Magnum pop-up at Royal T- Uni tasting dinner

The Magnum crew duo that is Chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell did their 3rd installation of dinner pop-ups recently at Royal T in Culver City, an event that showcased Mahon’s creativity in contemporary cuisine and Haskell’s keen talent for superb wine pairing.  All 3 nights of this pop-up dinner event offered tasting menus of 5, 7 or 9 courses that featured stellar creations like miso cured hanger steak and potato chip soup in addition to grass-fed beef sliders and oysters with brown butter as bar bites.

Wine, beer and sake pairings for each dish were carefully chosen by David Haskell who has worked at reputable establishments like Le Cirque and Aquavit.  Each pairing, which he poured and introduced himself for each diner at Royal T, had a specific vision and effect that he wanted the diners to experience.  Whether it was for the wine to draw out the sweetness of the fruits on the plate or for the sake to make a bold contrasting statement to the protein, each pairing had a story to tell.

On the last of the 3 nights, a special 8 course uni tasting dinner was offered to celebrate the sommelier’s birthday.  The Santa Barbara uni extravaganza was an ode to his mother Liz Haskell, a well known uni aficionado and enthusiast who was in attendance that evening.  Friends and family came out to celebrate Haskell’s birthday on this final night of a successful run where the Magnum crew donated 5% of dinner proceeds to the Japan Sake Brewers Association.  The servers also donated 10% of tips for this cause to support Japan earthquake and tsunami relief, an amazing show of generosity and good will.

The uni tasting began with a variation of the cured Thai snapper amuse bouche that was served on the previous nights.  The same luscious pieces of fish were now served wrapped around Japanese shrimp chips with pea sprouts and leek emulsion.

Santa Barbara uni on oysters with soy mignonette was my favorite uni course of the evening.  The simple, unadulterated briny flavors were harmonious with the acidity and minerality of N.V. Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay.

Uni draped over tuna tartare with creamy dashi aioli and nori flecks was also a delicious dish, paired with a 2006 Château Giraud G Bordeaux Blanc Sec.

Uni tartine came as geometric contemporary pieces of bright orange uni juxtaposed against round cucumber balls on brined halibut with a dash of ponzu sauce.  Haskell paired these with a 2005 Schoffit Vieilles Vignes, an Alsatian Chasselas.

The Uni cauliflower royale was served in both tasting menus, a glass filled with layers of uni, creamy cauliflower royale, fennel, diced apple, apple and cucumber foam and nori.  The 2009 Riviera Ligure di Ponente, an Italian Pigato, worked well to draw out the sweetness of the apples.

Uni and bone marrow pizza was paired with a 2005 FX Pichler Riesling Smaragd Oberhauser from Austria.

For the first of the 2 meat courses, Chef Mahon used uni with a Bordelaise sauce to flavor veal and shiitake mushroom tempura, a dish that was paired with a 2003 Jacques Puffeney Vieilles Vignes Arbois rouge.

For the venison dish with uni risotto and shiso pepper sauce, Haskell brought a 2004 Marc Sorrel Hermitage Syrah to complement the protein.

Yuzu crème brûlée was served for dessert again with poached apricots and kumquat, this time the caramelized crust done well.  This final dish was paired with Damien Delecheneau’s 2009 Domaine La Grange Tiphaine Rose Touraine Riage Tournant.

The uni tasting menu offered 7 interesting interpretations of the popular ocean delicacy, with the most simplest being my favorite- coupled with a delicate oyster with a dash of soy.  David Haskell’s wine pairings were impressive, his selections complementing Mahon’s food in the most pure, clean and unobtrusive manner to allow the uni to take center stage and shine.  It was a wonderful fun evening with great music from a live DJ and incredibly professional staff maintaining perfect flow of service.

