Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading Material (Pt II) - James Beard Foundation 2010 Journalism Award Finalists

In my last post, I listed the books that have been selected as finalists for the 2010 James Beard Foundation awards, with links to them on Amazon. Here I've listed the finalists for the journalism awards. I find these lists make for some great reading material, and there's certainly no reason to limit your review to only those that are ultimately selected for the award. I'm not sure why it's so hard to find a convenient source with links to all the nominated articles, so I've given all the links I've been able to find:

Category: Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Reviews

Jonathan Gold (LA Weekly)
"Sauced", "Hot Birria, Cold Cerveza", "Hare Today"

Patric Kuh (Los Angeles)
"Border Crossing", "Peru Calling" (this can't possibly be the entire review worthy of a nomination), "The Classic"

Jason Sheehan (Westord)
"White on White" (this is a guess, I see nothing with this title), "Wonderland", "Mourning"

Category: Food Blog

Grub Street New York
Serious Eats
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Category: Food-related Columns

Colman Andrews (Gourmet)
Column: Good Living Restaurants
"Veni Vidi Vetri", "It's Up to You, New York, New York", "Smoke and Miracles"

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl (Minnesota Monthly)
"The Doughnut Gatherer", "Capital Grills", "Pizza Perfect"

Rachel Wharton (Edible Brooklyn)
Column: Back of the House
"Egg", "Roberta's", "Franny's and Bklyn Larder"

Category: Magazine Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs

Alan Richman (GQ) "American Pie"
Anya von Bremzen (Saveur) "Soul of a City"
Francis Lam (Gourmet) "The Last Chinese BBQ" (republished in Salon)

Category: Magazine Feature Writing With Recipes

Dana Bowen (Saveur) "The Wonders of Ham"
Francine Maroukian, Jon Reiner, Staff of Esquire (Esquire) "How Men Eat"
Matt Goulding (Men's Health) "The Beauty of the Beast"

Category: Magazine Feature Writing Without Recipes

Alan Richman (GQ) "Hillbilly Truffle"
Barry Estabrook (Gourmet) "The Price of Tomatoes"
Raffi Khatchadourian (New Yorker) "The Taste Makers"

Category: M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award

John T. Edge (The Oxford American) "In Through the Back Door"
Alan Richman (GQ) "Le Petit Gourmet"
Francine Prose (Saveur) "Faith and Bacon"


Monday, March 29, 2010

Reading Material - James Beard 2010 Finalists

For your edification and cooking inspiration, here are links to all the finalists for the 2010 James Beard Foundation awards in the book and journalism categories. The entire list of finalists can be found here.

Category: American Cooking

Category: Baking and Dessert

Category: Beverage

Category: Cooking from a Professional Point of View

(continued ...)

stirring dull roots with spring rain - updated

Maybe April isn't the cruelest month after all. Here are several things going on next month that you may want to put on your calendar.

April 4: Michy's will be doing an Easter brunch from 11am - 3pm, with a buffet of tapas and salads followed by your choice from among a dozen entrees. $48 ($24 for kids 12 and under), which includes a Mimosa or Bellini. 6927 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, 305.759.2001

Area 31 will also be celebrating Easter with a brunch running from 12-3pm and offering unlimited food, Mimosas, Bellinis, Bloody Marys, Prosecco and juices. Buffet service includes classics like eggs benedict, waffles, pancakes, steak frites, plus some more typical Area 31 stuff like grilled corvina with salsa verde. $65 ($22 for kids 6-12, free for kids under 6). 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way (Epic Hotel), Miami, 16th Floor, 305.424.5234

[updated with a few more Easter eggs!]

The Cape Cod Room in the Bath Club on Miami Beach is doing what they call their monthy "hybrid" brunch buffet on Easter Sunday, offering a buffet selection of appetizers plus a choice of entrée, including cream-cheese-stuffed French Toast, Crab Cake, or their "JFK Style" Lobster Stew, as well as a brunch cocktail. (11am - 3pm, $33 per person, $16 for kids 12 and under). 5937 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305.864.1262

Gibraltar restaurant in Grove Isle is also offering an Easter brunch from 11am - 3pm, with a full-blown buffet for $75 ($35 for children 5-12). Reservations are required. Four Grove Isle Drive, Miami (Grove Isle Hotel & Spa), 305.857.5007

