The Hobbit - dinner - November 23, 2003
I had heard about this restaurant from a fellow participant in two Disney discussion boards (Thanks, Karen!), and from her descriptions, it sounded like an amazing experience, so we decided to go for our anniversary. Dinner is offered as a seven-course prix fixe menu for $65 per person. An alternate entree choice is available for an additional charge ($5.75 per person). Vegetarians can also be accommodated.
This evening, dinner was at 7pm, with the lounge/bar open at 6pm.
The restaurant, which opened in 1972, was located in a 1920s two-story house, with plenty of parking in the back, with two bedrooms (each with a small balcony) and a unisex bathroom upstairs. Once we entered the house, the hostess asked for our reservation name to check her list and then invited us to go upstairs to wait until dinner was served. One of the bedrooms was furnished with sofas and easy chairs for people to just relax. The other bedroom was set up with sofas as well as a bar (with most of the spirits stashed away in the nearby closet) tended by bartender who turned out to also be the Sommelier. Drinks of all sorts could be ordered and were then included on the tab of the particular guest.
At around 7pm, someone came around to inform guests that dinner was ready, and guests were instructed to go down to the wine cellar, one level below the entry level. Near the entrance to the stairs leading down to the cellar, someone was there to hand each of us a menu sheet (the evening's courses were printed on The Hobbit stationery) and a champagne flute. At the bottom of the stairs, there were several people available to fill our glasses with the house champagne, which I rather liked. In various sections of the wine cellar, a variety of hors d'oeuvres (including pate, artichoke dip, mussels, and pastry [decorated with an apple cut to look like a turkey] among other things) were set out for guests to enjoy. However, none of the dishes had identifiers to let you know what each dish was, so I wish they had had those. As we wandered around the room, we noticed that both the Executive Chef and the Sommelier were also there speaking to various guests about what wines from the fairly extensive collection were available to be enjoyed with dinner. As guests picked out their wines, it was noted on a sheet and the wine brought up to the guests' designated table.
After a while, we were instructed that it was time to head up to our tables, so we went back up to the main level. On the main level were the kitchen (including the adjoining kitchen prep room and the dishwashing room), two unisex bathrooms, a coat check closet, the living room that had been turned into the main dining room and a second room (perhaps a sitting room) that had been turned into a mirrored dining room. We were told that we were being seated in the mirrored dining room and were then lead to a two-person table.
On the table was a newsletter with calendar of events, notes, upcoming menus and other information (all of which could also be found on the restaurant's website) as well as a folded place card with the business card information on one side and our reservation name on the other side, below the drawing of wine bottles, cheese and clusters of grapes. There was also a dish of butter shaped like a rose blossom, and rose petals were scattered on the white tablecloth. One of the servers soon came around with rolls to place on our bread plates, and periodically throughout the course of the evening, a server would return offering more rolls.
In addition to the bottled wine, wine tasting accompaniments to dinner were also offered. Each included four different wines, with the Sommelier's wine tasting costing $50 and the Chef's wine tasting costing $30. My husband opted for the former as the wines offered there were more to his liking.
The evening's menu was as follows:
Silken Corn Soup with Seared Prawn
Spice Rubbed Loin of Lamb with Port Cherry Reduction (this was accompanied by white beans and watercress-like greens covered by a spinach vinaigrette)
Confit of Tuna with Baby Arugula and Parmesan Tuile (this was accompanied by a chopped kalamata olive mix and a smoked tomato puree)
~ Intermission ~
~ Sorbet ~ (spiced orange cranberry)
Prosciutto Wrapped Filet Mignon with Sangiovese Demi-Glaze (this was served with lightly cooked green beans, mashed potatoes with celery root, candied eggplant, and julienned yellow squash)
This Evening's Alternate Entree - Grilled Blue Nose Bass with Watercress Coulis
Boca Negra with Apples and Candied Walnuts (the Granny Smith apple slices accompanied the flourless cake which was served on spice creme fraiche and adorned with a chocolate stick)
The evening's meal was absolutely wonderful. The corn soup had a much stronger corn taste than one normally gets, which I really enjoyed. The lamb was wonderful and perfectly cooked. The tuna in the confit was lightly seared, and being big fans of kalamata olives, we really enjoyed that addition to the dish.