The Magnum crew allowed me to work with them to set up a silent auction event to raise money for the Japan Sake Brewers Association.  With the incredible generosity and support from our friends in the food and beverage industry in Los Angeles, we were able to offer amazing auction items like tasting dinners with Chef Fabio Viviani, Starry Kitchen, The Thompson Hotel and Guelaguetza.  David Haskell auctioned precious wines from his personal cellar, including a 1983 Pothier Rieusset Les Rugiens, while California winery Presqu’ile donated 2 personalized signed bottles of wine and Rosso Wine Shop donated a private wine session.  Local bloggers MyLastBite, Ravenous Couple and Glutster showed their support by auctioning specialized food tours, and artisans Sugarbird Sweets, Scoops Westside and soba teacher Sonoko Sakai volunteered their crafts and goods.  Curious Palate chipped in with a gift certificate, and the amazing meat mavens Lindy & Grundy will be conducting a private one on one butchering lesson for the lucky auction winner next week.  Even Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry donated a personalized signed copy of the French Laundry Cookbook for the auction, which they kindly sent all the way to Japan for a Japanese bidder.  Beloved local chefs have also shown their generosity by offering to do private cooking classes and dinners- Chef Laurent Quenioux, Chef Christian Page of the Daily Dose, Chef Michael Voltaggio, Chef Walter Manzke and Chef Craig Thornton.

As if helping with Japan relief efforts and donating dinner proceeds wasn’t enough, the dynamic Magnum duo have donated their time and services to do 2 private pop-up dinners as a part of the silent auction, the first dinner occurring this weekend.  With the incredible support of all of these people and more, we were able to raise $12,000 to donate to the Japanese sake industry.  Thank you very much to everybody who was a part of this amazing collaborative effort!

Magnum crew

Random trivia: Did you know that the name urchin is an old name for the round spiny hedgehogs that sea urchins resemble?

Magnum pop-up dinner at Royal T

Many people in the food and beverage industry in Los Angeles have stepped up to show their love and support for Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunamis shattered the country on March 11.  The Magnum crew pair of Chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell was no exception.  The dynamic duo recently ran a pop-up dinner event in Culver City, the third installation after successful runs at Biergarten and Pal Cabron.  This time the pop-up dinner was at a Japanese cosplay maid cafe called Royal T, a most fitting backdrop for Chef Mahon’s inventive menu and Magnum’s efforts to raise money for Japan relief.

Chef Joseph Mahon, former executive chef of Bastide, incorporated hints of Japanese ingredients like miso, nori, dashi and yuzu both in his colorful tasting menu and the bar bites menu.  Dinner tastings were offered as 5, 7 or 9 courses with or without wine pairings.  His Magnum partner David Haskell brought life to each delicious plate with his brilliant wine, beer and sake pairings that together with the food narrated a beautiful story.  For 3 consecutive nights, the venue came alive with vivid installations of interactive kitschy art, funky pop music spun by a live DJ in the lounge and the friendly staff all sporting Magnum T-shirts.

The Magnum crew was kind enough to collaborate with me in fund raising efforts to donate to a wonderful charity in Japan.  The catastrophe of March 11 that has already claimed more than 14,000 lives also devastated the Japanese sake industry.  Sake has deep historical and religious roots in Japanese culture, and the fact that more than 200 breweries were affected (some completely destroyed) by the natural disasters will affect the country’s traditions, culture and economy forever.  Mahon and Haskell pledged to donate 5% of dinner proceeds to the Japan Sake Brewers Association.  In fact, the entire Magnum pop-up crew came together as one for this wonderful cause, with the staff also contributing 10% of their tips to the Japanese charity fund.

Chef Mahon started the tasting dinner with a delicious amuse bouche of cured Thai snapper with crumbled shrimp chips and pea sprouts.

Oysters were served warm with a generous drizzle of brown butter and lemon sauce, and crunchy green cucumber balls for textural contrast.  This dish was paired with a German Riesling, Von Buhl Brut from Bad Dürkheim.

Crispy salty potato chips imparted crunchy texture and playfulness into the potato chip soup with ramps and cucumber, and it was the luscious piece of fried oyster that was the shining star of the dish.  This was paired with a 2008 Slovenian Pinela from winemaker Ivan Batic.

Mahon’s Fennel Royale layered slick pieces of sweet sea urchin with apple foam, creamy fennel royale and flecks of nori powder.  The intense acidity of the paired 2009 Ligurian Pigato from Riviera Ligure di Ponente, Italy enhanced the fruity sweetness of the dish.

Silky crispy tofu with sunflower seed crust was accentuated with pickled vegetables, cilantro and dashi emulsion.  The pairing of Hitachino Nest White Ale was lovely, especially as it represented Ibaraki prefecture in Japan, one of the affected regions in the earthquake and tsunami.

Tender tuna slices encased around jicama, crab and mango were flavored with spicy mayonnaise and paired with a French 2008 Chenin Blanc from Francois Pinon ‘Silex Noir’.

