Oakland: Commis (March 2014)

August 14, 2014 1 comment

Restaurant: Commis

Exec Chef: James Syhabout

I’ve been meaning to try Commis since summer 2013 and finally was able to! It’s quite an amazing restaurant. The decor, and to a certain extent the food too, is very minimalist. Things are pretty but bare, which I can appreciate because it translates into a focus on food. There’s a kind of no-nonsense approach to the food, where what you get is just beautifully cooked dishes made with very fresh ingredients. There’s very little flash or flare (although part of the kitchen is open) but I think that actually helps cut down on the cost (the location is a factor too) so that what the diner get is just great food for a great price.

1. Carmelized Onion Financier, Pickled Green Strawberries with Goats Milk and Dill

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The light and refreshing amuse really wowed me. The onion biscuit was just this super sweet oniony fluffy muffin that had none of the harshness of actual raw onions. Incredible.

2. Oyster with Frozen Kumquat, Elderflower, and Black Pepper
Paired with dama del rovere, durella, brenton ronca, italy nv

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It was a deliciously sweet and fresh oyster with the sweet and tart kumquat adding additional depth of flavor. The elderflower also added a light, aromatic touch. Props for clever presentation!

3. Sea Water Brined Bay SCallops, Rhubarb and Radish, Flowering Coriander
paired with max ferd, richter, graacher himmelreich kabinett, mosel, germany 1991

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I loved this dish. The scallops were tiny, but extremely sweet. The rhubarb and radish again added a great tart/sweet note to the dish.

 

4. Asparagus in Chlorophyll, Smoked Trout Mousse with Sorrel
paired with brundmayer, gruner veltiner, kampaler terrasen, langerlois, austria 2012

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A really simple dish that showcased the fresh simple (but really not) approach of California Cuisine!

5. Bread

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Super crusty on the outside, yet soft and chewy in the middle. Fantastic. Tasted kind of healthy too but not in a terrible way.

6. Slow Poached Egg Yolk with Buckwheat and Spice, Warm Potato
paired with francois pinon, vouvray, silex noir, loire valley, france 2011

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A really clever dish with an egg yolk and potato puree made to look like the egg white. It was super comforting, as eggs and potatoes would have to be.

7. Sea Bream, Artichoke in Fumet, Capers and Young Garlic
paired with isabelle et deris pommier, chablis, burgundy, france 2008

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Another light and refreshing dish, although I wish there were stronger flavors other than the artichoke. Then again, I may have just missed the complex subtleties of this one.

8. Tisane of Button Mushrooms

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Yuuuum mushroom broth.

9. Grilled Lamb Saddle with Oregano, Oats and Grains with Brassicas (or what’s left of it…I kind of ate it really eagerly)
paired with vignale di ciecilia, covolo, colli eugenei, italy 2009

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You’ll just have to trust me that this was extremely delicious. You probably can’t tell by its initial looks, but you can tell by how much I left on the plate.

 

10. Beer Washed Cow’s Milk Cheese, Golden Raisin and Cress

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A fantastic cheese course. Slightly sweet, very milky, and a great contrast in texture between the soft cheese and crisp on top.

11. Vanilla Ice with Sour Orange and Meyer Lemon

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This was like a panna cotta in its texture and flavor, just this really sweet milky pudding like cup that I absolutely enjoyed. The tanginess from the fruity elements was fantastic.

12. Perfumed Sour Apples with Yogurt, Parsnip Pudding and Caramel
paired with grande maison, cuvee des anges, moribaziliac, france 2008

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Apples and caramel, you pretty much can’t ever go wrong there. In a way, I almost didn’t enjoy this dish because it was such a no-brainer.