Neomi's Grill at the Trump Resort in Sunny Isles is also getting into the Easter spirit with a brunch selection ranging from Eggs Benedict to Greek leg of lamb to pineapple-cola glazed Virginia ham. 11am - 3pm, $60 per person ($20 for kids 6-12, free for 5 and under). 18001 Collins Avenue (Trump International Beach Resort), Sunny Isles Beach, 305.692.5770

Talula on South Beach, where the regular Sunday brunch is always a good choice, is doing a $35 Easter brunch, plus $16 for unlimited mimosas, champagne and vodka cocktails; half off for children under 13, kids under 5 eat free. 10:30am - 3pm. 210 23rd St., Miami Beach, 305.672.0778

[one more to add]:

Eos, Chef Michael Psilakis' restaurant in the Viceroy Hotel, is doing an Easter brunch from 11am-3pm featuring a selection of breakfast items, roasted whole lamb and carved baby pig, Mediterranean specialties and more; $55 for adults, $30 for children under 13. 485 Brickell Avenue, Miami, 305.503.0373

April 7: Dedication ceremony for the new Roots in the City Farmers Market which started up in Overtown this week. The market, spearheaded by the Wholesame Wave Foundation (founded by Chef Michel Nischan of the Dressing Room in Westport, Connecticut), with a big assist locally from Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, will be both the only growers-only farmers' market I'm aware of in Miami, and also the first to bring healthful local foods to underserved communities by taking advantage of the double-value program available to users of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). There's more info on the Market, which will be open at the corner of NW 2nd Ave. and 10th St. on Wednesdays from 12-4pm through April and then resume in the fall, at The Genuine Kitchen, and some impressions on opening day earlier this week at Redland Rambles and Mango & Lime. NW 2nd Ave. & 10th St., Miami

April 15: BLT Steak is having "Tax Day at BLT," during which "BLT restaurants across the nation take the stress out of Tax Day with half off all alcoholic beverages." 1440 Ocean Drive (Betsy Hotel), Miami Beach, 305.673.0044

April 24-25: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will be having its second annual Food and Garden Festival from 9:30am - 4:30pm Saturday and Sunday, featuring culinary demonstrations, a farmers market, programs on community gardens, edible schoolyards, edible gardens, composting and the like, and vendors selling plants adapted to South Florida's unusual growing conditions. 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, 305.667.1651

Shantih shantih shantih

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cobaya Experiment #4 - Altamare with Chef Simon Stojanovic

The latest of our "underground dining" experiments brought us to the newly opened Altamare restaurant in South Beach. Well, sort of new, anyway. Actually, its predecessor, Altamar, quietly tucked away on the west end of Lincoln Road, was a long-standing locals' favorite for fresh seafood with an Italian bent. Altamar owner Claudio Giordano decided to move a few doors down to a bigger space, buy a vowel, and bring in Chef Simon Stojanovic (a Michael's Genuine Food & Drink alumnus) to take over the kitchen and update the menu. We gave Chef Simon free rein to craft a menu, and Claudio gave the 20 of us a cozy little semi-private corner in the back of the room behind the bar, plus a run of wine pairings to go with the dishes.

Unfortunately, I missed nearly half the meal, for reasons that are somewhat embarassing (it was Little Miss F's birthday - the date of which I had overlooked when planning the dinner - and so I joined in late, after B-Day dinner with the family). As a result, I didn't get to sample a sheepshead carpaccio, served with cara cara oranges and fresh hearts of palm (for those thinking we've gone overboard, please note: sheepshead here is a fish, not - well - a sheep's head), nor a triggerfish tempura.

Pictures: Jackie Sayet

I did get there in time for an octopus dish, the fat tentacles "confited" low and slow and then grilled, served with farro that had been spiked with local green tomato, grilled lemon and chorizo, along with a generous dollop of aioli. It's a great prep method for the octopus, rendering it tender with a nice crusty char on the exterior from the grilling (it's the same method used on the octopus dish that is a menu stalwart at MGF&D).

Picture: Jackie Sayet

Plus I always support the pairing of seafood and pork products, and the chorizo was just right here, balancing well with the rich chewy texture of the farro and the bright tartnesss of the green tomato and lemon. That combination also is one which has made appearances on the MGF&D menu, as a commenter here previously noted. Claudio took an interesting approach on matching a wine to this dish, going with a Cannonau, a red wine (grenache) from Sardinia which I thought worked well with the heartier flavors of the farro and chorizo in particular.

