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- Saul Cooperstein

The Hatchi series at the Breadbar has had a successful run since it first started in June 2009.  This fantastic dining concept of featuring a different guest chef each month for an evening of 8 dishes for $8 each has been a huge hit in Los Angeles.  ‘Hatchi’ means 8 in Japanese, and this unique event was masterminded by Chef Noriyuki Sugie in collaboration with the Breadbar.  So far I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying delicious creations from notable chefs like Remi Lauvand, Marcel Vigneron, and Ricardo Zarate.  I’ve also enjoyed watching the Hatchi series blossom over this past year- in the beginning it wasn’t unusual to see a couple of empty tables.  Now, not only is it getting harder to score a table, but they’ve also added cocktail pairings, select wines and the occasional live entertainment, not to mention the huge improvement in the quality of service.  I was excited to attend April’s event by Saul Cooperstein (Hatchi event #11) after missing the last 2 events due to my travels.

Saul Cooperstein was an interesting choice for the Hatchi series as he’s not actually a traditional chef.  He comes from a background of investment banking and financial planning.  So what was he doing at the Breadbar?  The Hatchi series featured stellar Bazaar alums Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron and Waylynn Lucas last year- somehow the Bazaar ball kept its momentum and rolled in the direction of SBE’s Managing Director of Business Development, Cooperstein.  For those of you who have already attended Voltaggio and Vigneron’s Hatchi dinners, the word ‘Saul’s Pastrami’ may ring a bell.  Those juicy marbled succulent cuts of pastrami are undoubtedly ingrained in your gustatory memory bank- at last we can meet the pastrami god himself.

Cooperstein has gathered all of his friends in the food and beverage industry to collaborate with him on this spectacular event named ‘Deli 2010′.  His trusted chefs from the Bazaar have contributed in fine tuning the menu, distinguished sommeliers have chosen the wines and fantastic mixologists, like Devon Espinoza who was in house that evening, created innovative cocktails to pair with the food.  The menu recreated classic deli favorites with a modern and fun twist.

The matzo ball soup was a nice hearty steaming bowl of clarified chicken stock with a smoked matzo ball gently sitting in the center.  Unlike the traditionally ginormous globes of fluff that I’m used to, these matzo balls were dense and compact which I actually didn’t mind.  The robust and fatty soup, filled with adorable miniature turnips and carrots, was balanced perfectly with the tart bite of chopped fresh dill.  Given that Saul Cooperstein hails from the Bazaar family, I expected to see splashes of molecular cuisine in the Hatchi menu, and I saw the first hint in this soup dish.  ‘Chicken Noodles’ floating in the flavorful soup were probably made with agar and pushed through a syringe.

Bagel with lox ‘nigiri’ was a playful and contemporary take on the classic bagels ‘n’ lox.  House cured and smoked wild king salmon was sliced thin into sashimi portions and gently draped over white puffed rice crackers with dill cream cheese, smoked salmon roe and red onion rings.  Like traditional Asian deep fried shrimp crackers, these ‘shari’ rice crackers were crispy, light and airy.  As I dug down into this delectable morsel, I could sense all of the tiny air bubbles in the cracker snap and pop under the pressure of my bite to blend into a heavenly marriage of Jewish-Japanese essence with the fatty salmon.

One of my all time favorite sandwiches, the classic Reuben, was reinterpreted into a tiny bite sized croquette.  Japanese A-5 Wagyu rib cap corned beef, aka Saul’s corned beef, was cooked sous vide into a perfect tender consistency.  Small chunks of corned beef mixed with béchamel sauce, Gruyere cheese, Jarlsberg cheese, sauerkraut and toasted caraway seeds oozed out of the crispy rye bread crumb croquettes like hot molten lava.  The richness of the wondrous Reuben goo was nicely complemented with a dollop of thousand island dressing.  These croquettes were savory, delicious and simply amazing.  I started having greedy thoughts and wished that these tiny bite-sized croquettes would have been made bigger, but they were in fact the perfect size to impart a maximum surface area for crunch.  Instead of hoping for bigger croquettes, we just ordered more.  And more.

My favorite dish of the evening was the lamb pita.  Deboned rack of lamb, cured and smoked with Vadouvan spices, was thinly sliced and served on top of a warm toasted pita round with refreshing cole slaw.  The generous heaps of lamb meat were intensely juicy and luscious, and some of the most tender cuts of lamb that I’ve ever had.  The cabbage cole slaw, flavored tzatziki style with yogurt and lemon, was joyfully refreshing and tart.  I really enjoyed the multiple layers of flavors in each mouthful, from the hints of earthy Vadouvan spices to the sourness of the yogurt.  My palate never tired of this dish, and in fact became more revived and refreshed with each consecutive bite.  The pickled tomato, coupled with a cube of melon on a skewer, was also fantastic.  After we finished Round 1 of the savory dishes, I did not hesitate to request this dish for an encore appearance in Round 2.  Needless to say, Round 2 of the lamb pita was just as good.

‘Sky High Sandwich’ seemed to be the overwhelming favorite at a nearby table of 6 male jocks who looked like their stadium sized appetites were being properly satiated.  Warm veal pastrami, which was a first for me, was stacked nice and high in true Jewish deli style on Pumpernickel bread with a generous slab of sweet & hot mustard.  The veal, in comparison to traditional beef pastrami, was of course more lean and less fatty but still had an astonishing amount of flavor and juice.  The ‘sweet’ portion of the sweet & hot mustard was a bit too strong for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of this sandwich.  All of us at the table were more ecstatic about the salt and vinegar potato chips, sliced so thin that we could practically see each other through them, and deep fried to the lightest and daintiest crisp.

And finally the infamous dish that we were all waiting for.  The incredible meat that has already made its debut at the Hatchi dinner through Voltaggio and Vigneron- Saul’s pastrami.  This is perhaps the most extravagant and luxurious pastrami that exists in this country, and to be able to enjoy this for a mere $8 was flabbergasting.  I’m sure the overhead for this dish was far more than that, for it was made with A-5 wagyu rib steak, the top of the line Japanese beef that’s available in the US.  This meat is already so marbled and fatty enough that one cannot go wrong with its preparation, yet Saul takes it even further by cooking it sous vide to a perfect medium rare.  The result is a tender and buttery texture like the beef shabu shabu at Zakuro in Japan, a blanket of fragile cashmere that is soft enough to swaddle a baby in.  This sandwich was truly amazing, an epic dish that will be talked about and referred to for years.  The fatty juices were practically dripping down my arms, and every bite was full of savor.  However, 1 dish was enough for me and any more would have saturated my taste buds to a point where I may not have had the same opinion about the dish anymore.  For this reason, the lamb pita won my vote over the pastrami.  In true playful Bazaar fashion, the sandwich was served with a sour pickle spherification.

Babka, a yeast dough dessert, born out of Eastern European Jewish tradition, was almost like bread pudding.  Cinnamon babka french toast, served with vanilla bourbon maple syrup and orange blossom ice cream, was dense and pleasantly gooey.  I loved the way that the richness of the babka stuck to my ribs.

Rugelach, small crescent shaped dough rolls that reminded me of mini croissants, finished off the wonderful Hatchi dinner.  I wasn’t amazed by the cream cheese rugelachs that were served with crispy passion fruit meringues.  The dots of passion fruit ‘apple sauce’, which reminded me of the ‘cultivated pearl’ in the scallop dish at Tapas Molecular Bar, had a thick consistency that was like unset toffee.  It didn’t matter that this 1 dessert dish didn’t wow me- everything else up to that point had exceeded my expectations and I was grinning from ear to ear with contentment.

Interesting cocktails being offered that night included the ‘Half Sour Gin Pickles’, featuring cucumber spears pickled with Beefeater gin infused with tarragon, salt, dill seed, black pepper, allspice, coriander, mustard seeds and white wine vinegar.  We tried the ‘Cream soda’ with Krol Vodka, lemon juice, vanilla syrup and club soda.  Taking charge of the cocktails was friendly and charismatic Devon Espinoza, mixologist at The Tasting Kitchen who will be kicking off the Hatchi Mixology Series this Thursday May 6th.

