Farm Spirit 10th Visit — Portland, OR (3/2020)

My prior visit had been about 5 month ago, so I was looking forward to seeing what would be on the menu for this early spring visit.  I really liked the experiences that I had, and this was only my 3rd visit to their newer location.  As before, the meals are pre-paid upon securing a reservation.  Beverages (either the wine pairing or non-alcoholic pairing) can also be pre-purchased, or one can decide to select an option upon being seated.  I again opted for the non-alcoholic pairing.

The meal started off with a tea made from nettles blended with smoked kombu and smoked burdock broths and Lapsang tea for a nice savory introduction to the evening.

The first beverage pairing was spruce tips and loganberry kefir with a light ginger soda.

Up next was a plate of Cascadian snacks:  potato chips dusted with lacto-fermented pickle powder, fried  and finished with pickled onion powder; crispy curry leaves with sunchoke chips; kale chips dressed and with nutritional yeast and dried; oat cracker with a confit of yellow chanterelle mushrooms and a pea tangle; salted and marinated savoy cabbage topped with grated raw beets mixed with lime leaf, garlic and koji, and topped with tasted pumpkin seeds and dried za’atar (an herb); charcoal-grilled leeks peeled, chopped and marinated with seaweed emulsion and pickled mustard seeds, and topped with seaweed kombu jelly and the dark cracker on top made from the charred outer shell of the grilled leeks mixed with fennel pollen.

The next beverage was based on smoked huckleberry, smoked peaches, and Lapsang Souchong tea kombucha.

The next course was a layered pancake made of grated root vegetables (beets, rutabaga, carrot, potato and leek) and chickpea flour.  On top were a few vegetable sauces:  smoked beet, fermented turnips, fermented turmeric. All this was topped off with a piece of beet and a nasturtium leaf.  This was a very flavorful dish.

The next beverage was a blend of smoked hops with sugar, water, sugar and a few kefir grains for fermentation and mixed with a strawberry vinegar.

The salad presentation featured red chicory with purple mizuna, salad, Mausch Family Farm greens, Asian pear, and sunflower seeds. It was dressed with a vinaigrette of Pinot Noir and buttered rose petals.  Additional sauces underneath included a Pinot Noir and beet sauce and a sunflower praline sauce.

For the full write-up, click here.

Stone Flower 3rd Visit — Chicago (3/2020)

For this visit to Stone Flower, I returned again with a friend.  Upon arrival, we discovered that there had been some personnel changes, including the sommelier who had been there for my first two visits.  The staff who assist with the service had also changed.  Otherwise, the booking and seating time remained the same as my  prior visit.  For this dinner, there were six diners total seated at the counter.  My friend and I decided we would split one beverage pairing.

The first pairing was an orange wine from the country of Georgia. Unlike previous visits, the new sommelier did not show us the bottle nor provide the name of wine’s producer most of the time.

The first bite was a savory barley grass ice cream in a dehydrated and shaped banana roll.  This was garnished with cucumber, jalapeño pepper, finger limes and oxalis flowers (for a touch of tartness).  The intent was to open up our palates with these flavors.

The next wine pairing was a Portuguese Alvarinho. 

The next dish was skate wing cheek, cooked in oil and served at room temperature in celery juice with curry leaf (green curry flavor).  Circling the upper part of the bowl was applewood-smoked celery root purée, which supported additional garnishes of smoked soy ribbons, snail caviar (smaller ones than I’ve seen here before), and alyssum flowers.

For the next wine, we were given a little more information.  It was a Valmur (one of the 7 Grand Cru regions of Chablis) Grand Cru Chablis from 2018.

The next dish featured Great Lakes white sturgeon that was poached in its own juices.  On the side was  a little Yukon Gold potato nest seasoned with malt vinegar and sea salt.  The sauce was a beurre monté made with dashi, dill, and osetra caviar.  The fish was firm in texture, but I would have liked it to be cooked just a tad longer and served warmer.

The next wine was a natural wine from Ribera, Spain.  It was a 2013 Treixadura (the grape).  The age gave it a complex and smooth flavor experience.

To go with the Spanish wine, we were served a Spanish carabineros (red scarlet prawn).  This was half cooked (“mi cuit” is the French cooking term) and served with fried kombu shreds, sorghum popcorn, whipped bone marrow dots on the side, and a foam of peanut leaf and kefir lime emulsion.

For the full write-up, click here.

