Vernon, CT, tasted on July 18, 2004 — The road
trip from Boston to New York City heads down interstate 84 south
through Connecticut. Growing up in Boston I really had little
conception of the rest of the states in New England (or even most of
Massachusetts outside of the Boston vicinity). I was actually pretty
worldly - traveled to Israel, France, Holland, etc. while growing
up. But my local knowledge was scant. Maine was rocky and oceany.
Rhode Island was small. And Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut
all seemed kind of green to me. I guess I thought that New Hampshire
was a republican version of Vermont. And Connecticut just was
non-descript. And while I've gotten a little more aware of the
geography and special aspects of the various parts of New England,
Connecticut is still, well, non-descript. Think of it as the hallway
between Boston and New York City. An annoyingly long hallway.
I have my father to thank that the boring trip down 84
south is not without opportunity. He first introduced me to
York Style Deli-Restaurant". Rein's is a super crowded, relatively
large, high volume deli right off the highway in Vernon, Connecticut.
I'm not sure that there are huge volume's to write about it. But let me
try and sum it up simply. Connecticut doesn't come up frequently on my
travel itinerary. Additionally, I'm not a big fan of car trips, so if I
need to get from Boston to NYC, I'll take a plane. That said, in the sea
of fast food crap (and no I don't think all fast food is crap) that
gathers like lint around the edges of the interstate highway system,
Rein's is an oasis. An oasis of
pastrami and corned beef. An island of
smoked fish and tongue. And maybe most importantly, a reliable spot to get
a delicious and (this is super important)
crunchy pickle. And when
you're stuck for a couple of hours driving through Connecticut, it's
hard to ask for more than that.
Lotus of Siam,
Las Vegas, NV, tasted on June 30, 2004 — Las Vegas
is a funny place. It's essentially a completely fake place. I'm sure
its residents would debate me, but I don't plan on living in Vegas
any time soon. It's not that Seattle is so great, but I'm going to
claim that Vegas is an even smaller town and if I were to move
anywhere it would be to somewhere bigger. So, again, Las Vegas, is
essentially a fake place, from a visitor's perspective. And yet,
movies are fake and they can be enjoyable. And therein lies the rub.
If you're looking for a high quality food experience that invariably
involves a fair amount of authenticity, is it crazy to look for it
in Las Vegas? On the strip? Maybe. Outside the strip in a super
crappy Asian strip mall? Maybe not. In that very strip mall, miles
away from the strip is buried
Lotus of Siam. A tastingmenu reader
(rightfully) gave me crap about always going to restaurants by absentee famous
chefs on the strip and said I should try Lotus. So that's what we
did. Never say that we don't pay attention to suggestions from
readers. (Note: there are also likely many additional delicious
Asian hideaways in this strip mall but we didn't have time to check
any out - this time.)
Things started off with a few relatively standard Thai
restaurant items - specifically we got
Pork Satay. The satay was good.
Peyman particularly liked the pork. I thought the chicken was very
good and unexpectedly sweet. The satay was followed by
Tod - minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, fresh ginger,
peanuts, crispy rice, and lime juice. Sounded great. It had super unique
sour and spicy flavors that built up and up until they were super
bright. The texture was incredible as well because of the crispy rice.
Next up was the
Kung Hot Pot - Thai hot and sour shrimp soup. It was balanced, warm,
and had a round flavor profile (think deep). There was disagreement on
Thum. Peyman thought this green papaya salad was "soggy".
Alex however thought it was one of
the better ones he had eaten. Another miss was the
Pineapple Rice. Michael was
disappointed. (And I can tell you from experience, you don't want to
disappoint Michael.) The rice was definitely boring but not without some
redeeming characteristics - specifically, the rice was buttery and
nicely cooked. That said, did anyone really expect Pineapple rice to be
exciting? I suppose if it doesn't make an impression, why put it on the
Next up was the
Charbroiled Large (and I mean LARGE) Freshwater Prawns with Chili Sauce.
