Hatchi series at the Breadbar- Walter Manzke

There’s nothing I love more in life than traveling and eating.  I love my hometown of Los Angeles, but on any given day I’d rather be overseas exploring foreign lands and sampling exotic delicacies.  Both through work and for fun, I’ve somehow managed to travel to over 15 countries in the last 2 years- and this doesn’t even include my annual trips to Japan to visit my family.  Traveling the world is exciting, but with unpacked suitcases and travel gear perpetually scattered all over the floors of my house, even this enthusiastic globetrotter can feel weary of planes, trains and automobiles sometimes.  Fortunately, at the most recent Hatchi dinner event at the Breadbar in Century City, I was able to take a virtual trip around the world without packing my carry-on or even leaving my zip code.

The Hatchi dinner event, created by Ironnori concepts in collaboration with the Breadbar, has been introducing a guest chef every month for a special evening of 8 dishes for $8 each (Hatchi means 8 in Japanese).  With past appearances by both up and coming chefs and already established chefs, enthusiastic diners have had the opportunity to enjoy innovative and delicious food for a bargain price while chefs have enjoyed complete freedom to showcase their vision.  I’ve had some spectacular dinners at the Hatchi event with Remi Lauvand, Marcel Vigneron, Ricardo Zarate, Saul Cooperstein and Brian Redzikowski.  For June, in a rare motion of featuring a well established and already famous chef who really doesn’t need such a venue to promote himself, Hatchi featured Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide and recently the anchor behind Church & State.  Since leaving the restaurant a few months ago, Manzke has been searching for a new place to call home, amidst much talk and anticipation from his LA fans who fell in love with his hearty bistro fare at Church & State.  His Hatchi dinner, called ‘Around the World…in 8 dishes’, featured dishes that represented flavors from 8 different countries, from the Far East to just south of the border.
As we perused the menu, an amuse bouche of shrimp cocktail shooters came to the table.  Lightly grilled shrimp on skewers were sweet and succulent, while clear cocktail sauce in a shot glass went down quite easily, surprising us with its unexpectedly deep and complex flavors.  The lack of color at first tricked my brain into assuming that the liquid was going to taste like something watered down, but how surprising that it tasted just like refined cocktail sauce with a clean tomato water-like flavor.

Warm and toasty Breadbar epi bread was offered for an extra charge with either French Echire butter or foie gras butter, and without hesitation or even a second thought, we ordered the rich and decadent block of what almost tasted like pure foie gras coated with honey gelée and accessorized with gold flakes to up the bling factor.

The first stop on our global Manzke tour was south of the border in Mexico, represented by a yellowtail ceviche dish with tomatillo sorbet, a dollop of avocado cream, microgreens and citrus wedges.  The cold tomatillo sorbet was surprisingly refreshing and light, working in unison with the citrus to complement the fattiness and juiciness of the tender yellowtail sashimi.

Flying across the Pacific Ocean, we arrived in the Land of Smiles, Thailand, for one of my favorite dishes of the evening.  Although I love a good mussel dish, I’m rarely ever impressed with any restaurant rendition- this one was different.  The perfectly cooked mussels were plump and savory in the white corn curry soup which was silky, sweet and bursting with flavor.  Little round tapioca pearls and whole peanuts hiding inside of the white soup added playful textures to each spoonful of coconut milk heaven that I hastily ladled into my mouth down to the last drop.

Manzke’s interpretation of the classic Vietnamese banh mi sandwich came in little slider buns hugging a thick juicy wedge of deep fried breaded pig trotters with fresh crisp vegetables.  The braised trotters were made into a juicy croquette that exploded with fatty flavors into a molten pool of heaven inside my mouth, and I almost wished that there was a bigger presence of pickled vegetables and an addition of jalapeño to cut through the heaviness.  Sriracha and aioli dots on the white plate were so small that they didn’t quite function as a sauce, although the small dip that I managed to get on my banh mi was excellent.

 Jetting across the Asian continent in a non-stop flight to Europe landed us in one of my favorite countries in the world, Spain.  One of the highlights on my trip to Barcelona last year was the scrumptious plate of gambetas at Tapaç 24.  Little did I know that I would get so close to that heavenly plate of sweetness here in Century City in Manzke’s dish of Santa Barbara spot prawns fried in garlic sherry sauce and garnished with a heap of chopped green olives, almonds and tomatoes.  The key to a perfect plate of shrimp is using fresh shrimp, and I could tell that these crustaceans were still alive in the kitchen when they hit the hot pan because of its plump flesh, delicate flavored orange eggs and green innards that I sucked clean off the shell.  Table manners went out the door as I used the entire palmar surface of my flattened index finger to sweep the sauce off the plate into my mouth.

A quick high-speed train ride on the TGV with a transfer in Paris Gare de l’Est landed us in Alsace, close to the French German border, for a savory tarte flambée made with caramelized onions, bacon and gruyere.  The tarte was pre-cut into square pieces so that we could dive right into these wonderful delights made on the perfectly baked thin crispy canvas.

Going down south into the Italian boot using a summer Eurail pass, we enjoyed our molto bene pasta dish of English pea ravioli with parmesan cheese shavings and a soft poached egg that oozed rich yellow yolk all over the dish.  The pea ravioli filling was creamy and sweet, although a bit boring after the modernized banh mi and spot prawn dishes.

Instead of taking the transatlantic route back home, we went through Southeast Asia to the Philippines for some leche flan with molecular sweet coconut pandan.  The dense and sweet caramel flan was topped with crunchy rice crisps, coconut ice cream, heavenly and luscious coconut foam and a shard of sugar glass that we all enjoyed.

What’s a trip through Asia without a stop at Narita airport?  The final destination on our global tasting tour was my home country Japan, Land of the Rising Sun.  There really wasn’t anything Japanese about the chocolate fondant with Bing cherries, black sesame ice cream and arare rice crisps, nor the hot chocolate in a shot glass topped with green tea foam, but we didn’t really care at this point- as with any long journey, we were getting full and saturated, and ready to head home.

Taking a trip ‘Around the World…in 8 dishes’ means that we come right back to where we started.  As we were winding down from dessert, we got a fellow visitor to the table who presented us with a first class ticket back to the Americas.  My good friend Bill Esparza brought over a bottle of Volcán de mi Tierra tequila that whisked us right back to Mexico where we commenced our exciting journey with a fantastic dish of yellowtail ceviche.  I closed my eyes as I felt the heat of the smooth tequila spreading through my esophagus into the core of my body to intoxicate me further into a state of bliss.  When I opened my eyes, I was back home in Los Angeles.  8 countries in 3 hours- was it a dream, or did it really happen?  I smiled as I looked down in front of me and saw the proof:  like stamps in a passport, the colorful food and wine stains on my Walter Manzke Hatchi menu were evidence that I indeed made this culinary journey around the world.

Breadbar at Century City

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

Upcoming Hatchi events:

July 29th- Makoto Okuwa: Power of Miso

August 26th- Chicks with Knives: Love & Kisses & BBQ!

September 30th- Steve samson

Random trivia:  Did you know that falling coconuts kill approximately 150 people every year – 10 times the number of people killed by sharks?

 

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- 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 – 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?