Oriole — Chicago (3/2020)

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Oriole opened in Chicago in March 2016 and has become one of the top fine dining tasting menu restaurants (2 Michelin stars) that I had yet to try in Chicago.  It’s located in the West Loop area, and reservations are taken through OpenTable.  It has come up in a few food conversations, so I decided to visit during my recent relatively extended visit to the area. 

Upon arrival in the restaurant’s vestibule, we were offered a glass of either warm cider or Pommeau champagne. We were seated soon after arrival, so we took the beverages to our table.

The entire dining area is adjacent to a large open kitchen.  There was no Chef’s Counter as a seating option, however.  Most tables had a full view of the kitchen area.

I went ahead and ordered the spirit-free beverage pairing.  Since it was the same beverage director as the one who created the pairings at kikko the night before, I was looking forward to the offerings.  The first beverage was called Effervescent.  It was a cocktail of sparkling verjus blanc and a spiced chamomile tea.

The opening dish was Russian osetra caviar with saffron strands, dill,  and fluke tartare lightly dressed with a lemon dressing.  There was a crispy layer underneath.  The dish was finished at the table with a beurre blanc made with reduced Champagne.  There was a pronounced saffron flavor finish on the palate.

The next beverage was called Speckled.  It was made with an apricot tea, vanilla syrup, elderflower, freshly-ground black pepper, and a splash of soda water.

The next course was Fraises des Bois (Spanish wild strawberries) dressed with a pink peppercorn gastrique (caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar and then the desired flavor added).  They were dotted with a chicken liver and foie gras mousse, dusted with powdered crème fraîche and gold dust, and served on a toasted brioche.  This was very good, with nice flavor combinations and textures.

The next dish was Jamon Ibérico bellota wrapped with Marcona almond crisps.  On top were whipped  egg yolks, cheese, fermented honey, candied black walnuts, quince jam, and coriander blossoms.

After finishing the finger food snacks, we were asked to select from an assortment of silverware rests.

The next beverage was roasted barley tea (mugicha), California Cabernet Franc and Merlot verjus, and sparkling French Normandy cider.

The next course featured golden enoki mushrooms (fresh and fried) with a black truffle custard underneath.  Additionally, tarragon and black Périgord truffles were on top. This was finished at the table with a roasted chicken broth steeped with fresh ginger.  There was a spicy finish from the broth that lingered on the palate.

For the full write-up, click here.

kikkō — Chicago (3/2020)

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Underneath a Japanese-style bar called Kumiko, there is a small 8-seat restaurant called kikkō.  Both are from the same group that runs  Oriole (just down the street).  Having only opened in May 2019, kikkō wasted very little time and earned a Michelin star for its tasting menu experience.  Bookings are done through OpenTable.  There are either 2 or 3 seatings per night, depending upon the day of the week.

Since kikkō is below a bar, it is not surprising they have an eclectic offering of cocktails.  In addition to a wine pairing, they have a sake pairing available, as well as a sake and wine pairing option.  They also have a spirit-free pairing done by the same beverage creator at Oriole.  I selected the spirit-free beverages for my dinner.

The first beverage was amazake (rice, water and koji unfermented) and hydrangea leaf tea.

The opening presentation was some lightly-poached Nova Scotia scallops served with Platinum osetra caviar, finger limes, puffed rice and yuzu kōshō on a puffed beef cracker.  This was a nice textural and flavor way to start off. Platinum caviar is a higher, limited grade of caviar based on the hue, size and flavor.

The next dish was Ora King salmon sashimi with a buckwheat and sesame crumble, puffed skin, sea grapes, and housemade togarashi spice (powder of dried chili peppers, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed).  The togarashi gave it some spiciness towards the end.

For the upcoming nigiri dishes, they provided some ginger pickled with smoked soy sauce and mustard seed for a palate cleanser.

The beverage pairing for the nigiri was cold-brewed hoshinomura sencha tea. Cold-steeping was used to keep the amount of extracted tannins low.

The first nigiri presented was Hawaiian kampachi (amberjack). This was brushed with white soy and topped with a fermented shishito relish.

Next up was torched madai (sea bream) with smoky rice. It’s sometimes called Japanese red snapper, but it is not part of the snapper family.  It was brushed with shio koji and topped with some fresh wasabi.