My dining party and I had an amazing time at this ‘Deli 2010′ dinner.  The delicious and creative comfort food brought us all together to a deli happy place.  This is what I love about dining out with good friends- when our shared love and passion for food come together to create stimulating conversation, heartfelt storytelling and joyful laughs.  When certain flavors or aromas conjure up interesting stories and powerful memories that can be shared at the table.  When the meal itself then becomes a happy remembrance that will be talked about on the next culinary outing.  The Hatchi event has become a place of gathering for old friends and a meeting hub for new ones.

Breadbar

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

Random trivia:  According to the IFOCE (The International Federation of Competitive Eating), Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, a California native, holds the world record for eating matzo balls- he ate 78 matzoh balls in 8 minutes.  Oy vey!

Hatchi Series at the Breadbar – Ricardo Zarate

Ever since I started going to the Hatchi dinner series at the Breadbar in Century City, I find myself anxiously counting down the days to the following event, as it only seems to get better and better each month.  Since June 2009, the Breadbar has featured a new guest chef every month at their innovative Hatchi event where these talented chefs serve 8 dishes for $8 each.  Hatchi means 8 in Japanese, and chefs prepare 6 savory and 2 sweet dishes for this one night-only event.  They are given complete freedom to express their culinary creativity and showcase their unique personality and style.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity for diners to sample new foods in a casual environment for a low price.

Past events at the Hatchi series spotlighted distinguished chefs such as Debbie Lee, Michael Voltaggio, Roberto Cortez, Remi Lauvand, Eda Vesterman, Waylynn Lucas and Marcel VigneronJanuary’s event featured Ricardo Zarate, executive chef at Mo-Chica in downtown LA.  Mo-Chica is a small restaurant inside of the Mercado La Paloma that serves contemporary Peruvian cuisine.  Although they’ve been open for less than a year, they’ve already created quite a buzz with their luscious ceviches and hearty stews.  Chef Ricardo Zarate, who hails from Lima, incorporates  local ingredients and fresh produce to create beautiful dishes that stay true to Peruvian culture and flavor.   However, there’s also another side to him.  He’s worked in upscale Japanese restaurants such as Zuma and Tetsuya in London, and most recently as executive chef at Wabi-Sabi in Venice.  I was excited to see how he would express this marriage of Peruvian flavors and Japanese aesthetics into his one night event at the Breadbar, called Peru Mucho Gusto (Peru, Nice to meet you).

I knew it was going to be a fun and special night when I was greeted at my table by young and beautiful Fumi, the Japanese owner of Mo-Chica.  ‘Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!’- Happy New Year! she shouted with a huge smile, as she handed us Mo-Chica keychains wrapped inside traditional Japanese otoshidama bags.  It’s a tradition in Japan for children to receive money from relatives and family friends during New Year’s day, and it’s usually presented inside small decorated envelopes.  Getting otoshidama from all of my relatives was the highlight of New Year for me growing up in Tokyo.  It had been a really long time since anybody gave me one, so I really appreciated this fun act of hospitality. She also passed out roasted peanuts served inside origami kabuto (samurai helmets) made with Japanese newspaper.

We ordered a round of the Pisco Sour 2010 cocktail, made with pisco, fresh lemon juice, orange juice and egg whites. The egg white foam was light and airy, and the balance of tequila with citrus flavors was delicious.