They were enormous. Michael's quote: "A travesty. Like Lobster but
worse." The sauces that accompanied the prawns were great. But the prawn
meat was dry and not flavorful. Frankly I have never had an oversized
prawn where the meat was succulent and tender. I'm not sure why I keep
ordering them. OK. I am sure. It's because I hope that when I do get one
that is prepared well, there will be so much more of it to enjoy.
We were starting to get a little nervous but the meal
ended with a string of hits. First up was the
Panang Curry. The curry sauce was flavorful. The beef was tender.
The vegetables were crisp. Good. The
Soy was billed as "Issan style steak tartare". It had a cool crumbly
texture, and then after 60 seconds it became spicy as hell. Very good.
And finally, we got the house special -
Rice Noodles with Steamed Catfish. This was spectacular. The fish
was buttery in texture and flavor. The noodles were subtle. They
began with a strange sweetness and were slightly spicy on the finish.
They had a perfect soft and firm texture. This dish was
I must say that my first venture significantly off the
strip to a restaurant that no casino would think about opening up a
branch of was excellent. And while I don't know if this upgrades Vegas
as a city with a lot going for it, I do hope there are more like it. And
who knows. Maybe after a few more finds I'll be eating my words and
telling everyone I know about Las Vegas as a culinary treasure of North
America. For now, having a great meal at Lotus of Siam will do.
Bray, England, tasted on June 2, 2004 — There are a few
restaurants on the planet right now practicing a type of cooking
that's both grounded in tradition, and yet best described as...
well... exciting. These chefs are trying something new. And yet this
is a fundamental paradox as they also recognize the value of cooking
within a framework. You can think of a food framework, a tradition,
as years of evolution slowly weeding out the bad flavor combinations
and letting the strong ones survive. Grandparents aren't typically
passing on the recipes for the food that tastes bad to their
grandchildren. And even if they did, the grandchildren would likely
not want them. And so a small town an hour or so outside of London
houses two Michelin three star restaurants. And while
one of them is quite good and grounded in French tradition
(passed from father to son no less), the other is a center of
gravity for experimentation, excitement, and most importantly
excellent simply flavorful food. That restaurant is
Three stars from the folks at Michelin means something.
And that something is usually refinement, lots of crystal, and multiple
layers of luxury. And while The Fat Duck is refined, it's also
designed. (All the tables are round - not sure what this
means.) High end, but super comforting in the English countryside, and
most importantly - not stuffy! Often when I go to a high end restaurant
I find myself being the youngest person there (by a long shot). That's
not a problem for me, but it is kind of odd. Fat Duck had a mix of
people at all ages and there was some noise in the dining room. It
didn't have the hushed tones of a museum. I try not to focus too much on
environment as all I pretty much care about is the food, but you come to
expect a certain type of feel at a three star restaurant, and the vibe
here was simply refreshing.
For a view into what it's like to work at the kitchen at
Fat Duck be sure to check out
Phat Duck, a well written blog by a great cook who spent a few
months cooking in their kitchen.
Things started off with a small plate of beautiful mild
olives. I love a good olive, but I liked that these were mild.
Didn't set me off in a particular strong direction. A nice way to spark
my appetite. A cute "nostalgia card" was set on the table
while I waited for the next attraction. And it was quite the attraction.
Liquid Nitrogen Poached Green Tea and Lime Mousse.
The mousse was
dipped and frozen tableside. It came with a short but polite
instruction from the waiter "eat it immediately and in one
bite". And that I did. Wow! It tasted mostly like lime but with a gentle sweetness.
It is slightly too big to put in your
mouth gracefully. But I liked that as I thought it set the tone for the
lack of pretension in the meal. The pitch was that this frozen
concoction would clean out all the oil in my mouth and thereby render my
palate completely clean and clear - a canvas on which the kitchen could
paint for the next 2-3 hours. And in fact, my
mouth did indeed feel super clean as promised. Each component in this
little ball of frozen goodness had its role. The vodka apparently was
there to remove the fat. i didn't want to eat any more olives as I wanted the
"clean slate" to remain for the next dish.