For the full write-up, click here.

alo 18th Visit — Toronto (2/2020)

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From season to season, the menu at alo can change quite a bit.  While there are definitley ingredients they like to use that appear consistently on the menu,  I seem always to enjoy the dishes they come up with.  For this visit, I was again booked at the Chef’s Counter, which directly overlooks the kitchen.  Usually, I get seated in the center spot as the 7th seat (Six diners is usually the number they will accommodate, but they will squeeze in a 7th diner if requested.  They do not turn the counter seats during the evening).  For this visit, they only booked six diners (there was another solo diner who was seated earlier), and I had a seat at the end of the counter closest to the main dining room.It was nice to have just a little more space, and I had a slightly different perspective on the kitchen – I was closest to the final assebly area for the dishes (both for the counter and for the Dining Room).

I started off with a new non-alcoholic cocktail that was on the menu called Tropic Thunder.  Prior to this visit, they did not have Seedlip at the bar. I ordered wine for later.

The first bites were a Dungeness crab tart with crème fraîche and an egg foam topping, and goat cheese in in a fried feuille de brick pastry roll (also known as warqa, which is like phyllo).

The next bite was Japanese fluke (hirame) dressed with shiso, and layered atop with jalapeño puree, avocado purée and red shiso leaves.

The next course featured Big-eye tuna tartare.  This was dressed with shio koji and served with watermelon radish, dashi jelly, and celtuce.

Next up was a very nice dish of Koshihikari rice, tossed with fried trumpet mushroom, crème fraîche, and topped with a porcini mushroom Hollandaise sauce and puffed rice.

My next beverage was the 2017 Heidi Schrock Sauvage Muskateller from Austria.

The next dish was Nova Scotia poached lobster with potato foam, little neck clams and a shellfish emulsion underneath, polenta chips, and confit Yukon gold potatoes.

For the full write-up, click here.

momofuku ko 34th Visit — New York City (2/2020)

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I had stopped writing up every visit to momofuku ko, but there were enough notable changes on this visit to make it worthwhile.  Plus, given the pause in queued-up restaurant visits, I have the time.  For this visit, I chose to go for a Sunday luncheon instead of dinner.  The menu is generally the same, and it’s a little more relaxed since no seats are turned, and it’s the last service of their “work week”.

They always have a non-alcoholic shrub available now, so I started with a pineapple-pepper shrub.

The starting bite was the familiar pomme soufflé.  This time, the crispy potato puffs were filled with sour cream and topped with chives.

The next snack was a scallop doughnut lightly brushed with a slightly sweetened glaze and served warm.  IN the past, this has come later in the sequence, but it worked fine here as a change in flavors and textures for the palate.

The familiar lobster paloise was next.  It was a crispy roll  with lobster, mint sabayon and Thai basil.

For wine, I ordered the 2004 Corbineau Cabernet Franc.  However, they decided to let me try a Chenin Blanc they had open to go with the earlier part of my meal.

The next dish was cured mackerel, soy-pickled turnip, toasted nori, sushi rice, and a broth made from the bones and head of the mackerel.

Up next was the chickpea hozon (fermented chickpea purée – a momofuku specialty) with Maine uni and Spanish olive oil. Even though this is a regular menu item, it was not a part of my meal a couple of month ago.

The next course was also a menu regular:  Ko egg (soft-cooked and smoked) with Japanese plum vinegar, fingerling potato chips, onion soubise, golden Kaluga caviar sourdough bread, cave-aged butter (aged for six months in a Brooklyn cheese cave). I always enjoy having this.

At this point, they went ahead and poured my glass of the 2004 Corbineau Cabernet Franc.

The next dish was brand new to me.  It was American wagyu (from upstate New York) and foie gras, both very lightly grilled and served into a bowl with green peppercorn dashi.  This was very good. The spiciness lingered on a bit after finishing the dashi. The dish was a little reminiscent of the thin-sliced sirloin au poivre they used to serve (which I liked, but stopped because the food inspectors said they couldn’t use the yakitori grill  for lack of meeting requirements for its use).

The next course featured Dungeness crab with brown rice and bourbon.  This dish should have come across better, but my palate had not yet recovered from the spiciness of the prior dish. That’s not the fault of this specific dish, which I thought was nicely prepared.

For the full write-up, click here.

15 Stamford by Alvin Leung — Singapore (2/2020)

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Alvin Leung has a few outposts in Singapore. I think this is the most high-end one, although it is nowhere near as pricey (or the meals as elaborate) as Bo Innovation, his 3-star Michelin restaurant in Hong Kong (which I have visited a few times).  The restaurant is located in The Capitol Hotel Kempinski.  They offer a full a la carte menu, as well as 4- or 5- course set dinner menus. Online reservations are handled through the Chope application.