Braised baby octopus with a nice subtle char on its surface was mounted on a creamy leek risotto with shaved cashews and a drizzle of savory pancetta vinaigrette.  A 2009 Jean-Paul Brun Chardonnay was paired with this dish.

Perfectly cooked moist ocean trout with lobster jus, garnished with fresh peas, pea sprouts, mint and oyster mushrooms, was paired with a 2009 Jean-Paul Brun ‘Villes Vignes’ Gamay.

Grass fed beef sliders with bibb lettuce and chipotle aioli were served both as bar bites and as adjuncts to the tasting menu on the first evening.  Cooked medium rare, perfectly moist and packed with flavorful juices, these sliders were beautifully done and one of my favorite dishes of the evening.  Haskell did a playful pairing with Kikusui Funaguchi Junmai Ginjo sake from Niigata prefecture in Japan, again one of the prefectures affected by the earthquake.

One of the other standout hits of the evening was Chef Mahon’s miso cured hanger steak, tender cuts of beef fully infused with the sweet earthy aromas of miso, plated with creamed spinach, shiitake mushroom tempura, sesame seeds and ponzu sauce.  The meat was paired with a 2008 Domaine de Majas ‘Three Trees’ Grenache-Carignan red.

The tasting menu ended with a yuzu crème brûlée topped with poached apricots and halved kumquats, paired elegantly with Damien Delecheneau’s 2009 Domaine La Grange Tiphaine Rose Touraine Riage Tournant.

The first evening of the pop-up event at Royal T drew in a full crowd, the packed room filled with happy diners who enjoyed Mahon’s food and the service from Haskell who personally poured every glass of wine with an explanation of each food and wine pairing.  Meanwhile, guests perused the silent auction table set up front, put together by the collaborative effort of acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, local artisans and food bloggers who all donated private dinners, gift baskets, dinner certificates and many delicious food and beverage related auction items for bid to raise money for the Japan Sake Brewers Association.  The third and final night of the Magnum Royal T pop up event featured a special uni tasting menu to commemorate David Haskell’s birthday who paid homage to his uni enthusiast mother Liz Haskell.  Details of the uni dinner will follow in the next post.

Magnum events

Royal T

8910 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2326
(310) 559-6300

Random trivia: Did you know that potato chips were invented by Chef George Crum in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York, when he tried to please a customer who sent back his fried potatoes to the kitchen for being too soggy and thick?  These thin crispy delights became a staple on his menu as ‘Saratoga chips’, and the rest is history.

Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Makoto Okuwa

That time of the month has come yet again, the exciting Thursday night Hatchi dinners at the Breadbar in Century City where a guest chef is invited to present 8 dishes for $8 each in a one-night solo venture (Hatchi means 8 in Japanese).  This wonderful event, created by Ironnori concepts in collaboration with the Breadbar, has been on a successful roll for the past year, introducing local chefs to enthusiastic patrons who get the unique opportunity to sample adventurous and innovative cuisine for a bargain price.  In return, chefs experience complete freedom in an open environment where they can push the creative envelope and translate their imagination onto plates while enjoying intimate interactions with diners.  I’ve had some spectacular and memorable dinners at the Hatchi event this past year with chefs Remi Lauvand, Marcel Vigneron, Ricardo Zarate, Saul Cooperstein, Brian Redzikowski and Walter Manzke, and I always look forward to the upcoming events.

I was especially excited for July’s Hatchi dinner called ‘Power of Miso’ by Chef Makoto Okuwa, a Morimoto protégé who began working with the famous Iron Chef in Philadelphia, and has helped to open Morimoto restaurants in New York and Tokyo.  Okuwa, originally from Nagoya, began his culinary career at the tender young age of 15 working in sushi restaurants in Japan.  After gaining a solid foundation in sushi philosophy and execution through his many years of training there, he moved to the US where he learned new ways of putting a creative twist on his food.  His career has skyrocketed through his apprenticeship with Morimoto, learning fun and innovative approaches to arranging traditional Japanese ingredients with local produce.  He recently competed on Iron Chef America, and although the kitchen arena was a comfortable and familiar place for him, having cooked with Morimoto as his sous chef on numerous Iron Chef competitions, he lamentably lost to Michael Symon on a sea urchin battle.   Good fight Makoto-san!

