand of protocol, e.g. visiting Japan or hosting Asian visitors.

We were seated at a table opposite the sushi bar so I could watch all the fixings (I didn’t realize that sushi chefs used a blow torch to sear the tidbits). The waiter brought our menus and in a too-mellow voice he said, “I’m Marc and I’ll be assisting you this evening.” With his bald head, black Mandarin outfit and gliding pace, I thought he might drift off to airy fairy land that very instant.

Victor said, in an authoritative tone, “We want the tasting menu.” We do? Do we? I guess we do.

“You see? Now we’ll have little surprises all night long!” he declared triumphantly. I was relieved but still wary until he asked Marc if everything was cooked on the tasting menu. Thank goodness, it was gonna come out without flipping fins or tails.

As a pre-course treat, Marc brought out a small bowl of warm edamame with another empty bowl for the pods. He set them on the table between us and said in a solemn voice. “And this concludes our tasting menu!” I looked up, amazed, then realized he was kidding. Zen Marc had a sense of humor!

The tasting menu was a delight! Lots of surprises: Crab Napoleon with an airy, almost translucent rice crisp on top, artfully arranged to the right side of the huge white dish, with little dabs of green avocado and pureed mango dotted on the left side of the plate to create a sophisticated food painting. Awesome!

The tiny mushrooms similar to the scallops dish

The rest of the meal was equally beautiful and delicious: Tasmanian salmon, Darjeeling tea-smoked duck and sea scallops with tiny pickled mushrooms and sake-black bean sauce. But the piece de resistence was dessert, a black sesame seed cake with yuzu sherbet, miso cream and fresh basil. Basil for dessert? Unheard of, but it was fabulous. Really fabulous. Not kidding fabulous.

As we prepared to leave, Marc stopped by our table and in his silky smooth voice, he said earnestly and calmly, “Wherever your journey takes you the rest of this fine evening, I wish you well!” A perfect bookend to a perfect evening.

Turns out that the AN cuisine is known as Asian Fusion with a strong Vietnamese influence. Our three-hour excursion left us satisfied but not stuffed. And my faith in Victor was completely restored. He really knows how to show a girl a good time! As a thank you gift, I drove home!

Not exactly the dessert we enjoyed, but an equally bizarre and delicious combo