The Dining Room and Bar share an updated, semi-colonial space.  Modernist instrumental music plays in the background.

I opted for the 5-course set dinner menu for the evening.  For a beverage, I selected a cocktail of white sky tea with yuzu tonic.

The meal began with an amuse bouche of lobster espuma with deep-fried prawns.

The first dish from the menu was Hokkaido scallop ceviche, served with plum jelly and plum pieces. The dish was on the sweet side a bit.

The next dish was grilled foie gras with polenta and pineapple served three ways:  espuma, purée, and compote.

For the full write-up, click here.

Nouri 4th Visit — SIngapore (2/2020)

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Even though it was Valentine’s Day, Nouri did not have a special or set menu.  They still offered the three options of a short, long, and Omakase menu.  Some of the dishes will be found across all of the menu choices.  As usual, I went with the omakase menu, where I don’t know exactly what I will be served.

To start off with a beverage, I went with green tea.

The meal starts as it always does with rye bread, silken cheese (in the style of silken tofu, but made with whole milk mixed with a little egg to form a panna cotta or chawanmushi), Spanish olive oil, and balsamic and vegetable broth (made from 7 local-sourced vegetables from their farm) on the side.  This celebrates the gathering together of friends and family to share a meal.

The next course had two parts.  First was a Chinese bitter gourd salad with fermented black bean sauce, mint oil, fresh mint, and cocoa nibs that was spicy and bitter and then slightly sweet.  Next to it was kimchi with Asian pear and tiger abalone with daikon granita, which was tart, cold and refreshing.  The range of flavors served to awaken the palate very well.

The next dish was hamachi (yellowtail amberjack) with ponzu, wasabi oil, and osetra caviar.  A chilled onion consommé was poured at the table.

The next dish featured raw Japanese sweet prawn with pickled fennel flower, pickled rose, mala oil (as spicy Szechuan oil),mint oil, citron oil and herbaceous oil. Puffed grains for crunch also garnished the dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

Chef’s Table by Chef Stefan 7th Visit — Singapore (2/2020)

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On this trip to Singapore, I had decided originally to skip my visit to Chef’s Table, as I had other bookings for dinners.  However, at the last minute, I saw they were offering a lunch service on Valentine’s Day, so I decided to book that.  Normally I don’t do a tasting menu lunch and tasting menu dinner on the same day anymore.  But I knew the lunch was going to be a set menu that was shorter that what I normally would get.

I started off the meal with a Seedlip 108 and tonic cocktail.  Bread and butter were brought out soon after being seated.

The menu presentations started off with Hokkaido scallop served raw with trout roe, oxalis, sorrel, yuzu, grapes, marinated seaweed, and tobiko infused with wasabi.  The grapes gave a nice sweetness balance to all the other savory and herbaceous flavors.

The next dish was Argentinian prawns served with room temperature angel hair pasta, a Thai-flavored cream, lobster bisque, lotus root chips, and coriander.  This was a nice mixture of texture contrasts.

For the full write-up, click here.

Florilège — Tokyo (1/2020)

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Florilège is a 2-star Michelin restaurant that showed up on my radar a few years ago. I saw that it was available for a booking with a pre-paid reservation on the Pocket Concierge service and made a reservation.  It’s located on a small street about a 10-minute walk from the nearest subway station.  It can be found on the basement level of a low-rise commercial building (it took me a few minutes to find it once I got to the address).  They offer a single tasting menu for the evening, and the seating is a U-shaped counter surrounding the kitchen area.  They have English-speaking staff.

Instead of showing me a wine list, they asked me what I liked to drink.  This isn’t me preferred way of selecting a wine, but I went ahead and said French Chardonnays like Meursault.  They selected a  2013 Chassagne-Montrachet for me.

The opening dish was an amuse-bouche of sweet potato that was smoked with and served on Hojicha tea. 

The next presentation was raw sweet shrimp with roasted tomato ice cream.  The sweetness of the tomato complimented the shrimp flavor.  This was a good dish to open up the palate.

The next course had two parts.  First, they brought out a milk skin and shiso butter steamed bun.  This was to be eaten with the plated mackerel, black truffle, and bleu cheese sauce.  I thought there were too many distinct flavors trying to blend together.

For the full write-up. click here.