Stone Flowere — Chicago (8/2019)

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The chef at the newly opened Stone Flower is the same chef that was behind the 2-star Michelin 42 grams that closed a few years ago (The story behind 42 grams is well-documented in the film “42 grams” available on Netflix).  As 42 grams was one of my all-time favorite restaurants, I had to make way to Chicago to try it out when a friend said he was going to be there on business.  Stone Flower operates on a pre-purchased ticket system for the meal through the SevenRooms reservation system.  When we booked, they were offering two seating times—they have since gone to one seating per evening at 6pm around the counter of 12.  Afterwards, diners are invited into the parlor, if they desire, for after-dinner drinks.  In our case, we had booked a later seating and when the time came, they opted not to change our seating time.  So, there was just the two of us for dinner.

The first beverage was a “garden” (herbaceous) gin with yuzu juice, lemon verbena syrup (house made), and rose hip soda (house made).  This was topped off with cucumber foam, dehydrated cucumber pieces, and basil blossom flowers.

The first course was snail caviar with some brown butter powder and tofu mixed with perilla oil.  This was garnished with freeze-dried cucumber balls.  This was a nice herbaceous combination with the paired beverage to start off the menu.

The next wine was a Portuguese Alvarinho.

The next bite was yuzu curd set on fried phytoplankton and topped with citrus marigold.  We were instructed not to eat the moss underneath.

The pairing for this dish was a wine called Roditis from Greece, with an earthy aroma, but having a bright, acidic flavor.

The next bite was skate cheek, just lightly poached (preserving the tender and moist texture) and served on top of celery juice and stalk mixed with lemon verbena.  Around it was a purée made from celery root cooked with brown butter and cream that was smoked with applewood.  This was garnished with celery strips and elysium flowers.

The next wine was from Slovenia.  It was a pink Pinot Grigio.

The next course was Faroe Islands salmon which had been brined in a Lapsing souchong tea.  This was torched and then a beer vinegar glaze applied.  On top was some fried corn silk, smoked trout roe, corn silk tea mousse, jicama pickled/compressed in sudachi, and hoja santa leaf. Some very nice flavors were melded together in this dish.

For the full write-up, click here.

Alinea 2nd Visit — Chicago (8/2019)

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My first visit to Alinea was about 5 years ago.  Then it was the original version.  I thought the food overall was fine, but I had found the experience okay.  I wanted to like the restaurant a lot more because I thought what the chef was trying to do was very much in line with what I was looking for in a food experience.  Since that visit, Alinea has had a makeover with a remodeling of the interior and reformatting of the menu options.  It still holds a 3-star Michelin rating.  The upstairs Salon rooms offer a multicourse menu to parties of 1 and higher with somewhat staggered reservations throughout the evening.  The Gallery Room downstairs offers a longer menu for parties of 2 and higher with a single seating time. In the past, the restaurant did not take reservations for solo diners.  They now will take one solo diner per evening in a Salon Room at 8 pm.  It turns out that the table is a normal 2-top, but they only will seat one person  at that time because they change the room around for the later seatings to accommodate a larger party.  Doing so changes the configuration and the service flow through that room such that a 2nd diner at that table would be in the way of the serving staff.

There is no printed wine list.  If you do not choose a wine pairings option (they had a non-alcoholic option for only a week), you can order a glass of wine.  What is offered changes from evening to evening, so diners have to speak to the sommelier about what they like or want to have, and the sommelier suggests a selection for you. They selected a 2016 Russian River Chardonnay for me.

They opened with caviar suspended in white sesame yogurt inside a cocoa butter shell flavored with spring onions.

The next course was jumbo white asparagus made into an ice cream.  This was served with flecks of basil, manuka honey, and pieces of chiffon cake.  There was also a piece of cassava-based Parmesan cheese bread. This was a pleasant blend of cold and hot, and sweet and salty with a combination of different textures.

The next several dishes were served simultaneously.  There was squid salad with a little green papaya salad.

The light green presentation was young coconut with horseradish cream, bits of cucumber, and succulent leaves (soft and juicy in texture).

This was a lobster parfait with carrot and passion fruit sorbet, topped with anise.  In the background was octopus served Korean BBQ style (at room temperature).

The warm soup was shrimp and coconut with red curry.

On the crystal crab dish was Dungeness crab with coconut pudding and mustard seed.

Finally, on the glowing bowl with ice was compressed chilled Japanese melon.  This was compressed in its own juice.

For the full write-up, click here.

Eden Hill 5th Visit — Seattle (7/2019)

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The Grand Tasting menu is normally 12-15 courses.  After I sat down, they said they were planning on about 20 courses, one of the longest menus they have done to date.  I was the only one doing the big menu for the 5pm seating.  The restaurant will be changing soon, when the new, more casual, sister restaurant opens a block away.  At that point, Eden Hill will no longer offer an a la carte menu. 

