Farm Spirit — Portland OR (4/2016)

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I saw a short write-up on this restaurant just after it opened and decided I wanted to try it.  The cuisine is billed as fine-dining vegan, with an emphasis on using local ingredients.  They only serve a tasting menu with two main seating times (split into two sub-seatings).  They use Tock as their booking system and dinners are pre-paid.  You can pre-pay for the wine pairings or decide to order it when you dine.

The venue is all counter seating, where each sub-seating can handle up to six people (or maybe more with the two chairs at the end).

Obviously the menu is vegetarian only, but they did ask if I had any allergies.

There was a menu and place card for each place setting.  The reverse side of the menu had the pairings choices.  For this meal, I opted for the non-alcoholic one.

To get us started right away, they served a hot Whistle Red Fife roll with Oregon Olive Mill Arbequina olive oil and Jacobsen sea salt. Red fife wheat was the preferred bread wheat in North America in the 19th Century.  The bread was softly crusty on the outside and chewy at the same time.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alo 3rd Visit — Toronto (4/2016)

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I was looking forward to my third visit to Alo since an early spring menu often has chef’s being innovative in what they can do with available ingredients.  I was also very interested in seeing how the menu would continue evolving.  On my first visit, most of the tasting menu consisted of dishes from the a la carte offerings.  This time, the chef told me that only one dish was being offered at both the chef’s counter and at the tables.

They continue to offer a choice of white or dark napkins to use when I sat down.

To start off the meal, I opted for a non-alcoholic beverage – the pear tea and lemon, which went very well with the opening snacks.  I did order wine later, and instead of me just picking the Chablis from the list, they offered to pick something that was open from the wine pairings.  They poured a Grüner Vetliner, which, when I finally got a menu at the end, was not on it.  But it was a good choice for menu.

The first snack was a couple of gougères – fontina cheese puffs with fermented jalapeños and charred onion powder.  This was warm and light.

This was followed by a Vancouver oyster with green apple gelée and a nasturtium.

For the full write-up, click here.

Shoto 8th Visit — Toronto (4/2016)

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This was a late-winter/early spring visit to Shōtō.  Unbeknownst to me, the former chef de cuisine, Mitchell Bates (who came from momofuku ko), left at the end of the year.  They promoted Peter Jensen from within, so there was a great deal of continuity in the menu, although there were some differences.  One change was that diners can have a shorter menu.  I think they knew I wouldn’t do that, so I wasn’t even asked. Also, they changed their reservation system to use Opentable.com.

Right away, there was a hot roll and butter to start off.  It was nice and crunchy/chewy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.

For wine, I started with the rare pour white, which was a Chassagne-Montrachet, which was fine but not as good as a Meursault.  Eventually, I asked for the rare pour Pinot Noir as well later in the meal.

The snacks continued with roasted sunchoke soup with arctic char roe and East Coast oyster with green chilies.

The next bite was toasted cheddar cheese with Worcestershire sauce and some tapioca to hold form.  It was almost as good as the grilled sushi rice bite (which was not served with this meal – first time ever).

For the full write-up, click here.

Intro 2nd Visit — Chicago (3/2016)

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Intro was one of the few restaurants open on Sunday, so I decided to give it another try.  Plus, Sunday is free-corkage night.  Since the last visit with the 2nd rotating chef, they hired a chef to stay around as executive chef and they have a guest chef every month.  Tonight’s guest chef put in some time at Manresa in Los Altos.  They also changed the format a little.  There is an a la carte menu, as well as a tasting menu option (which was vegetarian). The dishes were pretty straightforward, so I didn’t have to do much describing.

The first course was the salad with burrata, pear, feta cheese, endive and cara cara oranges.  For texture, some toasted sourdough croutons and blood sorrel finished the dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

42 grams 8th Visit– Chicago (3/2016)

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This visit was only about six weeks since my last visit.  It was not planned when I made my prior reservation.  A group of Chicago friends was planning to go and invited me, so managed to fly into Chicago for a couple of days prior to a work assignment.  The menu was almost the same as a few weeks ago.

The first snack was the African snail caviar.  It has a cucumber taste, so the other ingredients play off that, including lacto-fermented and charred Korean cucumber (for a little tartness and flavor enhancement), viola flowers, avocado and buckwheat blinis.

The next course was new last time for the restaurant.  The bottom had a kombucha (fermented) tea made into a gel form.  This was topped by diced carabinero (Spanish scarlet prawn), tofu, citrus caviar (finger limes), prawn head froth, and crispy rice noodles seasoned with phytoplankton.  This was intensely good and well-balanced, with bright flavors and lots of texture variations. Bright, sharp flavors perfectly complemented the savory shrimp flavor, nicely enhanced by the foam.

The next dish featured grilled white sturgeon from Idaho with golden Osetra caviar from Israel, vichyssoise piping, and dill. Along the one side of the fish was a helping of fingerling potato chips.  It was a very tasty take on fish and chips, with nice flavors and textures melding together.

For the full write-up, click here.

Mosu — San Francisco (3/2016)

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Mosu is a restaurant that just opened in San Francisco.  I got word of it from a newsletter I get.  The pedigree of the chef (including time at The French Landry and Benu), and the proposed tasting menu of Asian-inspired dishes caught my interest.  They are located on Fillmore St. very near the intersection with Geary.  Reservations are made via the Resy.com website. The restaurant is not well-marked on the outside.

The restaurant only seats 18 people total.  Downstairs, there was a table for 4 and two two-tops.  The rest of the seating was upstairs on a loft level (curtained and walled off).

Upon arrival, they offered a glass of Champagne, which was very good.  The tasting menu was already on the table, as was the wine list.  I liked their wine selections as they had two Meursaults on it.  Unfortunately, they were by the bottle, so I had to “settle” for the French white Burgundy by the glass.

The first snack was grilled burdock bark, served with house-cultured butter, fermented kombu, and lightly pickled sancho (pepper) berries stuck on the underside.  The bark was like a cracker and sweet.

For the full write-up, click here.

momofuku ko 9th Visit — New York City (2/2016)

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I was looking forward to coming back to momofuku ko at this particular time because I know they had taken a break and planned to revamp the menu some.  I wanted to see what they had come up with, since the menu hadn’t changed significantly since they opened in their new space.  They told me they were anxious for some of the “regulars” to try the menu out and give some feedback.

I had spent some of my day wine shopping around New York.  I found a 2001 Kistler I wanted to try.  So, for the first time, I brought a bottle to the restaurant to have with my meal.  I would drink as much as I could and leave the rest for the staff to try, if it was worth having.  They decanted the wine, and you could see that it was an aged white.

We started off with potato puffs with white cheddar and ramps (spring onions).  The cracker reminded me of a Cheez-it in texture and flavor, only better tasting.

The next bite was the lobster salad roll with mint (no change to this).

The next presentation was fried chicken oyster (dark meat from the hollow on the dorsal side of the chicken marinated in red kimchee and buttermilk and finished off with a honey-mustard butter.  This was accompanied by a white kimchee and horseradish granita “shot”.  This was very tasty and a new item for me.

For the full write-up, click here.