The meal really started to get going with
Fresh Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly, Horseradish Cream,
Lavendar and Lindi Pepper Tuile. All the flavors in this dish
combined into a warm
tone yet I could still recognize each one as distinct. It was like they were competing to see
which flavor note could be the quietest but still present on your tongue.
Next up the kitchen borrowed a bit from
Alain Passard with
Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream,
Red Cabbage Gazpacho, Brunoise of Cucumber.
If you're going to borrow from Passard, this is not a bad thing to
borrow. It was a gazapacho, like Passard's but purple and refined and
rustic. Unlike Passard they were not trying to smooth out edges of the flavors and textures.
letting them be what they are. The diced onions were a big part of the
dish as well. Nice!
This was followed by
Pea Puree, Jelly of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait of
Foie Gras. Other than the goie gras, and knowing the Jelly was kind
of gamey in a good way, I had a hard time identifying what everything
was in this dish. Everything was soft and had a faint air of coffee.
Typically that's nto my thing, but this was quite enjoyable. The foie gras pate from the beginning actually tasted
"livery" but good. It had an honest quality about it with a slightly rough texture.
size was perfect.
Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham, Shaved Fennel.
The porridge was not gluteny (not your father's
porridge). It had absorbed some of the fennel flavor and balanced
beautifully with the ham. It had a sweet, smokey, warm, and round flavor.
Even though we had a touch of foie gras already I was
certainly looking forward to this next dish -
Roast Foie Gras, Chamomile, Almond, Cherry and Amaretto
Jelly. I really loved this. It was interesting, new, and exciting.
The foie gras
itself was not super hot temperature-wise but it worked for this dish. the texture of the
chamomile and the nuttiness combined to make almost a first impression
of peanuts. Then the cherries kicked my ass. The little gelee cubes of
sherry were these "bright flavor points" on my tongue. When combining
each of the ingredients
in this dish for a single bite, millimeters really made a significant difference.
And that was kind of cool as each bite ended up being a different
journey. I ended
up leaving a little of the gelee cream on the plate or it would have drowned out the foie gras.
This was a very exciting and enjoyable dish to eat.
The foie was followed by
Sardine on Toast Sorbet, Ballotine of Mackerel
"Invertebrate" Marinated Dycon and Salmon Eggs. Wow!
Again, minute differences in amounts of ingredients in each
of the bites I assembled made a huge difference in the flavor. But
each combined salt, sour, sea, warm,
cold, in an amazing way. The contrasting textures were also fantastic.
It was at this point that I realized that my seven
course tasting menu (that I was eating on my own after having been awake
most of the night on a flight to London from the west coast of the US
was rapidly turning into a 19 course tasting menu. Twelve of the 19 were
what I think the kitchen considered more incidental so they didn't count
them in the big number. But I knew that I was in for the marathon. I
steeled myself to go forward. (It may not be obvious, but eating like
this is work - delicious work.)
The next dish arrived like a jewel.Salmon Poached with Liquorice,
"Manni" Olive Oil.
It was salmon wrapped in dark gelee and at first glance it looked to me like venison.
was sweet. The salmon was translucent and perfect. Oily in a good way,
not dry or flakey. There was apparently licorice in the gelee coating and then
fresh licorice was shaved onto dish in front of me. Frankly I was
pretty worried as I am hypersensitive to that flavor and I really don't
like it (though I do enjoy the star anise in my Vietnamese pho). And it didn't matter.
It was great, beautiful, lovely.
Next up was
Sweetbread Cooked in a Salt Crust with Hay, Crusted with
Pollen, Cockles a la Plancha, Parsnip Purée, and Choux Pontoux. The sweetbreads
were excellent. I'm a big fan of sweetbreads when they are cooked
properly and these were done right. They were
like chicken, veal, and ham combined. The texture was firm not gelatinous.
