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.
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!