I've walked by Pangaea innumerable times, its elegantly nondescript exterior just opposite the Bay subway station exit. I vaguely wondered what it was like, even more so once I started seriously reading local restaurant reviews. In a fine example of how any publicity is good publicity, what cemented my interest was reading through the cooking-devoted website of the co-owner's wife. So Winterlicious seemed like a fine opportunity to try it out.
The high-ceilinged room felt oddly crowded, a product of the extremely tall vertical lines produced by the art deco-influenced chairs. The place was full, thriving, but the tables were hardly crowded, just enough so the occasional passerby, waiters included, would regularly brush my chair - not a problem, just an example of the sense of spacing the room had. White linen, wooden floors, and a glass-sheltered candle on each table completed the scene. The waiter offered us menus - thoughtfully and temptingly, they included the full list of à la carte entrées, including a very nice looking cheese menu. John and I agreed to try it if we had any appetite left by the end but, as was the case at Splendido the other week, we were too full to do so.
saffronjan and I started with the acorn squash and quince soup, a smooth purée with a light, but well-rounded flavor which filled my mouth with its gentle lushness. Even more memorable, however, was the lovely texture contrast between the floating toasted squash seeds and the soup itself. Indeed, the ongoing quality of the textures would prove to be the best part of the meal. John chose the salad option - since he is rather shy on adjectives, I can tell you no more than that it was "nice".
The power of suggestion won me over to ordering duck confit on shredded cabbage for my main, as did John, while saffronjan opted for the skate. (She ate all of it, so it must have been good, but we never discussed it. How was it, really?) Truffled tagliatelle was easy to resist thanks to the bottle of truffled olive oil currently in my cupboard. The texture of the confit was amazing: crisp, thin skin, covering the rich taste of the falling apart meat. It was tasty too but - what an amazing texture! Unfortunately for the cheese plate, the confit featured two full duck legs and thighs, although without nearly enough cabbage to balance the flavors for the whole dish. There was a whole lot of meat there, but the seductive texture kept me eating a little longer than I should've.
Happily, the desserts were light, and with a dash of humor too. John had the lemon mousse ("like lemon meringue without the crust"), erupting in tubes of marshmallow. The rest of us had hot chocolate for dessert, which also featured marshmallow, although ours were adorably small and flower-shaped. The hot chocolate was sufficiently chocolatey, but too sweet, sweet enough that saffronjan had no more than a few sips before giving up on it. It was accompanied by a slice of lightly-flavored gingerbread cake and candied orange, two elements which went very nicely together.
We drank wine, mine a spicy Willowglen '03 chardonnay which complemented the soup very nicely, and did much less for the confit. Much as the dessert wine menu tempted, by the end of the meal I was too full to eat - or drink - any more. All in all, a very pleasant meal.