(continued ...)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Red Light Revisited - Miami Upper East Side

I tend not to retread old ground when writing about restaurants here. When there are so many new places opening up, old places I still haven't gotten around to mentioning, holes in the wall I haven't even discovered yet, it seems a bit goofy to talk about someplace that's already been written up - particularly a place like Red Light, where my initial comments here were already based upon a pretty extensive body of data.

But a restaurant is in many ways a sort of organic thing: it can change, it can grow, it can mature, it can get old. Sometimes it's for the better; other times for the worse. I'm immensely gratified that with Red Light, which is approaching its second anniversary, it seems that the changes are all to the good.

I didn't realize until I started writing this that my first visit to Red Light was almost exactly two years ago; and that my initial write-up here was almost exactly one year ago. Since then, Red Light has not lacked for attention, especially of late: a couple months ago, Frank Bruni sang the restaurant's praises in the New York Times,[1] and more recently, Chef Kris Wessel was selected as a semifinalist for a James Beard Award.[2]

What I so admire about Chef Wessel is that instead of just basking in the glory and resting on his laurels, he's clearly used the attention, and the traffic it's generated, as an opportunity to up his game.[3] The location on the Little River still has the same ramshackle, bohemian funk to it; but the cooking - which I've always enjoyed - seems to have become stronger and steadier. When we were in this past weekend, the ingredients were better quality, the preparations more refined and precise - even some of the plates were new.

(continued ...)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

CSA Carrots - Check!

I know I swore off posting pictures of my CSA share, but - check out this carrot!

There were about a dozen more of these knobby little guys in the share this week; too bad I don't have a wood-fired oven like at Michael's Genuine to roast them in.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sakaya Kitchen Dim Ssam Brunch - Midtown Miami

I wrote about my initial visit to Sakaya Kitchen about a month ago. Chef Richard Hales' focus on Korean flavors, organic ingredients, and reasonable prices all showed real promise. That promise is fulfilled, and then some, with Sakaya's "Dim Ssam" brunch, which was unveiled this weekend.

Sakaya Kitchen

While the restaurant is set up for counter service, Chef Hales has switched over to table service for the brunch, and has crafted a longer menu of smaller-portioned dishes that play on his contemporary Korean theme (thus, "Dim Ssam"). I was just about the first person knocking on the door a little after 11am this past Sunday to give it a try.

Dim Ssam Brunch Menu

Choosing was not easy. Fortunately, the prices are so reasonable that you can try a sampling of several items without breaking the bank. Everything I tried was excellent.

"Banchan" are a customary feature of Korean dining, a selection of little side dishes to accompany a meal. Different types of kimchi are typical, but usually there are a variety of other items as well. At Sakaya, ordering the banchan (for $5.99) brought seven dishes, including dried shredded cuttlefish ("ojinguh bokkeum"), bean sprouts dressed in sesame oil ("kongnamul"), tiny dried anchovies ("myulchi bokkeum"), pickled cucumbers, green bean kimchi, balloon flower root kimchi (a/k/a bellflower, or "doraji"), and marinated tofu.


Here are some closeups (note, by the way, that everything is served in disposable, recyclable dishes. I saw some kvatches when Sakaya first opened that the take-out boxes they were using for in-restaurant service were somewhat awkward; the dishes used for the "Dim Ssam" brunch were all perfectly serviceable):

dried cuttlefish
dried cuttlefish
dried anchovies
dried anchovies
balloon flower root kimchi
balloon flower root kimchi

These ranged from extremely pungent (the anchovies) to very spicy (the balloon flower root kimchi) to sweet-sour (the cucumber pickles) to sweet-spicy (the dried cuttlefish) to mild (the bean sprouts and tofu), and each with a different texture as well. It's a great way to wake up the palate and reinvigorate it between bites of heartier stuff. Just keep a beer close by.

With prices for just about everything at around $3 or under, I tried several of the menu items, starting with the Korean Pancake with Pork, Radish Kimchi and Ssamjang.

(continued ...)