I started out with a Celery Blossom Spritz, followed by a glass of the Columbia Valley 2010 Riesling (which I had tried before).

The first snack was Willapa Bay, Washington oyster, served cold with pickled foie gras, herbs and an apple cider mignonette.

The next snack was a savory mini doughnut with a tomato jelly filling (there was some sweetness from the jelly).

The next snack was a smoked cucumber mousse with herbs, watermelon radish, lemon, and pickles.

This “tea” was a slightly sweet warm nori broth served with a King salmon saumon fumé and ginger cookie.

The next dish was a King crab salad topped with pickled kohlrabi, herbs, olive oil and shallots.

The bread course was a toasted slice served with chicken liver mousse and compressed cherries.

Next course was a play on Salade Niçoise.  The salad had green beans, dehydrated niçoise olives, raw radishes, pickled celery, brioche crouton, confit turnips, and a smoked halibut dressing.  It was accompanied by a very tender braised brisket.

The Eden Hill Waldorf salad was next with three forms of a smoked blue cheese from Portland: fresh pieces, cookie crumbles and foam.  Candied walnuts, pickled celery, dehydrated brioche, and dried grapes were also included as always.

The next course was added to the menu that evening – Duck egg chawanmushi.  The custard was topped with seared foie gras, pickled mushrooms, a balsamic glaze, and white truffles.

I switched to an “old vines” 2016 French Cabernet Franc.

For the full write-up, click here.

 

The Musket Room — New York City (6/2019)

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The Musket Room is a restaurant that I ran across in a newsletter listing of ‘must try’ places in New York City. It is located just off of Spring St., in the NoHo/Little Italy areas. The restaurant uses Resy for booking services and has been awarded one Michelin star. The theme for the cuisine is New Zealand, and they offer a short story and long story versions of tasting menus. They describe themselves as a modern take on homestyle New Zealand cooking. The opening page of the menu introduces their concept, and the subsequent pages show the current seasonally-based short and long menu options, as well as a shorter 3-course, diner’s choice option.

I chose the long story (of course). I also talked to the sommelier about a glass of wine. Since the “Man O’ War” did not specify a grape, I had to ask (plus, it had some age to it, which always interests me, particularly for whites). She described it as a uniquely flavored blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. That was good enough for me.

Powhiri (Welcome)
The long story starts out with a few small bites . From the right: pea with lemon aioli, white and green asparagus tart, corned beef croquette topped with smoked cheese. This was a tasty start for the palate.

Kaimoana (Fruit of the Sea)
The next presentation was raw East Coast oysters with yuzu mignonette and trout roe. There was a little dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect and to keep things cold.

The next dish featured raw diver scallops with a dashi gel, aged soy sauce, and Asian pears. This was finished with horseradish yogurt snow at the table (and more dry ice or liquid nitrogen for effect).

This Kaluga caviar tart was filled with layers of confit egg jam, chives, Greek yogurt, and shallots, and topped with gold leaf. The tart shell was thin but firm. The flavors were very nice together, very much mimicking the flavors of having caviar the traditional way (except for no toast points).
They provided a rehydrated towelette to help with finger cleanup.

The last Kaimoana dish was freshwater crayfish (koura), pickled ramps, fresh watercress and finished with warm watercress soup at the table. The flavors didn’t come forward much for me, and there was a strange saltiness to it.

Papatùànuku (Fruit of the Land)
The bread was a smoked Hangi sourdough. Hangi is the Màori term for cooking in a pit with hot rocks or other material. To go with the bread, I was served a house-made tiki-shaped cultured butter with sea salt, smoked ricotta cheese with citrus olive oil, and chicken liver mousse with fried rosemary. This was all very good.

For the full write-up, click here.

040 at Intersect by Lexus — New York City (6/2019)

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The restaurant at Intersect at Lexus appeared in an email listing some interesting places to dine in New York City. The restaurant is located upstairs in a Meatpacking District building used by Lexus as a center for artistic and cultural expression. It’s one of three centers around the world that they operate, and this one is the first with a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant is run in collaboration with the Union Square Hospitality Group. Their intent is to rotate chefs every 4-6 months. For this current iteration, the chef (Sergio Barroso) is from Madrid and operates a restaurant called 040 in Santiago, Chile. Reservations are made through Resy.
I was told that no silverware would be used with the meal.

They have a counter which overlooks the large kitchen area. I was seated at one end of it.

The White Rioja I selected to have with dinner was a Rioja by region only, I was told that the grapes used were not the typical ones used. It was very different and a nice accompaniment with the meal.
The first bite was an ossobuco-style shank dumpling with quail egg and ponzu gel. A smoked beef broth was in the pot and meant to be consumed afterward.