13. Mignardise

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All in all, a great meal. The portions are a bit small, and by that I mean you leave the restaurant feeling perfectly content and satisfied, instead of ready to food coma. The flavors are pretty bright and there’s a lot of acid in the dishes. The wine pairing was also really worth it, with unique wines that were light but went well with the dishes. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who has time/$$$ to give it a try :)

NYC: All’onda (Mar. 2014)

April 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Restaurant: All’onda
Exec Chef: Chris Jaeckle
Website: http://allondanyc.com/

March 29, 2014

Tad: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of good meals. However little known a restaurant may be on its first opening, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of so-called “foodies” and hipsters of the culinary scene that every restaurant with any decent share of competence quickly gains an inevitable cascade of hype. My friends and I were among the earliest of those who called on All’onda in New York—though admittedly we were also hangers-on of the hipster hype. Our meal unfurled in the following manner:

Food:

Tad: We were immediately endeared to the restaurant, its pleasing decor, and easy, unaffected lighting. Service was courteous, but not prim, and our waiter took our order with tolerable efficiency. Though we came to taste the short rib, our waiter informed us that, alas! the restaurant was all out. Yet this was not entirely grounds for censure, as the staff quickly brought out several appetizers gratis, making us feel quite welcome.

Cichetto 1: Polenta chips with “Bacalao Montecato”.
Cichetto 2: Spiced pistachios with brown sugar.

1 A1 and A2

Tad: Pleasant, if simple, introductions to our meal. The pistachios tasted as one would expect from sugar-coated nuts. The cod also tasty, adding earthy richness to the crisp polenta chips.

Cichetto 3: Arancini with black truffle and parmesan.

2 A3

Tad: I often meditate on the very great pleasure which cheese and truffle in a fried mouthful can bestow. It was no surprise that this appetizer tasted delicious; at the same time, it in no way exceeded the very similar morsel from the Dovetail bread service.

Primo 1: Bucatini with smoked uni and spicy bread crumbs.

3 P1

Tad: The noodles themselves were handsomely prepared, though the richness needed to be balanced with something sweet. The urchin fit just the bill, but, unfortunately, was so lacking in quantity that we only had a few mouthfuls of the chef’s intended dish.

Primo 2: Garganelli with peeky toe crab, citrus, and tarragon.

4 P2

Tad: The necessary flavors and textures of pasta were all present in this dish, but the overall combination was a bit lackluster compared to other pasta virtuosos in Manhattan. The crab, however, was elegant and as fine a treat as one could wish for.

Primo 3: Lumache with aged duck ragu, Treviso, and chocolate.

5 P3

Tad: The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. In this instance, however, the exacting precision with which the ragu was prepared could be tasted in every bite. Delightful. Overall, all pasta dishes delivered, as expected; however, we did think that an even better dish could be created by combining the texture of the bucatini, the duck ragu from the lumache, and the crab from the garganelli.

Secondo 1: Monkfish with uni polenta, squid ink, and arugula.

6 S1

Tad: Pleasing, but by no means capital. The polenta did its job, but I found the monkfish to be a bit plain. That it was salted to perfection did not overcome its other shortcomings–specifically, the lack of any other complexity in flavor.

Secondo 2: Hampshire pork with smoked apples, red cabbage, and whole grain mustard.

7 S2

Tad: I declare after all there is no enjoyment like pork! How much sooner one tires of any protein than of pork! The flavors jumped rapidly in my mouth; from sweet to savory, from rich to creamy, to salty and a bit of spice in a moment.

So what conclusion? Surely, given the highs, All’onde would be worth revisiting? Yet, though I was excessively pleased by some of the dishes, others merely diverted me for a few moments. Perhaps, at another opportunity, we will taste the short rib and be moved or altered so much that there is something new to be observed in us for ever. Until then, I can in good conscience only recommend the restaurant for casual dalliance.

NYC: Dirt Candy (Feb. 2014)

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Authors: Victor and Michelle
Restaurant: Dirt Candy
Exec Chef: Amanda Cohen
Website: http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/

Date: February 25, 2014

Dirt Candy is one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city, and the dishes manage to consistently be both imaginative and delicious. Chef Cohen and her restaurant are doing fantastic, and they’re even opening up a bigger restaurant (because it’s really small and hard to get reservations at right now) in fall 2014. You can see her blog post about it here.