The first of 8 courses was the Sopa de Coliflor, purple cauliflower soup.  The purple hued soup was garnished with generous chunks of crispy pancetta, a drizzle of feta cheese dressing and cilantro, and offered with a side of crispy croutons.  I loved the smooth and silky texture of the warm soup, and the different layers of flavors in each bite.  There was a hint of sourness in the soup that made it really refreshing, and the tartness of the feta cheese and cilantro kept it alive.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

The Causa Trio of peruvian potato salad with 3 different seafood toppings was Chef Zarate’s interpretation of 3 classic sushi rolls.  Here we can see our first hint of how Zarate integrates Japanese and Peruvian concepts.  Each piece had the same base of yellow potato salad that was soft and light.  The one to the left in the photo had a topping of chunky scallops with mentaiko sauce.  Mentaiko is spicy marinated pollock roe, which is commonly used in Japanese cuisine.  The center piece was topped with a mixture of shredded blue crab with mayo and huancaina sauce.  Huancaina sauce is a thick yellow Peruvian sauce made with aji amarillo, or yellow Peruvian pepper.  The preparation to the right featured spicy blue fin tuna with rocoto aioli, made with hot rocoto chili peppers from Peru.  I loved Chef Zarate’s playful and unique Peruvian twist on the popular spicy tuna, blue crab and spicy scallop rolls.

Mo-Chica has made a name for itself through its famous ceviches, and I was curious to see what kind of ceviche Zarate was going to serve at this special event.  Ceviche Mixto that night was made with tairagai, uni and sea bass marinated in leche de tigre sauce.  Although each Latin American country has their own version of ceviche, the Peruvian style is often served with leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) sauce that is made with Peruvian peppers (in this case aji amarillo peppers), lime, onions, garlic and a hint of Pisco.  Of course there’s no actual tiger’s milk in these astringent tart marinades, but its potency is believed to be an aphrodisiac and a cure for hangovers. The chunks of marinated tairagai and fish were nestled inside of a tairagai shell, topped with cilantro and slices of red onion.  Slivers of uni added a sweet creaminess which mellowed the sharp acidity of the ceviche, and the large kernels of giant Inca corn added great texture to the dish.

It was around this time that they introduced the live band and dancers for the Festejo performance. This was a first for the Breadbar Hatchi series to have live entertainment, and we were lucky to have scored front row orchestra seats to this spectacular show.  The general mood at the event was already festive, but the live music brought the energy level up a whole notch.  The drummer beat on the cajón box drum with fire and intent, while the Peruvian flute narrated a tale of Incan history and passion.  The female dancer swirled and twirled very gracefully around the small space in front of the pastry case, smiling happily yet seductively, and the male dancer pounded his bare feet into the concrete with determination and rhythm.  It was an astounding performance, and everybody put down their forks to watch this mesmerizing show.

Tiradito de Pescado was a hamachi carpaccio served with sundried tomato yuzu dressing and topped with a mixture of chopped green onions, tomatoes, Peruvian corn and cilantro.  Tiradito is a Peruvian dish that is more like a carpaccio, and its origins come from sashimi-eating Japanese immigrants who came to Peru.  Although similar in concept to ceviche, tiradito dishes feature raw fish that is sliced long and thin in sashimi style, and is not doused in an onion-heavy marinade.  The hamachi slices were beautifully marbled with light yet flavorful fat, and the yuzu dressing was the perfect complement.


Carapulcra, which is an old Peruvian stew that is traditionally made in clay pots with dried potatoes, chiles, peanuts and spices, was reinvented in a contemporary style with roasted black cod.  It is believed that Carapulcra is the oldest Peruvian stew and that its ancient origins go back to pre-Incan times.  A perfectly cooked piece of moist black cod was topped with a tangy chimichurri sauce and chewy bits of fried pancetta.  The sour and bitter flavors of the chimichurri was a wonderful contrast to the earthy carapulcra made with peruvian sun dried potatoes.  I was in love with the hearty potato stew, and although it was the first time that I had carapulcra, it gave me the same feeling of comfort and warmth that ramen does. The next time that I’m craving comfort food, I’m going straight to Mo-Chica to get me some carapulcra.