This dish had
a perfect fried crust, studded with salt. and the sauce was a concentrated savory deliciousness.
The accompanying puree had a distinctly silky flavor and texture. The foam,
was substantial as it was super flavorful. The cabbage underneath
was perfectly cooked. And I'm not sure how they achieved this, but the
texture was crispy and soft. Cool.
The next dish was transitional to the sweet portion of
the meal -
White Chocolate and Caviar.
This bite melts on your tongue for ten
seconds combining sweet and creamy, gelatinous and salt. Nice. Next I
received a little brochure with an ode to
an unheralded pioneer in the art of ice cream from the late 19th century
(according to the pamphlet).
Mrs. Marshall's Margaret Cornet
was a little super thin ice cream cone with yummy ice cream. The
presentation was cute but not kitschy. The restaurant seems to skirt the
edge but never go over. I got the impression of a chef and kitchen who
are really really into food. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Up until the sweetbreads the pacing really had been
perfect, but afterwards things slowed way down.
After the ice cream I got the
Pine Sherbet Dib Dab.
This was essentially a high end
Dip. And in fact it was not bad at all. It had a yummy sour flavor.
ultimately the pine undertone tasted like a cleaning solution to me. I don't think
pine will ever be a taste I acquire. But then again, you never know...
Mango and Douglas Fir Puree, Bavarois of Lychee and
Mango, Blackcurrant and Green Peppercorn Jelly, Blackcurrant Sorbet
follwed the dib dab. There were some nice flavor combinations. The fir was subtle enough that
I didn't notice the super slight burning on my tongue until after I
saw what was in the dish (it's so hard to separate what your tongue
tastes and what your mind thinks). There were harder gelee cubes that
were almost like nuts. The colors were
vivid and beautiful. There was also an
Orange and Carrot Tuile,
Bavarois of Basil, Beetroot
Jelly. The beetroot jelly was concentrated yummy high quality candy.
A little "amuse dessert" came out in the form of
Parsnip Cereal, and
The cereal came out in a little mini-cereal box just like you get at the
super market. It was essentially trying to be Frosted Flakes made out of
parsnip. And while it was cute and funny it wasn't super tasty. However,
not all was lost, as the next dish served was
Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream, Tomato Jam,
Butter Caramel, Caramelised Brioche, and
This reconstructed breakfast for dessert was certainly novel, but to
focus on the humor would be missing the point, which was that it tasted
fantastic. The bacon and egg ice cream was surprisingly good. But the buttery
French toast was excellent! I don't know any other way to describe the
brioche other than great eggy sweet French toast. I'm not a big tea guy,
but the jelly was refreshing with sharp clean flavors. It felt like it
pear, and grape with a tangy quality as well.
As the meal wound down, I was presented with a small dish of chocolates
- Leather, Oak, Pine, Tobacco, Chocolates
to be specific. I'm in a bit of a quandry on this one as my notes and
the printed menu are in conflict. I'll jus tell you that I thought one
of the chocolates I ate was mint. I suppose it could have been the pine
but I doubt it as I remember the flavor so clearly even over a year
later. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. Either way, at the time I
thought (rightly or wrongly) that it was mint. And despite my aversion
to mint combined with chocolate, the mint was surprisingly good. It tasted more
herby and straight off the plant as opposed to the more commercial tasting mass
produced tasting mint found in most chocolate. The others- Leather, Oak,
Tobacco, etc. - were honestly foul tasting. I did try them
though. I looked at this as a moment to try new things and try I did.
Nobody ever said you'd like everything you tried, just that you wouldn't
find any new things to love if you didn't try them.
As if to say, thank you for trying the chocolates (and after all I did
end up enjoying one that I thought for sure I wouldn't) the kitchen sent
out a final little yummy item - a
Pralines Rose Tartlet.