Monday, March 15, 2010

CSA Collard Greens - Gomen Kitfo

I can no longer keep track of which week is which from my CSA shares. Since collard greens make a frequent appearance, this is a recipe that can hopefully come in handy. Gomen Kitfo (or Yegomen Kitfo) is an Ethiopian dish which, frankly, one of our good friends makes much better than I do, but that didn't stop me from trying it anyway. What I find so intriguing about Ethiopian food is that it is generally highly spiced, but without being "spicy" (i.e. hot), using a palette of spices that we don't encounter often in Western cuisines, at least not in savory dishes. This dish is a good example: it features cooked collard greens mixed with cottage cheese flavored with cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, clove, garlic and onion.

As usual, I looked at a few different recipes and then sort of mushed them together. Here's a rough ingredient list:

  • 12 oz. cottage cheese
  • 2 lbs. collard greens ( I suspect my pile was shy of 2 lbs)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped chile pepper (I used jalapeño)
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • ground clove, ground cinnamon (to taste)
First, make some ghee. Ghee is just clarified butter, which is something that always used to sort of intimidate me, until I figured out it's not exactly culinary rocket science. Here's how I make clarified butter: put some butter in a pan. Turn on low heat. The butter will melt. Some solids will drop to the bottom, some stuff may float to the top, everything else will be transparent and golden. That's what you want. Skim the stuff off the top, leave the stuff on the bottom. Some recipes I saw called for a flavored ghee ("niter kebbeh"), which sounded like a good idea, so I threw a bit of garlic, onion and ginger in there (just some generous pinches of each) along with a lightly crushed cardamom pod and a couple cloves. Rather than straining through cheesecloth or anything fancy like that, I just skimmed what I needed for the dish straight out of the pan.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ready to Do a 180?

Well, Chef Norman Van Aken is almost there. His new Miami venture, Norman's 180 in Coral Gables (in the Colonnade Hotel) has been under construction for some time. Though there's clearly been some slippage from the original goal to open before year-end (2009), it looks like he's getting closer. Hiring for an April opening would seem to be a good sign:

For more previews of what to expect when it opens, check here and here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

El Rincon Asturiano - Miami

"Vale." It's a word we heard throughout our travels in Spain, with no precise definition we could discern, potentially meaning "OK," or "So...," or "See?", or "Voila," depending on the context. Apparently more European (and possibly Castilian, more specifically) than Latin American, it's a word I almost never hear in Miami, despite the abundant Spanish-speaking populations. We heard it almost immediately, and regularly, upon sitting down at El Rincon Asturiano this past weekend. I took that to be a good sign, and I was right.

jamon iberico

Rincon Asturiano is a small restaurant in Little Havana near the corner of Flagler Street and SW 17th Avenue, not particularly noticeable from the street. There are several outdoor tables under a covered patio, as well as a small tapas bar and several more tables packed inside, including a narrow bar-height two-top that we squeezed into on a Saturday night (the place was filled). Asturias is an autonomous community of Spain on the northern coast by the Bay of Biscay, a couple hundred miles west of the Basque Country. The region is known for its seafood, its ciders, and most of all for the bean and sausage stew known as fabada. Rincon Asturiano's menu offers some of these specialties (the daily specials in particular seem to focus on Asturian dishes) as well as a broader selection of typical Spanish tapas, together with some heartier main courses and a variety of paellas.

Our server, in between "Vales," spoke only in rapid-fire Spanish and I struggled to keep up as she recited the day's specials. But with my dog-like ability to understand those words essential to my universe, I got the gist of most of it. For instance, I understood enough to know that she disapproved of my choice of wine, and recommended the Muga Rioja Reserva 2005 (at roughly the same price as my original choice) instead. I'm glad I listened, as it was a wonderful wine and a great value (at $36, less than 2x average retail).

As for food, we stuck with the tapas, and ultimately had to do something of a plate-juggling act to make room on our tiny table. We started with Chorizo a la Sidra, with chunks of pleasantly soft chorizo sausage cooked in cider stained bright red from the paprika in the sausage. Like New Orleans style BBQ shrimp, this is a dish that's as good for just dipping bread into the sauce as for the star ingredient itself (and the bread here is nice crusty Spanish style bread). The next item to hit the table was one of the only disappointments of the evening, Pulpo a la Gallega, the traditional dish of boiled octopus with potatoes, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with paprika and served on a wooden platter. But this was solely a matter of personal preference - boiling rather than grilling leaves the exterior layer of the octopus with a very slippery texture, and I prefer it grilled. But the preparation was absolutley authentic.