Seco de Cordero represented pure traditional Peruvian cuisine.  This lamb shoulder stew was braised in black beer and seasoned with cilantro, aji peppers and cumin.  Peruvian canario beans, which are similar to Italian cannellini beans, added a gratifying dose of heartiness to the delicious stew, while the salsa criolla, made with sliced onions, tomatoes, cilantro and chili peppers, intensified the bursting complexity of flavors in each bite.

The tender chunks of lamb had absorbed all of the marvelous flavors in the stew, and we were literally fighting over this dish.  Now that I know that this dish is on the regular menu at Mo-Chica, I wish I hadn’t been so aggressive with my dining companions in eating most of the stew.  I almost lost myself and my manners in this captivating bowl of cordero heaven.

One of the 2 desserts that we had was titled Selva Negra- possibly after the Selva Negra cloud forest reserve in Nicaragua which is famous for producing great organic coffee, since the flourless chocolate cake looked like a cup of coffee.  The chocolate cake came straight out of the oven and was served nice and warm.  I really enjoyed the bright orange colored lúcuma ice cream with tamarillo sauce.  I had never even heard of lúcuma before this Breadbar event, but it’s an Andean subtropical fruit also known as ‘eggfruit’, that’s mostly found in Peru.  It tasted like a combination of very familiar flavors, and we were all trying to figure out how to describe its taste.  It reminded me of ube, Filipino purple yam, while another tasted sweet potatoes, and yet another tasted maple syrup.  The more lucent yellow tamarillo sauce, made from the tamarillo fruit which is native to Peru, had a tart flavor that reminded me of passion fruit and oranges.  This ice cream was to die for.


Last but not least, the 8th dish of the Hatchi series dinner showcased yet another Peruvian specialty.  Kiwicha Con Leche Y Esencia De Mazamorra was served elegantly in a martini glass.  Kiwicha, also known as amaranth, is a superfood of sorts, an Andean supergrain high in nutritional value that has been cultivated and used by the Incas and the Aztecs.  These fine round grains which almost look like quinoa, are the size of poppy seeds.  It was prepared with milk to make a dessert that resembled tapioca pudding.  The dark sauce poured over the kiwicha looked like rich chocolate, but was in fact made with mazamorra, or purple maize cooked with cinnamon and sweet potato flour.  Although this dessert looked sweet and heavy, it was surprisingly light and easy to eat.  Since I don’t have a sweet tooth, I really appreciated this simple and savory dessert.

And just like that, another successful and fun Hatchi event came and went like the wind.  Chef Zarate’s Peru Mucho Gusto event seemed to be over in a blink of an eye, since we were having so much fun.  With the delicious food, the fantastic music, intoxicating dancing and impeccable service from the Breadbar staff, this was the best Hatchi dinner so far for me.  I really enjoyed learning about all of these new foods and flavor combinations.  I realized that there is still so much out there in this big world that my taste buds haven’t experienced yet.  It motivated me to travel more and open myself up to new experiences and cultures.  Thank you Chef Zarate for introducing me to the dynamic flavors of your beautiful Peruvian culture, and for honoring my Japanese culture in your perfectly integrated dishes.

Mo-Chica

3655 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007

(213) 747-2141

Breadbar

Upcoming Hatchi dinner events:

February 25th – Iso Rabins, Forage

March 25th – Kuniko Yagi, Burning Sensation

April 29th – Saul Cooperstein, Deli 2010

Random trivia: Did you know that kiwicha, for its high content in protein, lysine, carbohydrates and minerals, is considered to be one of nature’s most potent foods?  This grain is packed with such high amounts of energy and nutrition that it’s part of the NASA energy food pack used by astronauts on their long trips in space.

Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Marcel Vigneron

The Hatchi 8 series, an innovative 1-night only event featuring a guest chef who compiles an original menu of 8 dishes for $8 each, continues its successful stint at the Breadbar in Century City.  After a wonderful performance by Chef Remi Lauvand in September (who is now at Cafe Pierre in Manhattan Beach) and a disappointing night by Chef Eda Vesterman in October, I was excited to attend this month’s dinner by Marcel Vigneron, the recognizable cocky villain from Top Chef Season 2.  I’m amazed at the power of the media and the ever growing popularity of reality TV shows, as Vigneron has become so famous that he is even on Wikipedia.  Regardless of his annoying attitude and outspoken nature, he is an accomplished chef who trained at the CIA and worked at ‘Chef of the Century’ Joël Robuchon’s restaurant in Las Vegas. Vigneron, who just left his stint as sous chef at The Bazaar a week or so ago, is a master of molecular gastronomy and a lover of foams.  I was interested to see what he would do for his Hatchi dinner called “Modern Global Tastings’.

The restaurant was completely packed and there was a buzz of chaos in the air.  Service was  backed up and table turnovers just weren’t happening- from my observation while waiting an hour for my table, it was a combination of poor timing and confusion in both the kitchen and the front of the room.  Still, the staff was trying their very best and I appreciated the gracious hospitality that they gave us while we waited.

The amuse bouche was a pomegranate blueberry spherification, a large plump grape-sized blueberry inside a sweet blob of fruity jelly. I loved the bursting textures of this jiggly spoonful, and it was a pleasant welcome after a long wait.

By the time we were finally seated, it was already past 9pm and I was deeply saddened to find out that they had run out of the hamachi sashimi dish that was garnished with kumquats, iceplant, momo chan and a splash of piment d’espelette.  I ran into my dear friend Chef Benjamin Bailly from Petrossian Caviar, who told me that the hamachi dish was excellent.  Grrr…Luckily I was still in a good mood thanks to the medium-bodied velvety smooth bottle of 2004 Primitiu de Bellmunt, Priorat that I brought.  This Catalan wine was quite amazing.

The Dayboat Scallops with cauliflower couscous on a bed of seaweed was delicious.  Colorful dots of cauliflower purée in Easter colors of pink, yellow and purple added a cute touch to the plate.  The perfectly cooked seared scallops were meaty and plump, and the slightly grainy texture of the couscous coupled with the firm crunch of the seaweed added an extra dimension to the dish.

2 of my fellow diners claimed that the Langoustine Ravioli was their favorite dish of the evening. A succulent piece of langoustine nestled inside a wonderfully thick ravioli looked longingly across the sea of thom khai foam to its perfectly coiffed lover, an avocado wrapped mango topped with basil seeds and coconut milk powder.  With the aid of a fork and knife, these 2 star crossed lovers were quickly reunited in a celebration of coconut and lemongrass aroma.  The silky avocado sheets gently glided across my tongue in joyful union with the chunks of juicy mango whose heavenly sweetness petted my taste buds into submission.

The Lyonaise Salad stuck pretty close to its classic flavors and Vigneron didn’t do anything too molecular or crazy in his interpretation.  The thick runny yolk was wonderful with the thin cuts of savory bacon and the zesty vinaigrette, but I noticed that we suffered the consequences of being seated late once again- we got breaded eggs that looked like a Scottish egg, rather than the intended ‘nesting’ egg with twigs of deep fried potato ribbons enveloping the poached egg.  They probably ran out of frisée too, as the salad was heavy on arugula and other baby greens.

Yet another slight tragedy in being seated during the busiest time of the dinner service was the miso honey black cod dish order.  The sweet, tender flavorful cod was served with a sesame oil powder in an aromatic dashi broth and garnished with nasturtium flowers and leaves.  The dish was served as you see it in the photo below.  I’m not easily fooled though- I know that the warm broth was supposed to be poured tableside, but the dish was still delicious so I’m willing to let it go.

My favorite dish of the evening was the Vadouvan Lamb with crispy light lavosh, pickled onions, yogurt powder, a sprinkle of sumac and Vigneron’s interpretation of tzatziki.  Small crunchy cucumber balls with a nicely tart sour yogurt cream went superbly with the great cut of lamb chop.  The perfectly cooked lamb was to die for, and if it weren’t for such a packed venue I would’ve started gnawing on that bone.  Nothing on this dish failed, and everything was delicious.  I couldn’t believe that I was eating this for $8.

