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.

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.

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.

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.

Kanda — Tokyo (1/2020)

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Kanda is a 3-star Michelin restaurant that has earned this award for 11 consecutive years.  In a city with more Michelin stars than any other in the world (and the most 3-star restaurants), it was the first 3-star meal in Tokyo for me.   It is named for Hiroyuki Kanda and not for the district in Tokyo of the same name.  Kanda was not originally on my agenda when I planned my trip to Tokyo.  However, when I ran into difficulty attempting to book my intended restaurant, I started looking at alternatives.  It can be challenging to make reservations at many top Japanese restaurants, as they often do not book online or only accept reservations from a local resident or hotel.  I used an online service called Pocket Concierge which shows availability at restaurants and can book them for you (often pre-paid).  Kanda uses Pocket Concierge and had a time slot available on the evening I wanted.  Upon confirming the booking, Pocket Concierge charged me for the cost of the food menu plus service charge and tax.

Kanda is located on a side street in a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood.  There are eight seats at the counter in front of the prep area.  The chef/owner himself prepares many of the dishes with his staff.  There is only one menu offered, and there is no printed menu.

The meal started off with crispy fried Hiroshima oyster and fried fava bean.  While I am used to having oyster as a starter, it’s usually not in a cooked or fried dish.  This was good, but it wasn’t really a palate awakener.

The next dish was raw Japanese langoustine, served with red salt and plum sauce.  The langoustine had a delicate flavor.  The salt and plum sauce enhanced the flavor experience and did wake up my palate.

The next course was a salad made with fried shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, sesame sauce, and Japanese spinach.  This was composed with a pleasing combination of textures.

The next dish featured steamed turnip with red snapper inside, yuzu sauce, and fresh wasabi on top. This was served very hot, so it was a nice temperature contrast to have at this point.

The next course was fugu (blowfish/pufferfish) sashimi, served with fresh wasabi, salt and seaweed.  The slices of fish were a little tough and chewy, which surprised me.  To the side was fugu skin and milt, with warm bottarga (salted and cured fish roe) on top.  These were expertly prepared with no residual toxin at all (I wasn’t expecting any), as I didn’t feel even a little tingling after finishing the course.

For the full write-up, click here.

Kitchen Table 27th Visit for New Year’s Eve Dinner — London (12/2019)

For as many times as I’ve dined at Kitchen Table, I had never gone to their New Year’s Eve dinner event.  Normally, I don’t do these kinds of things anyway.  Also, most of the time, I have chosen to be somewhere warmer rather than colder if I’m going to travel anywhere during this time.   But I decided that if I’m ever going to attend a New Year’s Eve dinner event, the place I’m most likely to have a great time would be at Kitchen Table. 

They only have 20 seats, and there’s only one seating, so it can be difficult to secure a spot (I had a little help).  The dinner seating was for 8pm and would end just before midnight (glass of Champagne for the midnight toast included).  The menu required prepayment to secure the booking (excluded service).  Any beverages would be paid for at the conclusion of the evening.

The evening began with a Martinez cocktail for an apéritif upon being seated. It’s part Manhattan and part Martini, comprised of gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and bitters.

The first food offering was presented soon after.  It was a chilled Windsor carrot soup (pure, with no seasoning), served with  force-grown rhubarb granita and purée, sour cream, and fresh carrot and leek oil.  Force-grown rhubarb is raised in a shed with candlelight in Yorkshire. This was a very nice fresh start for the palate.

I did not go for the wine pairings for this dinner,  I chose to start off with a 2015 1ier Cru Chablis.

The first course that we were all served simultaneously was a variation on the signature crispy chicken skin and mascarpone dish.  We were served a waffle, some crispy chicken skins, wild bird liver parfait (pheasant, red-wing partridge, mallard, wood pigeon) , bacon jam, and rosemary mascarpone with thyme.  We were instructed to combine everything together, although I was a bit of a traditionalist and did the waffle with the parfait and the chicken skin with the mascarpone and bacon jam.

The next course combined two elements.  First, Parker House rolls were served with white Alba truffle garlic butter.  We were also served a quail egg with crispy potato, black garlic, balsamic, onion, and chervil.

The next dish was Cornish squid (sliced into thin noodles) cooked gently in coconut oil.  On top was a coconut sauce (made with coconut, lime, and chicken fat) and a serving of English caviar.

The next course featured pan-roasted hand-dive Orkney scallop, Jerusalem artichoke purée, compressed apple, dashi, scallop roe, and juniper sprigs for garnish.

For the full write-up, click here.

Californios 2nd Visit — San Francisco (12/2019)

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After my first visit to Californios, I decided I wanted to come back relatively soon to see what a second meal experience would be like.  Often, it’s the second visit that determines whether I like a restaurant or not because there is less novelty on a return, and I can get a sense of how consistent the experiences can be.  Since it’s local to me, I just had to fit it into a time where their availability matched my non-travel times.  This visit took place about a month after the first visit.