The tartlet was fantastic. It was sweet with a thick smooth filling and
light shell. Great.
Whew! After a meal like this I'm kind of at a loss to
sum things up in a way that really does it justice. I'll try anyway.
There's lots of writing about the novelty, experiment, inventiveness,
and innovation happening at The Fat Duck. Here's what I think the
reality is. Yes there's novelty. Yes there are new and interesting and
unexpected combinations of ingredients. But essentially you need to
clear your mind of noticing all the newness and focus on the flavor. And
when you do, you realize two things: 1) the flavors are simply good,
clean, and deeply satisfying, and 2) in many instances the flavors are
new. So in the end you're left with a bunch of truly great tasting food
with simple and clean but passionate flavors, that you've never had
before. It's hard to argue with a combination like that. And as such, I
can't wait to go back.
Seattle, WA, tasted on May 12, 2004 — I really do
try to focus exclusively on the food in every experience that I
share. I typically don't worry about atmosphere, service, etc. And
ultimately that's because I will put up with almost anything for
wonderful food. The one thing I do let color my judgment is
location. Not in the sense of whether the restaurant is in a good
neighborhood, but simply acknowledging the fact that most people
don't get to travel to Italy when they want great Italian food. And
while location does have a modest bearing on my judgment, it never
catapults something beyond where it should be in my estimation. And
so here we are eating in a "mom and pop" Italian deli in downtown
Seattle for lunch. And the truth is that there are likely many just
like it dotting the east coast of the United States. But in Seattle,
there is only
Salumi. And in fact, even though Salumi's uniqueness stands out
because of its isolation in the pacific northwest, the truth is that
its yummy food would make it stand out just about anywhere.
is basically three things: 1) an Italian deli serving weekday lunches to
downtown wokers, 2) a sometime private Friday night dinner establishment
favoring only its most regular customers with an invitation (since I
work on the outskirts of Seattle I've never been able to go there enough
to rise on the Salumi leaderboard), and 3) a salumeria curing their own
meats. For most people 1 and 3 are enough to make for a pretty positive
On this day we hauled ass from the suburbs to get to
before the lunch rush. But that really is essentially impossible as
there appears to be a
the door no matter what time you arrive. That said, even though it
usually seems highly unlikely, by the time you get through the line and
have your food in hand, a spot usually opens up at one of the small
tables or the
communal table where friendly customers and
staff all seem to enjoy and contribute to the friendly atmosphere.
But most important is the food.
Taking advantage of the in house meat curing we of
course started off with a
cured meats and cheeses. The neatest thing was that each of the
cured items was spicy in its own unique way. It made for an interesting
other platter, filled with "hot meat" got lots of envious stares.
The brisket in particular was so soft, tasty, juicy, and oily in a good
We also ordered a bunch of sandwiches. The
was super savory, and especially excellent with chunks of gorgonzola
that I added to it as I gorged. Even the simple
salami and cheese sandwich
was delicious mostly I think because of how simple it was letting the
triumvirate of the bread salami and cheese do their thing.
I typically worry about two things with a
sub: 1) overly-herbed meatballs and/or sauce, and 2) too much sauce
turning the whole sandwich into a soggy mess. Overall things were pretty
balanced though. There were definitely herbs in the meatballs, but they
didn't distract at all. And finally, the
sandwich slathered in tomato, onion, and peppers was gorgeous. The bread
did a good job soaking up the juice.
Much in the same way that the sharing a sample of yummy
goodness was a telling moment at
Katz's, the sample of
that was delivered to our table was also emblematic of the positivity
everyone felt as they ate their lunch. The prosciutto itself had a sheen of
beautiful oil, a gorgeous color, and was chewy and a touch gamey in a good way.
Salumi is essentially a neighborhood Italian deli that
just happens to cure its own meat. And lucky for those that work in
downtown Seattle, Salumi is right nearby.