Grass fed ‘Corned Beef’ was the title of this next dish.  A large tall piece of sous vide beef short rib stood towering over Saul’s pastrami, dehydrated black trumpets and a potpourri of corn.  The playful corn medley featured baby corn, corn purée and popcorn.  The thinly sliced pastrami slices were beautifully marbled and stunningly flavorful, and I would have been happy just having a whole plateful of it, especially since the short rib was a bit on the tough side.  Both of our red meat dishes were perfectly paired with a bottle of 2006 Rey Grenache from Paso Robles.

The complimentary ‘palate cleanser’ from the kitchen was a classic Bazaar delicacy, liquid nitrogen cooked caramel popcorn, aka ‘Dragon’s Breath’.  As soon as we popped these frozen bites into our mouths and bit down, cold white liquid nitrogen smoke came swirling out of our mouths and nostrils.  A true Kodak moment.

The green chartreuse soufflé came out warm, fluffy and airy.  Although the consistency and the taste was a little too eggy, I loved the subtle anise kick that the chartreuse imparted to the dish.  The vanilla ice cream with orange zest and almond crumble was exquisite.

As if the fruit spherification amuse and the nitro popcorn weren’t enough bonuses to the dinner, we were also surprised by a plate of mignardises.  Cute tiny chocolate macaroons and pillowy marshmallows rounded up this sensational dinner.

Vigneron’s contemporary interpretation of classic global dishes shined at the Hatchi series dinner.  I was really impressed with his innovative creations and compelling combinations of flavors and aromas.  He didn’t go too overboard with his usual display of molecular gastronomy, but just enough to keep us smiling.  Normally the 8 dishes of the Hatchi series are supposed to have 6 savory dishes and 2 sweet dishes, and I’m not sure why Vigneron decided to do 7 savory dishes instead.  He even did 3 extra bonus dishes on top of that, perhaps creating a little too much work for his kitchen staff, resulting in the inconsistent plating and skewed timing of service flow.  Nonetheless it was a great performance and each dish was worth well over $8.  Now that he’s left The Bazaar, I wonder what’s next?

Breadbar

January 28th: Ricardo Zarate- Peru Mucho Gusto

February 25th: Iso Rabins- Forage

Random trivia:  Did you know that the classic paisley design came from India and was inspired by the irregular shape of the mango?

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.

IMG_3035

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.”

Hatchi Series at the Breadbar – Remi Lauvand

IMG_1487Although LudoBites at the Breadbar in Beverly Hills ended, there are still exciting events going on at the Breadbar in Century City.  The Hatchi ‘8’ Series is an exciting concept that features a new guest chef every month.  For one night only, that chef introduces 8 plates for $8 each that reflects his or her unique style, flair and personality (Hatchi means 8 in Japanese).  It’s a win-win situation for all involved.  The guest chef, who is usually an up and coming chef who is in the midst of establishing him or herself in the culinary world, has complete freedom to create 6 savory and 2 sweet dishes to his or her liking.  The guests get to dine on fantastic and innovative food for only $8 a dish.  The host venue, Breadbar, gets more publicity.  It’s quite genius, actually.

IMG_1486The Hatchi series debuted in June with Chef Debbie Lee, a contestant from The Next Food Network Star.  July featured Michael Voltaggio, who recently left The Bazaar for The Dining Room at The Langham, and can be seen competing on the current Top Chef: Las Vegas series.  I went to the recent event called “Endless Summer” by Chef Remi Lauvand, formerly of Le Cirque, Montrachet and Social in Hollywood.

I love that the dinners at the Breadbar are BYOB (including LudoBites).  We ended up with 2 great bottles of Bordeaux reds- a beautiful 2005 Pomerol by Christian Moueix with a deep intensity and dry acidic finish that I brought, and an equally stunning 2007 Merlot with a lighter fruity finish by Lodi that one of my friends brought. Again, a win-win situation here.  Guests can bring their special beverage of choice for a low corkage fee of $15.  The makings of a perfect evening.

