Friday, January 31, 2014

CobayAnaya - Chef Jacob Anaya at OTC Restaurant

There is no requirement that chefs have a "theme" when they do a Cobaya dinner - but it sure makes things fun. For our dinner a couple weeks ago with Chef Jacob Anaya of OTC Restaurant in Brickell, he went with an animal heads theme. The theme played out in the decorations (taxidermy trophies mounted throughout the dining room), the staff (who wore animal-face masks all evening) and on the plate, where every dish used parts of at least one animal head.

Chef Jacob Anaya is actually a Cobaya veteran - when we had our Cobaya dinner at Azul restaurant a couple years ago (the one that Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern joined us for), Anaya was in the kitchen with Azul's then-executive chef, Joel Huff. When Huff left the following year, Anaya took over Azul, and more recently left Azul himself to run the kitchen at OTC. When OTC first opened it pitched itself as a casual, comfort-food place, but with the addition of Anaya, OTC and its owner Michael Sullivan are looking to step up their game. Since we had an idea of what Chef Anaya was capable of from his work at Azul, we gave him the Cobaya green light.

Even the menu itself followed through on the theme of the night.

(You can see all my pictures in this CobayaAnaya flickr set).

The evening started on OTC's patio facing out onto Miami Avenue with a series of passed around snacks - brown-bagged crispy fried pig's ears dusted with smoked salt, citrus dust and chili powder, rice crackers shaken with tapioca maltodextrin cheese dust, sgaghetti squash twirled on forks along with espelette dusted goat ricotta and kabocha chips, grilled squid heads paired with an anchovy mousse, garlic dust and tiny greens.

The first plated course - dubbed "Hard-Headed" - led off with a local lobster crudo, served family style. The raw lobster was paired with an orange-hued sauce made from the lobsters' heads with an intense crustacean flavor, a green olive purée along with crumbles of dehydrated black olives, supremes of ruby grapefruit, and chewy, salty dried shrimp. There were lots of strong flavors here, but they balanced rather than competed, the pairing of olive and citrus in particular striking a resonant Mediterranean chord.

(continued ...)