A slippery texture I do like is that of tripe, and so I couldn't pass up the Callos a la Asturiana. Callos is a Spanish stew featuring tripe and usually other miscellaneous parts. Though for years I only knew from Callos a la Madrileña, I've more recently learned of different regional variations, including a Sevillan version and this Asturian version. While Madrid's version, as I've seen it, often involves garbanzo beans in addition to chorizo and morcilla sausages and various other pig and/or cow parts, in a thick rust-colored stew, this Asturiano version omitted the beans, and had an intriguing spice note to it on top of the paprika - maybe nutmeg or even cinnamon? It was chock full of mysterious unctuous bits and pieces in a densely flavored gelatinous broth. Apparently the Asturians may be even more hardcore about their callos than the Madrileños: it seems that every year in the town of Noreña, they have a callos festival where more than 30 restaurants cook more than 7,000 pounds of tripe for about 10,000 visitors.

But it's not all about the nasty bits. The Patatas Bravas here were the finest I've had outside of Spain, the cubed potatoes cooked perfectly to have a bit of crispness on the exterior, while still being pillow-soft and hot in the middle (presumably the result of a double-frying technique similar to those used for good French fries), and were served with both a pungently garlickly and thick aioli, and a spicy tomato "bravas" sauce. The latter initially came on too sweet and ketchup-y, but that initial impression was quickly corrected by a pleasingly spicy follow-through.

Good Food Good Cause

What are you doing this Thursday? Why not this?

Organized by chefs Alex Feher of the Intercontinental Miami and Jan Jorgenson of Two Chefs, and benefitting International Firefighters Assistance in Haiti, this event features fifteen chefs (including folks like Andrea-Curto Randazzo of Talula, Cindy Hutson of Ortanique, Clay Conley of Azul, Johnny Vinczencz of Johnny V, Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time, Jonathan Wright of the Setai, and Tim Andriola of Timo), for fifty bucks; and it's all for charity.

Eat well and do good at the same time. If you're interested, RSVP to helpforhaiti@taraink.com or 305.864.3434 x311.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Restaurant at the Setai - South Beach

I have long been intrigued by the menu at the Restaurant at the Setai - a curious amalgam of several Far Eastern cuisines - but there was always something keeping me away.

Honestly, it was the prices. Intrigue will only get me so far through the door to try "small plates" that are mostly priced in the mid $20s and main courses that are generally double that or even more. The Restaurant would participate in Miami Spice and occasionally offer other more reasonably priced programs, but I could never get my timing right. So even though the eclectic mix of Asian dishes was alluring, and Executive Chef Jonathan Wright had some solid credentials (Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in England, Bradley Ogden's Lark Creek Inn in California), I never made my way in.

Intrigue finally got the best of me when I saw that the Setai was offering a "Menu Gourmand," featuring twelve courses from their menu for $120. Somehow, twelve courses for $120 seemed much more reasonable than perhaps three courses for probably about 3/4 of that, and so I paid my first visit to the Setai last week. The "Menu Gourmand" features:

Blue Fin Tuna Skewers, Shiso Ponzu, Asian Pear and Kaffir Lime Salsa

Sea Urchin, Shiso, Wasabi and Ginger Tempura, Oscetra Caviar, Ginger Yogurt

Seared Tuna Belly, Warm Salad of Capers, Mushrooms, Olives, Garlic Emulsion

Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Mango, Szechuan Pepper, Spiced Bread

Warm Mushroom Salad with Soba Noodes, Truffle Vinaigrette, White Truffle Ice Cream

Slow Cooked Duck Egg, Peking Duck, Foie Gras, Sweet Braised Onions, Teriyaki Broth, Bonito

Clear Ham Broth with Winter Melon, Iberico Ham, Chicken, Crab Meat, Ginger and Straw Mushrooms

