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Earth to Flying Saucer

[whitespace] Fying Saucer
David Fortin

Toppling Tower: Sean Olmstead, a chef at Fying Saucer, balances a stacked plate of duck confit with seared rare duck breast.

The ingredients are top-quality and preparation is masterful, but congenial edibility seems a low priority at Flying Saucer

By Paul Adams

The Flying Saucer operates in a paradigm somewhat different from that of other restaurants--here on Earth, that is. The food is definitely creative, but it's not necessarily designed to suit the taste buds of an earthling. There are some extremely odd but unique arrangements on the plates, and it's difficult to imagine a rational thought process that would result in some of the food combinations presented.

Entering the Flying Saucer, one has the impression of perhaps a gone-to-seed Hell-themed Roman villa, with blood-red walls, orgiastic bas-reliefs and random bric-a-brac reminiscent of an upscale New Dawn Cafe. It would hardly be a surprise to see red-tailed devils stoking fires in the back, but the open kitchen holds only cooks, slicing kiwi and tuna or garnishing plates with vigor.

Regardless of reservations, there can be a lengthy wait for a table. But once seated, patrons are given ordinary baguettes with bizarre fruity tapenade and, of course, the challenging menu.

Regardless of their stated or implied intent, the appetizers all seem irresistibly drawn to the salad end of the spectrum. The Buffalo Carpaccio Igloo, for example, consists of several ounces of tender, delicious fuchsia-colored raw meat, less fibrous than beef, dressed with truffle oil on a bed of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrot slices, oil-cured olives, artichoke hearts and croutons, doused in herbal vinaigrette. And oh, yes, it has an igloo shape.

The rule at Flying Saucer seems to be that each entrée must include, among the many things on the plate, at least one tower (shades of Close Encounters!) and two drastically clashing items. In addition, the complex array of abstract expressionist garnishes gets far more attention than the food, in the kitchen as well as at the table. It's a pleasure to look at the food and almost worth the money to play with and explore it.

The sea bass au poivre was an excellently prepared piece of fish, albeit not very au-poivrey, with some thin, maybe squash-based sauce. Dyed turnip triangles. Peapod wedges. Another sauce. A tiny fragment of the same raw biscuit dough that the scallops sat on. And a creamy artichoke-risotto cake that could better support a red-meat dish, since it totally overwhelms any fish in its vicinity.

The truffle pork noisette in crepinette is two large lumps of tender pork, bound by fat to bland leaves. The pork was served adjacent to a sickly sweet cinnamon- and clove-flavored frittata tower, rich and too strangely spiced to be truly considered edible, particularly with the subtlety of pork. The best thing on this plate was the Klee-esque octet of long beans threaded through a hole in a turnip square, in a terrific truffle sauce far better-tasting than the sauce that was on or near the pork.

The dessert menu is an obscure work of architecture in its own right, offering an alien approach to your standard mousse, tiramisu, tarte Tatin, napoleon, etc. The pineapple and Phyllo Napoleon consisted of perfect phyllo platforms stuck together with an overly sweet macadamia-flavored pastry cream, offset with pineapple chunks, pear chunks, raspberries and strips of kaffir-lime leaf, whose grassy flavor makes the dish more exciting than many of its peers. The banana Wellington is a fairly uninteresting affair, served with rum sauce and a very good muscat ice cream. The coconut tian is a conical cookie tower filled with strawberries and abutted by three disharmonious types of sorbet.

Flying Saucer, 1000 Guerrero St.; accepts Visa, M/C, American Express; Sun.- Fri, 6-9:30pm; Sat, 5:30-9:30pm; 641-9955.

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From the January 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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