The next presentation was salmon sashimi marinated in the Peruvian ceviche sauce called leche de tigre (charcoal oil, fish stock, citrus and spices) and truffle oil. The center was garlic ice cream on a stick with wasabi balsamic and fried almonds underneath. On the side, there was a little avocado wasabi. This was a mellow blend of savory flavors, with the almonds providing nice texture.
The next course was inspired by the beach. Chilled mussels and octopus rested in a bed of cotton candy. I was told to wrap it up with the cotton candy like a taco to eat. It was sweet and then spicy. The Bloody Mary chaser to the was to cleanse the palate at the end.

This small roll was formed with a beet-marinated daikon radish strip. Inside at the bottom was a creamy paella made with Italian rice, layered with Hamachi and miso mayonnaise. This was topped with red puffed rice. This was a small and tasty bite.
The next course soon followed. It was a new addition to the menu. The Hamachi nigiri ha d puffed red rice at the bottom. The Hamachi belly was topped with salmon roe.

The next dish was a beef and pork bun with a Spanish pepitoria sauce. This sprayed with a yuzu vinaigrette at the counter that added a light flavor contrast. This was very hot to hold, but fine inside to eat.
The next course was potato gnocchi with Romesco sauce, pork belly, lemon pit puree, pickled daikon, and chili.

For the full write-up, click here.

Atomix 2nd Visit — New York City (6/2019)

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Atomix is still a relatively new restaurant on the scene. Even though they recently were awarded a Michelin star, I was hoping that after my first visit in March, their menu would still be evolving as the seasons changed. I enjoyed the first experience enough even with its flaws that I wanted to see what they would do with a late spring/early summer menu. Since I had planned a visit to New York well in advance, I was able to secure a reservation through Tock right when seats were released for the date and time I wanted (Reservations are released a month at a time on the first day of the prior month and are pre-paid). Diners are seated around a U-shaped counter which encloses the beverage preparation area.
The chef spent time at Jungsik, New York’s 2-star Michelin Korean fine dining restaurant. Atomix presents a seasonal, Korean cuisine-inspired tasting menu. They offer wine pairings with their courses. However, I opted to start the meal with their house-made Magnolia kombucha and then asked them to serve teas from their list as appropriate.

While I was considering the beverage options, I was offered as a small bite soon after being seating. It was white shrimp tartare with pine nuts and fermented white asparagus.

The next small bite was smoked trout roe and rice in a seaweed cracker wrap.
I started off with Magnolia kombucha as a beverage.
As before, each course is preceded by presentation of a card that provided the name of the Korean course. The art on the cards for this menu had the Korean symbols for each course depicted abstractly on one side. Each card listed the principle ingredients followed by discussions covering the history of using the specific ingredients, the sources, the preparation methods, and/or general comments about the menu and the research involved for its creation. Finally, the creator of the serving dish is listed.

The first course was a soup featuring firefly squid seasoned with mirin (sweet rice wine) and Yondu (a seasoning derived from simmered vegetables). With it was fermented chickpea with squid, beech mushroom and more mirin and Yondu. At the counter, they finished with squid soup (a squid dashi seasoned with dried anchovy, garlic, scallions and mirin).

For the full write-up, click here.

For the write-up from the first visit, click here.

The Clove Club 8th Visit — London (5/2019)

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As a change of pace, and because of my flight schedule, I made a dinner reservation at The Clove Club instead of the usual lunch visit. In terms of the food, it is generally the same as the long lunch menu on the weekends. I was at the bar for the meal. The differences were that I had to go through a lighting change as the evening progressed and dinner reservations are prepaid when the reservation is made.

Before starting in with the non-alcoholic pairings, I ordered a glass of the South African Chenin Blanc to go with the small bites.
The experience started off with a melon granita with ham gelée, charcoal cream, elderflowers and gazpacho reduction. This was a refreshing beginning.

The next bite was spider crab tart with elderflower hollandaise and devil spices. On the side was a trout belly tartare with crème fraiche and Sancho pepper.
The next bite was the familiar (and always good) buttermilk fried chicken with pine needle salt.

Also served very warm was the mushroom haggis bun with cider vinegar.
The first menu course was a salad of biodynamic vegetables with a dressing of turnip milk and sesame.
To start the beverage pairing, they served white peony tea made with softened water.

The next beverage was fresh cucumber juice seasoned with mustard seed shrub.
The next course was lightly hay-smoked river trout, toasted almonds, watercress, and ossetra caviar.

The beverage for the next course was chamomile with a little smoked lemon and verjus.

For this course, we start off with Scottish langoustine, served with morels and asparagus.
This was soon followed by ancient proto-grains noodles from Orkney with langoustine broth. This had an especially good flavor.

For the full write-up, click here.