Scallop and Black Truffle Har Gao, Truffle Emulsion

Scottish Langoustines, Orange and Earl Grey Emulsion, Fennel Salad

Braised then Crisp Fried Pork Belly, Turnips, Kimchi and Roasted Peanuts

Jivara Ginger and Caramel Crème with Jasmine

Passion Fruit Souffle, Bitter Chocolat Sorbet

Most of these dishes come from the "small plates" section of the main menu, which also features a selection of dim sum, several different fish, shellfish and meats prepared in a variety of Asian styles, as well as noodle and rice dishes, curries and tandoor items. Though the menu credits the cuisines of India, Singapore, Thailand, China and Malaysia as its driving forces, a keen observer will note a clear Japanese influence as well. But this is perhaps better described as a "grab-bag" approach rather than a "fusion" menu - as our waiter noted, the individual dishes tend to be uniquely of one particular culinary style, rather than trying to blend them together.

maguro akami
The restaurant itself is an unusual space, with an open exhibition kitchen and several long wooden tables jutting out at right angles from it, as well as a number of regular tables, some of which look out onto Collins Avenue. There was, however, not a lot of action going on in that exhibition kitchen, with one cook at a sauté station and another at a wok station moving in an unrushed fashion to tend to a quiet dining room. We were started with some crispy rice crackers and some pungent achar-style pickles, along with a silver bowl of toasted peanuts mixed with some small, crispy, salty dried whole fish. An unusual and promising start; but unfortunately, for several of the items that followed, smart and delicious sounding combinations were marred by flaws of technique or seasoning.

Though the "Menu Gourmand" indicates that it is served "Share Style," in fact most of the dishses were composed individual plates like this one: a cube of the lean, red flesh of a bluefin tuna ("akami"), in a puddle of shiso-inflected soy-and-citrus ponzu sauce, topped with a fine dice of Asian pear brightened with Kaffir lime, and crowned with a bit of caviar and a sprig of micro-herbs (shiso?) (apologies, by the way for the terrible quality of the photos, I'm still working on how to get decent pictures in low light). It was a nice, clean taste to start the meal, though the cube was a bit large for one bite and unwieldy to handle in any other way given the plating.

uni tempura

The next course offered some of my favorite things: uni, shiso, ginger, caviar. Though advertised as a "tempura," however, what came out was more of a fried dumpling, the thick casing obscuring the delicate flavor of the sea urchin. It was a shame, because I think the other components could have complemented it well, particularly the ginger-infused yogurt it was resting upon. I will confess I rarely if ever find that cooking improves uni, but if you're going to do so, it deserves more delicate treatment than this. Nobu, for instance, does an uni tempura featuring similar flavors where the uni is wrapped in shiso, then nori, then gets a very light tempura coating before being fried. Though really, even that is unnecessary.

toro hagashi

Hagashi toro is supposed to be among the most lush and fatty of tuna cuts, typically, I believe, taken from the top of the tail. Here, a generous portion (one of the only dishes that was actually served share-style)[2] was seared and plated with a warm salad of shimeji mushrooms, capers and olives, along with a creamy-textured garlic emulsion. Unfortunately the tuna was seared so far as to be predominantly brown rather than pink, and consequently lost most of its unctuous fattiness. As a result, my favorite elements on the plate were the mushrooms and the silky garlic pudding.

si chuan man gua
The next dish offered a combination of foie gras and mango in hot and cold forms - the hot, with seared foie over a crescent of mango fruit; the cold, a cube of foie gras torchon with a cube of soft mango sandwiched by thin crispy spice bread. The torchon was lovely, the combination with mango a tropical variant on the long-running and effective theme of playing foie against fruit. The seared foie was peculiarly bland. The traditional pairings were played out even further by serving the dish with a shot of Choya umeshu, the sweet and tart Japanese plum wine playing the role customarily played by Sauternes in this composition. What I couldn't detect was the promised szechuan peppercorns, which might have brought a different element to the party.

pot au feu
Calling this a "pot au feu" suggests stronger "fusion" influences than the Restaurant's mission statement lets on to. Within the bowl were a soft-poached duck egg (presumably slow-cooked in an immersion circulator), slivers of roasted duck, cubes of foie gras, enoki and shimeji mushrooms, some chewy grains (barley? farro?) and slow-braised caramelized onions, all in a dark, sweet soy and bonito "teriyaki" broth. There were some great flavors here and I really loved the composition of elements in this dish, but unfortunately they were all overwhelmed and obscured by the overly sweet broth.