Regardless of the loss, we are proud to have this talented chef in our city where he can be seen in the kitchens of Sashi sushi and sake lounge in Manhattan Beach.  As executive chef, he brings his traditional Japanese training as a sushi chef, his avant-garde execution learned under Morimoto, and the intensity and precision required of working in a pressured Iron Chef environment all together into one beautiful restaurant space that is graced with a sensual yet confident touch unique to Makoto Okuwa.  Sashi stays more true to traditional flavors, offering robata-yaki items and sushi, but in the Hatchi event he took a more bold approach to give diners a glimpse into the creative direction that he is taking his cuisine.  In true Iron Chef style, he even chose one food ingredient as his dinner theme- miso, fermented soybeans that define the foundation of Japanese cuisine.

The Hatchi events are BYOB but recently the guest chefs have been offering unique one-of-a-kind cocktails that reflect their theme.  For the first time ever, we tried all 3 cocktails at the ‘Power of Miso’ event, and the sensational drinks almost made us forget about our wines.  Okuwa Watermelon, a dainty pink concoction of watermelon juice, shochu, lemon and gomme syrup served in a martini glass, was a tad bit too sweet for me, but the familiar Japanese flavors in the Shiso Mojito were perfect for our summer al fresco dining experience.  Fresh shiso, yuzu and lime were mixed with rum, cachaça and agave for a vibrant and refreshing drink with an added tart kick and textural gusto from the umeboshi pickled plum and ground white sesame seed shirogoma rim.  My favorite, pictured below, was the Nihon Teien (Japanese garden) with Grey Goose Le Citron, agave, apple juice, fresh cucumber and a zen minimalist landscape of dark green leaves quietly floating on a cloud of cucumber foam. Its serene and enchanting beauty moves me to write a haiku…

Melting frost

the silent quiver of leaves

An uguisu beckons

I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite dish of the evening in a cold fish dish, which is unusual for my warm-blooded carnivorous palate.   A tender and beautifully fatty harami cut of miso butter-poached Loch Duart salmon was served with feta cheese purée, coarse and grainy pesto powder, refreshing tomato foam, kumquat confit and microbasil with plump tomato caviar and feta cream biscuit garnish.  The marriage of Japanese and Mediterranean flavors was a success, especially with the sweetness of the kumquat kinkan bringing everything together and the crunchy pesto powder and delicate saikyo miso chip adding hints of delightful texture to the mix.

Another enjoyable and fun dish was the Asian taco made with tender chunks of smoked lobster, diced donut peaches, pistachio, cold miso frozen yogurt and paddle fish caviar all nestled neatly inside of a hard sweet potato taco shell.  The loud crunch of the sweet crispy shell, a satisfying bite into succulent lobster meat and the tantalizing rush of chilled cream finished off with the saltiness of black caviar pearls, all in celebration of summer peaches at its peak- this delightful dish was a haiku in the making.

A stylized ikameshi came in the form of California baby squid stuffed with crab meat on a carpet of dark seaweed and scallion paste that tasted like Gohandesuyo, a popular nori purée that is frequently enjoyed on a bed of white rice.  A tender cube of sesame and nori crusted tuna, the powerful splash of tangy sumiso or nuta made with vinegar and white miso, a resting twig of salty sea bean at the mercy of a crumpled wakame chip and a side of pickled myoga added dramatic levels of flavors and textures to complement the squid.

Breadbar’s signature epi bread came out warm, soft and pillowy with 3 types of miso butter- white miso, red miso and a barley miso called moromiso.

Who would have ever thought of deconstructing ramen, especially when we love this dish for its signature simplicity of noodles in broth?  Chef Okuwa left the spicy miso broth intact with slivers of kikurage wood ear mushrooms and asatsuki Japanese chives, although he put an enhancing twist on the soup with black sesame paste and lemon verbena.  The noodles in his version of Taiwan miso ramen emerged as compressed round patties that functioned as burger buns for the ground beef steak hamburger, topped with classic ramen garnishes of ajitsuke tamago in the form of a soy marinated quail egg, pea shoots instead of moyashi bean sprouts, thin slices of pink and white naruto fish cake, and chopped bamboo shoot aioli using menma.  This playful slurp-less ramen dish was an absolute joy to figure out and a wonder to devour.

四海巻き ‘Shikai Maki’, which means ‘Four Oceans roll’, is a square-shaped futomaki sushi roll that is often served for special occasions and celebrations in Japan, as its axial cut reveals a unique geometric pattern that depicts the waves of the four oceans of the world.  Instead of traditional ingredients, Okuwa made this Shikai maki with cucumber, tuna and Fontina cheese in a soy paper wrap in celebration of the vibrant colors and flavors of summer- drapings of thinly sliced prosciutto, a dramatic swipe of yellow miso emulsion paint, blood red sriracha dots, splashes of strawberry powder, kidney and garbanzo beans, bitter baby watercress and sprinklings of sweet yellow corn completed the cheerful canvas of summer bounties.