After we had been served our confit dishes, the server told us that when we were done, we should feel free to get up and walk around. We could visit the kitchen and speak to the chefs there or have a stroll on the patio outside. While we were up and about, our table would be reset and prepared for the rest of the evening's meal. After the course, we did take the opportunity to go to the kitchen to look around. It was just the normal-sized kitchen that one would expect in that kind of house, which had been furnished with industrial ovens and other necessities. Since there wasn't a lot of room in there for the three sous chefs much less anyone else, we stood at the door to talk to them and watch them begin to prepare the evening's entree. As more people came by to look at the kitchen, we made our way elsewhere. One of the things I loved about the house was the furniture that adorned various rooms. In the hallway outside the downstairs bathrooms, there was a beautiful wood and glass credenza that had some vases and plates on display inside. In the main dining room, there was a display that was also made of beautiful wood and fit perfectly in that particular space. In the entranceway of the house, there was another beautiful wood and glass display case which held cognacs and some of the other fancier offerings as well as cigars.
I ended up running into the Sommelier, Brian, in the hallway, but not particularly being into wine, I had a different question for him. When we had been upstairs in the lounge waiting for dinner, he had a CD playing as background music. I had a guess as to what he was playing but wanted to confirm with him, and sure enough, he was indeed playing Sting's new CD, "Sacred Love". We then proceeded to talk for a few minutes about the various Sting concerts that we'd each been to as well as the tour next year. What else would I be talking to the Sommelier about?
Shortly thereafter, we went back to our table, which had indeed been reset with more utensils. The palate-cleanser sorbet was brought out, and we were surprised at how strong and flavorful it was. The times that I'd had sorbet as a palate-cleanser, it had been much tamer. After that, our entrees were brought out. We had each ordered the filet mignon, and the server had mentioned that they normally served it medium rare. I usually ordered my cuts cooked medium but decided to try it their way, as did my husband. We were not disappointed. Everything was just wonderful, and the medium rare cook of the filet was perfect. The green beans were still crunchy, which I loved. We had a bit of difficulty figuring out the "mystery vegetable", as it came to be called, but after a tasting or two and more examining, I guessed that it was eggplant. The Executive Chef's wife, Debra, came around to each of the tables, and when she was at the table next to us, she was asked what the vegetable was, and she confirmed that it was eggplant and that most people couldn't tell. When she got to our table, I mentioned that I had actually guessed eggplant, so we laughed about that. My husband had wondered what the distinctive taste was in the mashed potatoes and when he asked her, she informed us that it was celery root. After being told what it was, it was immediately apparent when we tasted it again.
After the entree and before dessert was brought out, the server came by to ask if we wanted coffee, and I did order some. I was not, however, prepared for what they ended up bringing out. She brought out a beautiful cup and saucer combination as well as a small silver-colored pot of coffee, so I could add more to my cup whenever I wanted. The really spectacular part was the condiment dish, which was in the shape of a silver swan. Pink and blue sweetener were placed in the back of the swan, and the wings were spread out to form two dishes on either side of the body. In one dish were cinnamon sticks, white sugar cubes, and chocolate sticks. In the other dish were round chocolate (milk, dark and white) mints and Jordan almonds. Definitely not what I was expecting when I ordered "coffee".
As we were enjoying our dessert, another server came by to wish us a happy anniversary. (When I had made the reservation, I had been asked if we were celebrating a special occasion, so I had told them then, which they had repeated when they called to confirm the reservation a few days before.) As an anniversary gift, each of us was given a glass which the server explained contained four liquers mixed together. I had a taste and while it was strong, it was definitely good, but as I was the one driving (as we knew that my husband would most likely be partaking of wine), I knew that I couldn't have very much so only had a sip or two. I noticed that a person at another table was celebrating a birthday, and while I noticed a lit candle being brought to that table, I'm not sure what else accompanied it.
A bit later, the server brought our bill, and after we had taken care of that, we went to retrieve my jacket. The Executive Chef, his wife, and the Sommelier were all in the entranceway, so we thanked them on our way out.
It was definitely a lovely dining experience, and we already know that we will need to make a return visit with friends who we know will enjoy such an evening.
a unique dining experience
2932 E. Chapman Avenue
Orange, CA 92869
Michael Philippi - Executive Chef/Owner
Brian Harley - Sommelier
open Wednesday through Sunday
Wednesday through Saturday - 7:30pm dinner
Sunday - 7pm dinner
meal lasts 3 to 3 1/2 hours
lounge with full bar is open one hour prior to dining time
dress code is jackets preferred for gentlemen, ties optional
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