Test Kitchen- Brian Redzikowski

First, we feast with our eyes.  Vibrant colors of garden and sea, 3 dimensional textures of foods both familiar and unfamiliar, linear shapes juxtaposed against round edges, and beautiful arrangements worthy of a gallery piece.  Then we taste, exploring through our gustatory senses whether the flavors presented to us reciprocate our visual expectations.  Sound, smell and touch come somewhere in between, but our appetites become ignited the moment we lay eyes on our food. In Chef Brian Redzikowski’s dinner at Test Kitchen in Los Angeles, this concept was taken to its purest form.  He deliberately withheld the evening’s menu from diners until the very end of the meal, wanting for each course’s experience to start the moment a dish arrived at the table.  Not knowing what to expect, each dish was a real surprise, over and over again, fresh, exciting and new.

As Executive Chef of Bond St at the Thompson Hotel, Chef Redzikowski understands the intricate mastery of food aesthetics, utilizing his training in French and Japanese cuisine to create beautiful pieces of edible art.  The Test Kitchen preview dinner for his upcoming restaurant project Claustro was a culmination of his delicate and refined style of cuisine, executed with the help of his chef sibling Frank.  Redzikowski started the dinner off with a shot of passion fruit blueberry granité and prosecco foam, in a playful arrangement of dry ice and colorful glass marbles- bubbly, fruity and flirtatious.

A ‘Marco Pierre White’ terrine of baby leeks and lobster, pressed for 16 hours and congealed with natural pectins from the vegetable, was served with caviar.  The simple and light dish was an ode to the infamous 3 Michelin starred bad boy chef who first made this dish for one of his mentors.  On this YouTube video, not only can you see the step-by-step process of this wonderful terrine, but also a young fledgling Gordon Ramsay learning how to curse in the kitchen.

My favorite dish of the night was a potato cube pierced through the center with a bouquet of rosemary twigs, nestled in a sea of luscious potato and chorizo foams.  Amazing aromas from the twigs whetted my appetite, and the orange chorizo foam delivered an incredible savor that I still yearn to relive. As the only course that didn’t require utensils, feeling the weighted twigs in our hands as we bit into the potato tapped into our tactile senses, heightening the experience.

A generous wedge of King crab dressed in an aromatic foam arrived at our table in a dainty black ceramic bowl, balanced on a saucer with a crab exoskeleton tangled in fishing net.  The moment it arrived, I felt a powerful splash of cold ocean wave, delivering with it a waft of buttery crustacean scent.  Refreshing flavors of preserved Meyer lemon balanced out the fabulous richness of lobster butter in this delightful dish that was served with small carrot, zucchini and celery balls.

Arnold Palmer served with a bottom layer of ice cold lemonade and a top layer of warm tea was interesting…if not baffling.

Halibut was served with chanterelles, rutabaga balls (a cross between a cabbage and a turnip), generous slices of black truffles and interestingly, crisp Romaine leaves that gave the dish an interesting textural variation.

Foie gras foam and parmesan cheese added too much saltiness to this dish, but the liquid foie gras-filled raviolis were quite magnificent in concept, flavor and texture.  Lettuce leaves were again added to this entrée, a surprisingly clever and fresh new way of incorporating greens.

The plating of the sous vide lamb loin and tongue dish was distinctly Redzikowski, showcasing a playful arrangement of color and geometry.  Little brown buttons of chanterelles, a leaning solitary asparagus spear, squiggles of onion demi glace, the gentle curl of transparent mint paper and a rectangular cut of leathery dehydrated onion crisp with precise right angles- a delicious composition of abstract expressionism.

My hopes were fulfilled when the Asahi float dessert arrived at our table, my favorite dish from Redzikowski’s Breadbar Hatchi dinner last year.  Vanilla ice cream with acacia honey gel, showered with a tableside pour of Asahi Super Dry beer, was again a sensational and unforgettably delicious combination.

The ‘half baked’ dessert was a glass terrarium of sweet delights with caramel panna cotta, liquid nitrogen frozen raw cookie dough, kaffir lime foam, soft brownie sponge, ground pistachios, ice cream and an egg yolk chip- another playful culinary concept with delicious results.

Look forward to Chef Redzikowski’s new restaurant project, Claustro, which will hopefully keep the Asahi float and potato on the menu while introducing new artistic and avant-garde creations.  It will surely be a feast for the eyes, and a delicious banquet for all other senses.

Chef Brian Redzikowski’s website:

www.brianredzikowski.com

Random trivia:  Did you know that the bitterness of watercress, mustard greens, turnip and rutabaga is perceived through the influence of a gene affecting a bitter receptor?  Some people are born with a stronger expression of this gene, making them perceive these vegetables infinitely more stronger than others who don’t.

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?