A miso feast is not complete without a dengaku dish, a rustic preparation of grilled vegetables, tofu and meats coated with miso paste.  田楽 dengaku, which means ‘field music’, finds it roots in rice planting and harvesting rituals.  Okuwa took this opportunity to celebrate his Japanese heritage using a trio of miso with various mediums.  A buttery cut of braised Wagyu beef chocked full of tender gelatinous collagen, perhaps from the cheek, melted in my mouth along with a dark red miso that tasted like tenmenjan and a lingering aroma of summer truffles.  A less intense white miso paste found a perfect partner in atsu-age crispy tofu with a garnish of peppery kinome leaf while a cube of polenta and a slice of kabu Japanese turnip celebrated its union with a chorizo moromiso blend.  A thick slice of Japanese eggplant and a miniature cube of konnyaku topped with shichimi togarashi, usual suspects for dengaku dishes, came along for the ride in the nude.

Miso as dessert seemed inconceivable and preposterous, but it actually worked in this dish of caramel miso cream with almond cinnamon crumble, apricot sorbet, buttermilk foam and pistachios.  The miso ice cream in its solitary form was nothing to ride home about, but a magical chemical reaction occurred when consumed with the tartness of apricots and the sweetness of buttermilk.  Somehow the three flavors came together as one to create an exciting and inspirational revelation.

The final dessert didn’t fascinate me like the previous one, but I was amazed with Okuwa’s mastery of miso in both savory and sweet preparations.  Long bars of pliable yuzu curd weaved through a dashing display of bright pink candied raspberries, chocolate sponge cake, sweet miso chips, a dome of white coconut sorbet, cocoa nibs and a sprinkle of dry miso powder.  It was a busy dish with a lot of traffic going in all directions, but every bite was alive with flavor and energy.

In a bold and daring move, Makoto Okuwa took on the challenge of creating 8 savory and sweet dishes of miso, and he emerged an undeniable champion, proving his understanding and mastery of this classic Japanese ingredient.  There were many discerning Japanese diners at the Hatchi event, a tough crowd to please, but both his traditional and radical takes on miso dishes won their hearts over.  An explosion of creativity, an elegant illustration of finesse, a lively parade of artistry and an undeniable demonstration of skill- all in this young, handsome, kind and humble chef who put the sexy back in miso.  His memorable miso event moves me to write another haiku…

Warm salty broth

A loud slurp, a lingering sigh

The power of miso

Breadbar

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 277 3770

Sashi Sushi & Sake Lounge

451 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

(310) 545 0400

Random trivia:  Did you know that miso is made by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans with salt and kojikin, a type of filamentous mold called Aspergillus oryzae?  A. oryzae is also used in the fermentation process to make sake, shochu, soy sauce and rice vinegar, making it the most important Japanese ‘fungus among us’.

Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Brian Redzikowski

“Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one which has rendered us the most important service in civic life”

- Brillat-Savarin, famed French gastronome

I was reminded of this quote of ‘food as art’ while dining at the most recent Hatchi dinner event at the Breadbar which featured my friend Chef Brian Redzikowski, Executive Chef of Bond Street Restaurant at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills.  After being inspired by his creative food at a tasting dinner at Bond Street last year, I knew that his Hatchi dinner would be a special evening.  I gathered a group of food enthusiasts for the dinner, telling them beforehand that this was going to be a good one- a feast for the eyes, a true splendor of elegant aesthetics and a demonstration of fine beauty.

It was only a matter of time before Chef Redzikowski would get his opportunity to shine at the Hatchi dinner series, a wonderful monthly dinner concept of 8 dishes for $8 each by a guest chef.  Le Cirque, Le Bernardin, Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, Alain Ducasse, Matsuhisa, Yellowtail in Las Vegas- sound familiar?  It’s not a list of this year’s best restaurants, its the list of previous stints on Redzikowski’s impressive bio.  With brother Frank Redzikowski, another distinguished chef who now works at the Encore in Las Vegas, at his side for the special one-night event,  Brian was ready to prove his true creative potential.  He even brought his own Bond Street crew, clad in light gray suits, to ensure proper tableside plating for his sophisticated dishes.