Tel Aviv, Israel, tasted on May 31, 2004 — I love
a good food festival. I love the stalls. I love to sample
everything. I love all the different options. Or generally I like
the idea of it. The reality of course is that often the food is
either junk food (which I can enjoy if its good junk food --- mmm
fried dough) or its restaurants trying to do something good in a
food fair setting, which is almost impossible except within a set of
limited constraints that most of them don't respect. I conveniently
forgot all this as I was in Israel on business when I was told that
there was an annual food festival happening outside Tel Aviv. My
reaction? Let's go!
And sure enough, despite my dreams of how the Israeli
restaurants would fair better as the local high quality produce and
middle eastern influences make Israeli food so very good so very often.
But in fact, though there were a couple of standouts, most of it was
just like the U.S. And in fact, it was often a little too much like the
U.S. In fact, I saw
some of the most bizarre corporate marketing I've ever seen in my life.
I even shot some
for your enjoyment. How this sold their product, I have no idea. There
were still some yummy
kebabs to be had (not to mention a surprising amount of
shellfish they are right on the Mediterranean I suppose). And if
your expectations are set properly, it's not a bad way to spend a couple
of hours. But I still dream of better... the food festival composed
entirely of vendors who are great at making street food. Middle Eastern
street food vendors. This would be perfect I think.
New York, NY, tasted on May 8, 2004 — This seems like
an appropriate way to break
the fast. I'm not
sure how much value my words can offer in this case. Quite simply,
Delicatessen is one of the most enjoyable eating experiences of
my life. I admit, the atmosphere is not without its impact. Informal
is a technically accurate but almost glib description. It's more
like chaotic, messy, and homey. But the good feeling at Katz's
really shines through as expressed through their cured meats. The
Jewish people have made a major sacrifice by avoiding pork. The
variety of cured pork products, all terribly delicious, is really
astounding. And all are off limits. But not without its own
resourcefulness the Jewish people have their own adopted cured meat
delicacies, and high quality pastrami is at the top of my personal
list of favorites.
There is this moment at Katz's where the generosity and
quality of the sandwiches are demonstrated literally and metaphorically.
This is the moment you are standing in line and still several minutes
from your first bite. It's at that moment, when you're salivating,
starting to get impatient, and peering over the counter to get a glimpse
of what's to come, that the friendly
sandwich maker behind the counter serves up a
hunk of pastrami or corned beef on a plate for you to sample. And
this is no tiny sliver... "hefty chunk" is usually a more apt
descriptor. And even though it's just a start, it's symbolic. Symbolic
of how the sandwich is going to attend to your most basic needs for
comfort, love, sustenance, happiness, and
smoked cured meat. The Katz's folks know that you need a little bit
right at that moment and they show up with their sample as if they've
read your mind. The sandwich that follows fulfills the promises of that
sample beautifully. And of course, the
pickles are great too. I keep meaning to try something other than a
hot pastrami sandwich with a pickle at Katz's but since I don't get to
New York as often as I'd like, really, what's the point?
New York, NY, tasted on May 8, 2004 —
For some time now I have come to the conclusion that street food is
among the best food you can get in the world. The question is, can
the intangibles of Southeast Asian street food survive translation
by Jean-Georges Vongerichten into a chic and sleep restaurant in
Manhattan? The challenge is really one of authenticity. I have
rewritten this paragraph several times to try and make it not sound
negative, because it's not meant that way. The truth is that if you
try to recreate some jewel of ethnic authenticity, by definition you
lose something. This is natural as you aren't serving one dish from
a stall in a night market in Chiang Mai. It's just different. That
said, being different doesn't mean you can't be great. And so we're
eating on this day at
I'm sure the designers would cringe, but Spice Market
feels to me like a hip
Disney does Singapore chic, but understated. The
details are really well done. And the environment feels great. I
normally don't really care about decor but I was struck by how hard
they'd tried to make a beautiful place to eat. And I think this place
was very positive. There was a beautiful open kitchen with a snaking bar
making its way in and out of nooks and crannies facing the kitchen.
