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Citizen Cake + Lang Lang Piano Solo

citizen.jpgKen and I had dinner at Citizen Cake around 5:30 pm before heading to Lang Lang’s piano solo concert at the Davies Symphony Hall last night. Pristine, quiet and friendly, we made ourselves comfortable at a window-side table, which overlooked the pm rush hustle-and-bustle under a sky that threatened rain. Service was personal but the pace with which food were served was slow–the party sitting across from us received their entrees first although they fiddled and deliberated over the menu for ages. For starters:

Sour du jour: Tomato with White Beans

Beets, chevre foam, apple-balsamic vinaigrette, walnut paper

Ken opted for a vegetarian stew as main course so he passed over the soup and tackled the delicious beets salad, which is my usual gesture at Citizen. He offered me a spoonful of it just so to get my seal of approval for the signature taste. The main entrees arrived maybe 30 minutes after we licked our appetizer plates clean:

Liberty duck breast, french lentils, cippolini confit, turnips, citron-duck sauce

Roasted vegetable–chickpea stew, socca, harissa, cumin yogurt

While both main courses are not bad, I find (as usual) the grass always greener on the other side of the fence. Ken’s vegetable stew is surprisingly tasty–very rich and strong in flavor, owing to the cumin yogurt. Chickpeas were crunchy and complimented the thin crust at the bottom. The duck breast was tasty but not memorable. The best thing about the meal was the desserts, which are what Citizen is know for. Whichever you pick you can go wrong. We selected:

Snowy Mountain: caramel chibouste, roasted pineapple, buckwheat financier, white chocolate miso ice cream

Ambers’ Gleem: amber-soft chocolate, candy-cap mushroom ice cream, malt-sabayon, cocoa-nib crispies

The dessert menu does look weird with strange vocabulary but they are to die for. I agree with most reviews that Citizen makes their desserts best, although I don’t really care for the cupcakes, not matter how tasty they are. Compared to Slow Club, which also serves California cusine with a tinge of French and features organic ingredients, Citizen is more classy but overpriced and overrated.

lang.jpgWe had to walk in rain to the symphony hall–all soaked and shoddy. But the sobriety of the interior, the concert program quickly mitigated our frustration. We were seated right in the middle of the orchestra section, commanding full view of not only the grand piano but Lang Lang’s hands.

The program of the concert features a mix of classical, Chinese traditionals and Spanish pieces. As a Mozart fanatic, I liked the Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major, K.333 the best. It’s quintessential of Mozart: Opening allegro is graceful and smooth, the big chords suddenly melts away into relaxed music. The biggest surprise comes at the end of the final allegretto grazioso, which opens with a poised and polished central theme. Mozart arrives at a pause with a great flourish and then writes out a cadenza for the pianist, as if this movement is the finale of a piano concerto. It renders a feeling of being in an intimate opera, roaming back and forth between reality and a dream.

Ken, who has a predilection on romantic, likes Fantasy in C Major, Opus 17 by Robert Schumann the best. It might be one of his finest compositions in terms of originality in form. First performed it when he arrived in the US at the age of 14, this is one of the most complex pieces for the piano repertoire. Even the fits of coughing and sniffling that were redolent among the audience due to the flu season took a short break when Lang Lang was performing this extremely difficult piece.

The program concluded with an encore piece from motion picture The Painted Veil, and off we went to the car, in a pondering silence, reminiscing the music, Lang Lang’s springy hand movements and his nearly (due to the poor acoustics during the performance of the Chinese pieces) spotless performance. As usual I enjoyed Ken’s company more than anything.

5 Responses

  1. A little feedback.

    Thanks for the Citizen Cake review. I’ve walked by a number of times since it’s near the hotel where I usually stay. But I’ve always had a feeling it might be overpriced and overrated for meals, as you say. Perhaps more style than substance? It’s good for treats after a concert, though.

    I heard Lang Lang when he played Rachmaninov #2 with the Symphony (a couple of years back, or whenever it was). He seemed temperamentally suited for the piece and applied his phenomenal technique, as well. He seemed happily paired with M. T. T. and I would say that the orchestra seemed very involved in the performance and that they were enjoying making music with him; the audience applauded rapturously afterward; so I’m not surprised to hear that he seemed very much in his element with the Schuman.

    I’ll have to see if I can catch a review in the on line Chronicle. I have a hunch that the critic will like his way with Schuman more than the Mozart. He is a remarkable musical personality. Among other “younger” players, I find Piotr Anderszewski is excellent for Mozart, and his Bach and Beethoven are sublime.

    Glad to hear that you have a delightful companion to share such things now. That makes all the difference.

    All best,

  2. I like the food at Citizen Cake but the portion was skimpy–that pot roast was so small that I almost had to order pizza delivery when I got home!

  3. So what did you guys do AFTER the date? teehee!

  4. Citizen Cake?! That totally sounds like my kind of restaurant. I mean, Cake, how can you go wrong with that. ha,ha. Sounds like a very wonderful night. Happy dance for you 🙂

  5. […] or a practicing pianist, but Bernard Holland’s article reminds me of the encounter with Lang Lang at Davis Symphony Hall last year, who takes a very athletic approach to playing piano. Holland […]

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