Food is art, and cooking is love.

Never have I appreciated this concept more than at this Hatchi dinner named Claustro, which is Latin for ‘barrier’ or ‘lock’.  Indeed, Redzikowski broke the barriers of conventional cuisine to unlock every diner’s heart with his innovative and artistic dishes.  As one of my male dining companions put it, every dish was ” just….simply beautiful.”  For me it went beyond beautiful, and each consecutive plate transported me back to a certain painting which has touched my life with its breathtaking and magnificent artistry.

Pickled daikon radish spears accentuated the three-dimensionality of the large succulent cubes of dark red tuna and bright glowing red watermelon by intersecting them at skewed angled planes.  Geometric dark soy dots, halved cherry tomatoes and green pistachio nuggets added colorful elements to the abstract faceting of reconstructed tuna.  Yet, despite the sharp lines and angles, the delicate tomato water film, so gently and carefully draped over the cubes like silky flowing hair, brought femininity and grace to the plate, like Picasso’s ‘Woman’.   Both conceptually and quite literally, this was Picasso’s cubism interpreted in food.

The tips of the tempura battered squash blossoms, deep fried to a perfect audible crunch, were wonderful dipped into the tangy salsa verde.  Once the tips were consumed, I glimpsed inside of the squash blossom flower petals to find soft wet succulent pieces of sea urchin.  The cross section of the long flowing petals cocooning these little orange tongues reminded me of the subtle eroticism of Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings, like ‘Calla Lillies on Pink’.

The underlying black framework running through the warm color palette, strewn with dynamic splashes of cream in Brian’s unagi dish was reminiscent of ‘Number 8′ by Jackson Pollock.  A neatly organized plate of sweet unagi with fingerling potatoes, Fuji apples and arugula arrived at our table.  Then the Bond Street crew came over with a block of frozen foie gras and started grating it over the plate in wild dynamic strokes, dripping speckles of savory liver paint in a Pollock-esque energetic dance to create edible chaos.  In an instant the lovely aromas of foie gras from the foam and the shavings climbed into our nares, moving us to deconstruct this vibrant canvas with our forks to enjoy the gustatory interplay of sweet, bitter and salty.

Vivid colors and distinct geometric shapes of Kandinsky’s ‘Solid Green’ were reflected in the New Zealand langoustine dish with succulent pieces of the crustacean alongside earthy rancho gordo beans, chives, arugula, thin prosciutto slices and rancho gordo espuma.  Simple visual identification of the rectangular and round forms enticed my inner curiosity, but further observation of how their relative disposition created purposeful harmony on the canvas inspired a deeper appreciation for the artistic creativity of this chef.  The seemingly abstract disjunction of the dish accentuated by the bold forest green parsley sheets was actually a purposeful expression of his vision through color and form.

wassily-kandinsky-solid-green

Chef Redzikowski’s Halibut dish strayed far away from bold displays of colors and shapes to experiment with an understated creation using subtle gradations of soft colors like Mark Rothko’s ‘Number 10′.  A tender and moist square wedge of halibut was plated against a soft background of vertically arranged white sauces, all blending and blurring into one another with refined grace.  Hojiblanca olive oil pudding, olive oil purée and an incredibly flavorful artichoke foam elevated the flavors of the fish, while a splash of olive oil powder rounded them out with finesse, demonstrating that complex flavors and thoughts are sometimes best appreciated through simple expressions.  Each variation of cream colored savor was exquisitely counterpoised against one another in this fine culinary installation of abstract expressionism.

Sous-vide wagyu beef with spring vegetables was a welcomed encore dish from my tasting dinner at Bond Street.  The perfectly medium-rare cuts of beef with a drizzle of veal jus and sea salt sprinkles was indubitably fantastic, but it was the plating of the vibrant spring vegetables, so characteristic of Chef Brian’s style, that awakened memories of when I first admired Henri Matisse’s ‘Le Bonheur de Vivre’, which means ‘The Joy of Life’.  A tender green asparagus spear rested its feet on the soft carrot sphere pillow which glowed with intense orange brightness like the warm spring sun.  Like the playful figures in the painting, an earthy morel mushroom, an aromatic roasted garlic, a sweet cippolini onion, a french onion chip and a miniature bouquet garni all lounged and frolicked on the soft cippolini onion purée lawn as they basked in the idyllic sensuality of an unfettered life.