IMG_1442As the servers passed out the evening menu and flavorful auvergnat bread (bread from the central France region of Auvergne that is shaped like it has a cap), I looked around the completely packed dining room that included many people from the food and beverage industry including Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s wife Krissy.

Starters: house cured Tasmanian trout with Charentais melon, Tarragon and Lemon Hatch pepper relish.  The trout was nicely fatty, tender and flavorful, like belly meat.  The melon slices brought an added level of sweetness to the dish, while the pepper relish brought heat and spice, as well as the licorice kick of the tarragon leaves.  Although there were strong contrasting flavors, it still made for a beautiful dish.

IMG_1455The crisp pork belly salad was wonderful.  The pork belly was perfectly cooked to a tender consistency, covered with crispy succulent pork skin.  The parsnips purée was rich and smooth, and the jalapeño sauce gave just enough punch to enhance but not overwhelm the meat.

IMG_1448The foie gras ‘parfait’ pain d’épices was magnificent, and the perfect complement to the bottles of Bordeaux.  The foie parfait, which is foie gras mixed with egg then cooked in a mason jar, had a spectacular port wine sauce that was rich in flavor and light in consistency.  The flavoring was bold on nutmeg, but the French chef at our table assured us that this was the true French way, as he proceeded to polish off a second order.  The classical pairing of foie gras, port wine and black mission figs did not, as it never really does, fail.

IMG_1451One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the handmade farfalle with octopus, chicken oysters and tomatoes.  The braised octopus and chicken oysters were both equally tender and moist, practically dripping with the beautiful essences of the sauce.  The handmade pasta was perfectly al dente, and the tomatoes added a nice depth of acidic and fruity flavor.

IMG_1465The barramundi, an Australian white fish gaining more popularity here in the US, was surprisingly well prepared.  I often find it overcooked and dry, but Lauvand did this fish justice by giving its skin a nice crispy sear while keeping the flesh moist and tender.  The yellow lady peas had a light texture with a bold and hearty flavor, and went well with the cherry tomatoes, watercress and basil jus.  The prosciutto added a dash of smokiness that enhanced the natural flavors of the barramundi.

IMG_1458The slow cooked veal breast with carottes rissolées and arugula was a wonderful conclusion to the savory portion of the Hatchi meal.  The braised veal breast was oh so tender, melting in my mouth with such ease of a stick of butter on a heated pan.  The carrots were generously buttered and incredibly sweet.  IMG_1470The mini Tropézienne with Santa Barbara pistachios and chocolate cracker was okay.  The name originates from St. Tropez on the French Riviera.  The choux cream-like dessert was quite difficult to share and to eat, though the pistachio cream had a great nutty consistency and the brioche was soft and airy.  It’s an elegant dish to look at, but not so elegant to eat.

IMG_1474My other favorite dish of the evening was the Penryn Orchard pear with crepe, Sofia goat cheese and young walnuts.  I was quite surprised, pleased and blown away by the wonderful combination of textures and flavors.  Goat cheese, poached pairs and crepe?  It sounds like a common combination that would have already been popular by now, but yet I’ve never had it before.  The goat cheese, drizzled with a touch of honey, became even creamier under the warmth of the freshly made crepe blanket.  Every bite made me love this combination even more, and I couldn’t stop eating it.  I love when simple ingredients bring an explosive complexity of tastes and aromas when fused into the right medley.  I’ll be sure to serve this at my next dinner party.

IMG_1479Toward the end of the evening Chef Lauvand came out to greet his guests.  He looked quite exhausted, but he was also beaming with pride, satisfaction and happiness.  It was HIS night, his food, his concept, his vision, his dream, his creation, his restaurant….for one night.  And all of the guests seemed to understand and appreciate his vision.  I surely did.

This month at the Hatchi Series is Eda Vesterman, then Waylynn Lucas in November, followed by Marcel Vigneron in December.  An interesting line-up that I’ll be checking out for sure.

Breadbar

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

Random trivia:  Did you know that the octopus has 3 hearts?