Some items, like the hush puppies, mushroom appetizer, beans entrée, corn entrée, Nanaimo Bar, and celery cheesecake roll, are well-liked dishes that have been on the menu for at least 10 months now. (They were on the menu when I went in April.) Other items, like the spinach appetizer, broccoli entrée, and popcorn pudding, have been on the menu for a few months now—I actually think that these are the best dishes on the menu. The newest dishes are the cucumber appetizer, potato appetizer, and beets entrée, and they aren’t bad—I just don’t think they’re as good as the others. Honestly, though, all of the dishes are worth trying! (Just make sure you at least get spinach, broccoli, and the popcorn pudding haha.)

Food:

Snack:
Jalapeño Hush Puppies
with maple butter.

2 Jalapeno Hush Puppies

Michelle: The maple butter was crack. I could eat that butter all day long. I debated eating it straight up with a spoon, like you’d eat Nutella. The hush puppies were delicious too. Not too spicy.

Victor: The hush puppies are good. The jalapeño flavor isn’t too strong; it’s just right. However, I can’t say that they’re that special. The maple butter, though, actually is fantastic. The butter’s smooth, soft, and easy to cut through, and the maple flavor manages to shine through (without being distracting). It does a fantastic job of complementing the hush puppies. Eating the two together forms a great combination of sweet, spicy, salty, and umami!

Appetizer 1:
Potato!
Hot potato salad, crispy Japanese yams, grilled sweet potato, olives, bitter greens, and apples.

3 A1 Potato

Michelle: This was probably my dream come true. Potatoes in every form possible. Including fry-like potatoes on top.

Appetizer 2:
Cucumber!
Roasted cucumber hot & sour soup, black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear mushroom, and cucumber jelly.

4A A2 Cucumber before soup 4B A2 Cucumber after soup

Michelle: The jellies were pleasing to eat. Perfectly squishy. They also reminded of zebras. I usually hate hot and sour soup, but I liked this. The jellies may have helped.

Appetizer 3:
Spinach!
Spinach and grapefruit mille-feuille with smoked pistachios and ricotta.

5 A3 Spinach

Michelle: This would be the savory, rustic, hearty farmer brother to the lady m cake… if farmer brothers ate spinach.

Victor: I love the spinach mille-feuille here. The spinach, grapefruit, and ricotta parts are rich and creamy, and the pastry layers and pistachios help cut through the richness. It’s really hearty, reminiscent of heartier meat dishes.

Entrée 1:
Beets!
Beet gnocchi, salt-roasted beets, Thai green curry, whipped galangal coconut cream.

6 E1 Beets

Victor: Chef Cohen has a pretty good blog post on how this dish came to be; you can read it here.

Michelle: I didn’t get the beet gnocchi. Like where is the gnocchi? I ate lots of beet here though.

Entrée 2:
Corn!
Stone-ground grits, tempura-poached egg, corn cream, and pickled shiitake mushrooms.

7 E2 Corn

Michelle: I fully enjoyed this dish. As did Victor. Because Chris doesn’t eat egg and neither of us remembered/cared about what she disliked most in the world. I’d want this egg as the egg in my eggs Benedict.

Victor: I love eggs. And I love grits. Combining the two (especially with the creamy yolk going around) with the corn cream yielded an amazing result. There wasn’t anything acidic in this dish; it felt very rustic and earthy, and that’s how I liked it.

Entrée 3:
Broccoli!
Smoked broccoli dogs, broccoli kraut, and salt & vinegar broccoli rabe.

8 E3 Broccoli

Michelle: The healthiest hot dog ever. Except not really because it’s got white bread and the fattiest mayo thing. But this was still my favorite. Maybe this is how parents can get their kids to eat broccoli.

Victor: The hot dogs here have a lot of broccoli flavor, but they also managed to have a very “meaty” feel to them. It’s hard to explain it well because it sounds silly for this to be “meaty” until you actually try it! Ditto what Michelle said. I would totally eat this as a kid, and I did NOT like broccoli when I was young.

Dessert:
Popcorn Pudding
Popcorn pudding with butterscotch, hazelnut, and caramel. Served with salted caramel popcorn on the side.

9 D1 Popcorn Pudding

Michelle: My absolute f***ing favorite.

Victor: This is one of those desserts where you decide to try a bite and inevitably end up taking more and more bites until it’s all gone… even though you told yourself you wouldn’t touch any desserts because of the carbs/sugar.

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