Matisse._Le_bonheur_de_vivre._1905-1906

Caramel popcorn, preserved cherries, chewy dense caramel nuggets and caramel powder dotted a canvas of incredibly delicious caramel popcorn panna cotta in one of the 2 dessert dishes.  The playfulness seen in the seemingly random yet organized arrangement of colorful sweets evokes the style of Catalan painter Joan Miró as seen in this painting called ‘Women and Birds at Sunrise’.  Bright red tart cherries accentuated the otherwise monotone color palette which excited all diners with the fascinating range of textures, from chewy and sticky to creamy and crunchy.

Joan Miro Oil Painting On Canvas Women and Birds at Sunrise. 1946

All of the dishes were fantastic both in artistry and flavor, but the final dessert dish was the pivotal and defining composition for me.  A glass of vanilla ice cream with sweet drizzles of acacia honey jelly was finished tableside by Bond Street staff with a generous soak of cold Asahi beer to complete the beer float dessert.  Beer with ice cream and honey?  Sensational, delicious, thrilling and fresh.  Somehow the sweetness of the honey muted the alcohol in the beer, leaving behind only the earthy flavors of barley to enhance the luscious vanilla ice cream.  Sipping the infused liquid through a straw highlighted the slightly bitter flavors of the dessert while generous bites of heavenly ice cream and honey with my spoon presented a sweeter interpretation, all the while exciting my senses to this avant garde expression of lager surrealism.  Whose contemporary artistry was this style of pop art reminiscent of?  This dish…was an original Redzikowski.

Look forward to Claustro, a restaurant concept that Chef Redzikowski is working on in Silver Lake.

Breadbar

Century City Mall
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 277-3770

Upcoming Hatchi dinners:

June 24th- Walter Manzke

July 29th- Makoto Okuwa

August 26th- Chicks with Knives

Random trivia:  Did you know that popcorn was the first food to be microwaved deliberately?

Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Eda Vesterman

IMG_2989

The Hatchi dinner series at the Breadbar in Century City, which began in June of this year,  continues in featuring a guest chef every month.  It’s a wonderful 1 night-only event of 8 dishes for $8 each.  After a successful event in September featuring Chef Remi Lauvand, who is now the executive chef at Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach (the new menu features tantalizing French dishes like duck rillette and  house-made pâté de campagne), I was very excited to attend the October event.  The guest chef in October was Chef Eda Vesterman.

Chef Vesterman is known for healthy cooking.  She obtained a masters degree in Nutrition and has worked with several hospitals and medical centers to promote healthy living through smart eating.  Quite different in pedigree and philosophy from the other ‘celebrity guest chefs’ in the Hatchi line-up, I thought she was an interesting choice.

The theme for her dinner was ‘The Four Elements’, reflecting her doctrine of honoring beauty and health in unity with nature’s basic elements.  I was touched by the menu card band, stamped with diagrams of the 4 elements of earth, air, fire and water, which was made with plantable paper embedded with flower seeds.

Representing ‘Water’, we started with sous vide scallops 3 ways.  Each was on a bed of parsnip purée and corn butter, and served with 3 different sauces and matching dyed tobiko.  The red sauce was a tart and sweet raspberry sauce that teetered a bit too much on the sweet.  The yellow smelled and tasted of saffron, and the green, my favorite, a spinach basil sauce with microgreens.  We ordered 2 plates, as there were 4 of us, and found a big difference in plating and garnishing between the 2 orders.

IMG_2996_2

Representing ‘Fire’, the filet mignon medallion with potato squares in a porcini and syrah reduction sauce was perhaps the toughest piece of meat I have ever had in Los Angeles.  The plating was very feminine and cute, but the workout that the meat gave my jaws was no joke.  Although the sauce had a wonderful earthy flavor, the quality of the meat disappointed.  At least we had a beautiful bottle of 2001 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Bosconia” Spanish Rioja to keep our taste buds happy.

IMG_2998Representing ‘Water’ again, was the Dungeness crab cake with grapefruit, mint and avocado.  The moist and tender thick flakes of crab meat were good, and I appreciated the playful presentation.

IMG_3000There were 2 dishes representing ‘Earth’, of which one was the butternut squash and roasted corn fritters with micro celery.  I liked the slight kick that the ancho chili sauce imparted on the light and airy fritters, but I couldn’t help but feel a little unsettled with this dish.  8 gourmet dishes for $8 each is the deal of the century, but 3 bite-size vegetable fritters for $8 seemed a bit ungenerous.  I also thought about what 8 dishes I would serve if I had an opportunity to showcase my talent at such a prestigious event, and I definitely wouldn’t choose to serve fritters.

