Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alinea - Courses 13-18

13. Yuba - shrimp, miso, togarashi

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

In this dish, a stick of fried yuba (tofu skin) served as an edible utensil. Gulf shrimp was wrapped around the yuba, and everything was seasoned by light pepper flake (togarashi), some citrus, black and white sesame. The stick of yuba was served standing in a small dish containing a miso mayonnaise dipping sauce. This was quite a neat construction delivering a familiar-tasting yuba in a different format. The shrimp and crispy yuba provided a nice contrast in textures.

14. Alaskan King Crab - popcorn, mango, curry

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

This was a relatively large course that was described by the server as being inspired by butter, so it was quite rich (maybe even too rich). The left and right sections contained Alaskan king crab (Michelle swears hers was lobster, which has also been used in this dish), fresh corn, corn tortilla chips, pieces of popcorn, and some curry. On one side, there was a sphere (which looks like an egg yolk in the picture) that was self-encased butter (melted butter held within a membrane), and on the other were some thin pieces of toasted coconut. In the middle of the dish, there was a cube of mango gelee and a citrus component that provided an acid counterpoint. Across the whole dish was a strip of popcorn puree, and the dish was served with coconut toast.

The combination of corn (in many forms), crab, and curry worked really nicely, and the crab (or lobster) was well cooked. The popcorn puree was a neat idea, but we couldn't really tell that it was made of popcorn. It ended up being kind of superfluous, just an extra, creamy layer that wasn't particularly notable.

15. Iberico Ham - salsify, hazelnut, smoked paprika

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

Sometime after the wagyu beef course (with the aromatic vase), they brought a new centerpiece that displayed slices of Iberico ham frozen in liquid nitrogen hanging from a stand. When it was time to serve this course, they brought a plate with roasted salsify over an intense hazelnut puree. The gently draped the ham (which has now thawed) over the other components, and drizzled everything with a smoked paprika vinaigrette. As a final touch, they garnished the ham with a single sprig of tiny oregano.

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

The warm plate, along with the salsify and hazelnut, slightly melted the ham, giving it a very pleasant texture. This was a relatively simple course, but everything worked together to showcase the ham, which was really quite delicious.

16. Lamb - lemon, fennel, coffee aroma

Picture from Flickr (Consumatron)

This dish was served on a long plate stretching away from us (instead of side to side). At the top of the plate was a dish containing a hot rock warming coffee and fennel seeds to produce an aroma. Below, there were a number of small pieces of lamb (different cuts) along with a variety of accompaniments. From top to bottom:

- A braised, fattier chunk of lamb (perhaps shank or shoulder)
- Tongue and poached fennel
- A coffee sauce with fennel foam
- A leaner cut (possibly tenderloin) with lemon gel
- Sweetbread with a raisin-coffee leather

Of the different lamb preparations, Michelle's favorite was the tongue, while I preferred the sweetbread. Unfortunately, we felt this was the weakest of the larger courses (possibly the weakest overall). It doesn't help that I'm not a big fan of either lamb or coffee, but this was the one course where all the distinct components were so separated, and it felt too deconstructed.

17. Black Truffle - explosion, romaine, parmesan

Picture from LTHForum (ronnie_suburban)

This is probably Chef Achatz' signature dish, something he has been serving since his previous restaurant. The ravioli contained a molten black truffle broth, similar to a shanghai soup dumpling, and was finished with cooked romaine (which added color but not much flavor), black truffle, and parmesan. One word: delicious. I could pop dozens of these like candy. Michelle's one word: ohmagodummaummayeahcanihaveanother?

18. Chestnut - quince, chocolate, baked potato

Picture from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

At this point, we started transitioning to dessert courses with what the server described as a savory parfait. The components were brought to the table layered inside a clear tube, which was then removed, allowing everything to mix.
Photo from Flickr (jgiacomoni)

There was a mix of savory and sweet components: a very savory baked potato ice cream (which Michelle thought was too salty, but I thought was really good), potato chips, sweet and sour chestnut, chestnut puree, and cookie pieces. All of the individual components were quite good, but there was maybe too much going on. We appreciated that they were trying to bridge savory and sweet, but the combination wasn't completely successful.

Around this time, we were also served the last part of bread service, an apricot and molasses cookie.

No comments: