NYC: Empellón Cocina: The Push Project: Part II (Mar. 2013)
Authors: Victor and Jessie
Restaurant: Empellón Cocina (Push Project II)
Chefs: Jordan Kahn and Alex Stupak
Date: March 8, 2013
I follow Empellón Cocina on Facebook, and they’re one of the more interesting NYC restaurants that I like to keep track of, especially because their chef is Alex Stupak. He used to be known as one of the top pastry chefs in the country, and he was Alinea’s original pastry chef.
Every few months, Alex Stupak collaborates with a chef he strongly respects to create guest chef dinners under the name of “The Push Project”. Part I of “The Push Project” involved Enrique Olvera. For Part II of “The Push Project”, Chef Stupak decided to collaborate with Jordan Kahn, who Stupak worked with at Alinea. Kahn is currently the Exec Chef of Red Medicine, and he’s worked with pastries at Per Se, Alinea, and Varietal. You can find info on this collaboration at http://www.empellon.com/cocina/single.html?id=1591236.
Because the two chefs were superstar pastry chefs, there’s a huge focus on sweets. The meal consisted of four savory courses and five sweet courses. I think you have to really like desserts to be able to really appreciate all of the desserts as the sweets might be too much for some people. Overall, the savory courses were great, and the desserts were AMAZING, both in terms of taste and conceptually.
Rice Pudding, Quince, and Succulents
-The trout roe is under the rice pudding, and you can’t really see it in this pic :(.
-All of the ingredients were amazing by themselves.
-The textures of this course were amazing. The crunchiness of the seaweed contrasts well with the soft creaminess of the rice pudding, and this contrast provides a wonderful background with which to enjoy the delicate trout roe.
-I loved the mix of all the textures in this course. The top of the rice pudding is also slightly crunchy and contributes an additional texture; it also congeals over the trout roe to create a nice contrast.
-I can’t decide whether this or the black bean vermicelli (Course #3) was my favorite dish overall—both were amazing.
COLD PORK LOIN
Sea Urchin, Anchiote, and Sour Orange Mayonnaise
-The uni could have been sweeter/creamier. We didn’t really notice the uni as much as we could or should have, and I think the weakness of the uni was a contributing factor.
-There was a spicy aftertaste, which I didn’t really like.
Jessie: I didn’t really notice an aftertaste here, and I really enjoyed the spiciness level!
Raw Mustard Juice, Fermented Tea, Pistachio, and Arrowgrass
-The brisket is cooked for 30 hours, and then they individually peel the fibers before reconstructing them.
-The beef consisted of several fibers strung together to form a stick—it unraveled as I tried to cut the beef. It was neither too chewy nor too hard, and, for beef fibers, all of it was incredibly easy to eat. Indeed, the food disappeared before I realized I had finished—all because of my greedy, greedy mouth :(.
-Taste-wise, I enjoyed the trout roe more, but conceptually I thought this dish was far more interesting. This was probably my favorite dish overall.
Black Bean Vermicelli with a Variety of Mushrooms and Avocado
-All in all, this was a PARTY IN MY MOUTH. I LOVED THIS COURSE.
-I loved how the avocado tasted slightly like and even had the texture of a cucumber.
-If I HAD to nitpick, it would be that this was a little salty, to be honest. (Then again, I’m really sensitive to salty foods.)
Argan Oil Mole, Chorizo, and Almendrado
Victor: The rabbit-and-chorizo mix was delicious. However, the chorizo was a little too spicy, especially in the aftertaste. We would enjoy alternating the rabbit and the chorizo, but the strong aftertaste of the chorizo cut into the flavor of the rabbit in following bites :(.
Pear Skins, Yellow Sheet Clover, Oak Moss, and Yarrow
Victor: This was greater than the sum of its parts! Each ingredient by itself wasn’t that amazing, but the combination definitely was. You have to get used to the strong taste of the sorrel curd, but, once you do, all the flavors mix together wonderfully.
Jessie: This dessert definitely grew on me as I ate it. Also, the pear skins reminded me of fortune cookies!
Black Tea, Banana, and Brown Butter Sorbet
Victor: That brown butter sorbet was AMAZING. WOOOOOOW. The whole dessert didn’t taste too sweet, though the sorbet was a little sweet by itself. Of course, you’re meant to eat it with everything else!
Jessie: The brown butter sorbet was very rich (in a good way!). Sorbets usually taste a little watery for me. However, this one was just right! The sorbet tasted really good by itself, but it was even better with the banana (under it) and the jasmine custard.
MILK CHOCOLATE MADE IN THE JAPANESE METHOD
Buckwheat Milk, Redwood Oil, and Aerated Cucumber
Jessie: First, the buckwheat milk and redwood oil were useless and just made it more oily. Second, I also didn’t like the aerated cucumbers.
-I thought the buckwheat milk and redwood oil added a little complexity to a dish that would otherwise just be too sweet.
-The milk chocolate had the texture of soft mousse, and the caramel balls were wonderful in adding occasional bursts of sweetness to the (delicious) monotony of the milk chocolate mousse.
-I thought that the aerated cucumbers did a good job of cutting down on the sweetness of the milk chocolate while not providing too much flavor to be distracting.
DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Black Cardamom, Licorice, Peppermint Ice Cream
-This was DEFINITELY good. This was greater than the sum of its parts; while some of the ingredients didn’t taste amazing by themselves, the combination of all the flavors and textures created a partyyyyy in my mouth!
-Jessie and I couldn’t really tell where the licorice was :(.
Jessie: If I ate each ingredient separately, there were definitely parts that I would prefer over others; taking everything in at once, though, made every such bite delicious. The peppermint ice cream was pretty key—it brought everything together.
Vanilla Ice Cream
-The ice cream is made from whole milk and is made Philadelphia-style (no eggs), so the texture is slightly different.
–This was the BEST vanilla ice cream that Jessie and I have EVER had in our short, uneventful lives. From a pure taste/pleasure viewpoint, this was my favorite course BY FAR. It was pure, simple bliss. All of the other desserts were really complex, and I definitely appreciated that, but it was nice to be able to enjoy one simple ingredient that was 10/10. It was basically the equivalent of that PERFECT piece of sushi—pure in taste yet unbelievably and intensely delicious.
Jessie: Mmmmmmmmm. [She’s too busy dreaming about that ice cream.]