IMG_3007The best dish of the evening was the other ‘Earth’ dish, a wild mushroom and boucheron lasagna with fresh spinach pasta.  The large succulent meaty chunks of mushrooms were heavenly, and the microgreens with vinaigrette livened up the cream sauce.  We put in 3 orders of this dish, and again each order came with different plating, garnishing and flavoring.  What was going on in the kitchen?

IMG_3002I loved the mini breads that our meal came with, each dusted with flour in the ‘Four Elements’ stencil.  There was pumpernickel, sage, poppy seed and sun dried tomato.  Each chewy doughy piece was saturated with flavor and aroma, and we asked for seconds, and thirds….and fourths.

IMG_3006I was really looking forward to the mini duck burgers, representing ‘Air’, after previewing the menu on Breadbar’s website.  I brought my bottle of Spanish Rioja in anticipation of some good duck.  These duck patties were much leaner and lighter than I had imagined, and didn’t taste too duck-y.  Probably a good thing for those who don’t love duck, but it left me yearning for more.  The menu description read ‘ground lean organic duck breast infused with black tea and a special center on whole wheat brioche’.  So what was the special center?  We didn’t find anything in the middle of any of our patties, so we asked our server, who seemed just as confused.  He returned from the kitchen saying the special item was a ‘garlic confit’, but we still couldn’t see or taste it.  In fact, the patty didn’t really have any taste at all, so it was the tomato salsa that really made and saved the dish.  Or was it a plum salsa?  They had the consistency of plum, a little crunchy, but with a wonderfully deep vinegar flavor that I absolutely loved.  Micro greens seemed to be the consistent theme throughout this dinner, reflecting the micro portions.  Overall, a pleasant slider, but we were surprised that only 1 mini slider came with each $8 order.  Of course, it was only appropriate that we each get our own, so in the end 4 sliders cost us $32.  Doesn’t seem right…  Well, at least our fantastic bottle of 2004 Chateau Haut-Bailly Pessac-Léognan from Bordeaux kept us happy.

IMG_3009The wild berry martini we had for dessert tasted like a cranberry cinnamon Thanksgiving sauce.  Although it wasn’t bad, it felt more like a sauce than a dessert.

IMG_3031The other dessert was a green tea-ramisu ice cream, which had a wonderful dark green tea sauce that combined sweet and bitter very well, although the rock hard solid ice cream almost bent our spoons and our wrists.

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Hats off to Chef Eda Vesterman for putting a lot of thought into creating a healthy and beautiful menu, as this was probably one of the healthiest dinners that I have had in a while.  She showed me that nutritious and well-balanced healthy food doesn’t need to be boring, and that there are infinite possibilities to having fun while eating right.  However, eating right doesn’t mean eating slight, and I wish she would have been more generous with the portions.  One of my fellow diners was upset that the servings were stingy, and wanted to go get a real burger to feel more satisfied.

This Hatchi dinner at the Breadbar was another interesting glimpse and taste into the world of another chef, and I look forward with great anticipation and curiosity to the next events.  I really hope that the Breadbar continues this event every month.  It’s a fantastic concept and a great experience.

November:  Waylynn Lucas

December: Marcel Vigneron

January:  Ricardo Zarate

http://www.breadbar.net/

Random literature:  Ever wonder how Dungeness crabs mate?  It sounds much more exciting than what we humans do.  Here’s an excerpt I found from “Between Pacific Tides” by Ricketts, Calvin, Hedgpeth, and Phillips.  Read it while listening to Barry White.

“Love making in the Dungeness crab takes place soon after the female molts and her shell is soft, but before the male molts and while his shell is hard. First the male embraces the female firmly, belly-to-belly, holding her this way for several days, stroking her gently with his chelipeds. When she is ready to molt, she signals the male by nibbling at his eyestalks. He loosens his grip, allows her to turn over, and she molts while still confined by his legs. After she molts, the male shoves away her cast off exoskeleton. There is a short waiting period, about an hour, before actual mating, possibly to allow some hardening of the carapace. When the moment arrives, she turns back over, again belly-to-belly, and lifts her abdominal flap to receive the male’s gonopods into her spermathecae, the receptacles in the female that hold the spermatophores.”