The experience started off again with a glass of a Spanish Pinot noir rosé cava made using the méthode champenoise.

The first presentation was again a small glass of pineapple juice with cinnamon and mint.

Additionally, I ordered a glass of sparkling non-alcoholic Riesling juice to go with dinner.

The food presentations started off with four small snacks:  puffed amaranth cracker with black lime and guajillo (dried mirasol chili)  powder, Toma cheese mousse, and beets; masa harina from Venezuela arepa with persimmon and calabaza squash, black bean; trout roe on top of butternut squash croquette with parsnip and jalapeño salsa, purple masa tostada with smoked trout, winter citrus, horseradish yogurt and fermented daikon.

Next was a chilapita made with squid ink and purple masa tart shell and filled with octopus ceviche and finished with a celery and mint espuma.

The next bite was a purple infladita (corn puff) topped with torched sweet Hokkaido sea urchin, cilantro blossom, white soy glaze, and filled with guajillo chileatole (corn pudding salsa)

This layered dish was a bacalao that starts at the bottom with potato confit. Additional layers were salted black cod, chives and Meyer lemon mousse, and avocado mousse topped with first press olive oil and pickled jalapeño.

For the upcoming taco bar, I was provided with escabeches of ley limes, pickled carrots, and lime-marinated onions. 

The first taco was representative of the Yucatán.  Berkshire pork was barbequed in the style of Cochinita Pibil with hoja santa crema, apple and pickled onions.  The pork was moist, tender and very tasty.

For the full write-up, click here.

momofuku ko 33rd Visit — New York City (12/2019)

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This visit to momofuku ko was in mid-December.  Given the frequency with which I visit, I don’t write-up every dining experience (although I have photos and notes for all visits).  However, there were some menu items which I especially liked, so I decided I would go ahead and write this one up since I hadn’t in a while.

The prior day, I had paid a visit to ko Bar and saw they added a Meursault to their regular wine list.  So, to start the meal, I ordered a glass.

To start off there was the pomme soufflé with a filling of crème fraîche and some chives.  There was also a cheese crisp with Mornay sauce (Gruyère and Parmesan).

This was followed soon by the lobster paloise:  a lobster roll with mint sabayon and Thai basil.

The next course was fluke tartare, served with a shishito pepper and dashi jelly.

The next dish was a salted mackerel sushi roll with pickled turnip greens, toasted nori, and a cup of bone broth served very warm.  It was nice to have a dish with a warm component this soon on a winter menu.

The next bite was a Dungeness crab doughnut, which had a touch of sweetness and  nice textures.

The next dish was the Ko egg:  soft-cooked and lightly smoked with golden beluga caviar, Japanese plum vinegar, onion soubise, chive and chervil salad and fingerling potato chips.  This was accompanied by sourdough bread with butter aged in a cheese cave in Brooklyn for 6 months.

This course featured broken rice with sea urchin and a scallop dashi.  This was served very warm.

The pan-seared striped bass in the next dish was accompanied by nori, confit sunchokes, trumpet mushrooms and a lobster sauce.

For the full write-up, click here.

Eden Hill 7th Visit — Seattle (12/2019)

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My prior visit to Eden Hill was just in late October, so I wasn’t sure how much change to expect on a December menu.  I’m guessing that with the change to tasting menu only format, they have the time and the inclination to make menu changes as the seasonal ingredients and the availability allow.  I again signed up for the Grand Tasting Menu at the Chef’s Counter and the non-alcoholic beverage pairing.

The experience started out with the temporary thyme tattoo (no choice offered this time) along with a small bite with lime gel and mezcal.

Shortly after, I received a shiso poke tempura bite.  I was also poured a glass of the non-vintage French

Crémant, which was very good.

The next small bite was a hay-Smoked chicken beignet, served very warm.

The first beverage pairing was a quince shrub with tonic water and cinnamon and paprika syrup.  The accompanying dish was a fresh brioche with pig’s head porchetta and  housemade pear butter.

The next beverage was a Buddha’s hand shrub.

The dish served was a garden lettuce salad dressed with a bagna cauda vinaigrette and topped with pecorino air, thyme-cooked breadcrumbs, gremolata, fresh flowers, and torched sardines.  This had very nice fish, with good flavors, and textures with some crunch.

The next pairing was a baked apple shrub.

This dish featured a foie gras mousse pie made with a salted buckwheat crust and a huckleberry reduction.  This was a nice flavor change to have after the sardines.

For this dish, the beverage was a madrone bark and chamomile tea with lemon.

The dish itself was butter-poached and roasted pumpkin with a luscious comté cheese cream sauce.  This was topped with burgundy black truffles and kale.

FOr the full write-up, click here.