There was also a beautiful
temple-like structure that you had to go through to the downstairs
bar and bathrooms. Really quite lovely.
This is going to sound terrible, but one of the main
things that distinguishes this eating environment from a traditional
street food environment is that... well... Spice Market is very clean.
I'm sure there's plenty of street food stalls that are clean too (as
well as many that aren't) but I'm not the health inspector, it's more a
statement of "feeling" and frankly, the "grunge" factor does contribute
to some of the difference in how you feel at the restaurant. I'm not
suggesting I'd prefer a dirtier restaurant, just pointing out the
differences that challenge authenticity.
Most important however is, of course, the food. And on
that front, Spice Market fared very well. Soon after we sat down were
delighted to get a plate full of
Pappadums. This particular variation was crispy, thick, and yummy.
These were soon followed by
Vietnamese Spring Rolls which were amazing and light with perfectly fried skins
surrounding hot chunks of shrimp inside. Given the profusion of fried
spring rolls in the world its hard for them to stand out (to me anyway).
But these were truly special.
Next up was the
Black Pepper Shrimp with Sun-Dried Pineapple. This dish had bright strong flavors
crunchy jicama and grilled pineapple which was particularly juicy and delicious.
Chicken Skewers with Peanut Sauce were a touch dry, but salty in a good
way. Unfortunately the peanut sauce didn't have much flavor.
I was particularly intrigued by the
Lobster Roll with Dill and Sriracha. It was a gorgeous little
sushi-like maki roll with flat rice noodle instead of nori and chunks of
beautiful fresh lobster filling the roll. I love clean simple flavors
and this looked very good. Interestingly there were also big cubes of citrus jelly
dotting the inside of the roll with the lobster. And as novel a
complement as they were for the lobster they were a touch dominating.
This dish I think could have been really wonderful if it had been more
If I had to articulate the center of gravity for food that I like it
would be refined clean simple and interesting flavors. And frankly,
refined but authentic ethnic food is always one of my favorites. I
didn't know what to expect from the Spice Market rendition of
Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour shrimp soup) but I was happy I
ordered it. It was very very good. The flavors were very refined and
clean with a sharp kick on the
Brown Rice was interesting and a nice complement in general,
especially to the
Charred Chili Rubbed Beef Skewer. It was super juicy with a kaffir lime
flavor I think.
The cilantro sauce was also good.
Roee, who had accompanied me
on this meal said "super, I dig it."
We did get one main dish, the
Shrimp and Noodles specifically. The noodles had a lovely and
delicious sour and spicy film on them that made them quite good. The shrimp
grilled with savory dry seasonings and accompanied by fresh chili sauce and scallions.
Everything in this dish was really great especially with all the contrasting textures.
We were eating a late lunch and had to hurry a bit as
the kitchen closed at 3pm. We were bummed but I do understand that the
kitchen can't stay open all day for 2 customers. It was annoying however
when someone in a position of authority who saw me taking pictures came
by and rudely told me to stop photographing. Luckily I'd a) already
taken a zillion pictures of the food, and b) had already decided that
I'd really enjoyed the food. Not that her being so controlling would
have changed my opinion about the food, but it would definitely have put
a bit of a damper on lunch.
We went on to dessert. The
Flan we ordered was weak.
Sorbet very good. The fruit flavor built slowly with a touch of alcohol.
This was followed up by a
Cookie Goodie Bag. The peanut butter cookie was great. It was salty... like...
peanuts! The coconut chocolate chip cookie was interesting as well.
Here's the thing. We weren't in a floating market
outside Saigon. We weren't in the streets of Bangkok. And trying to make
believe we were would have been an exercise in futility. But we were in
Manhattan eating quite excellent Asian street food in a beautiful
surrounding and enjoying every minute of it. And that's pretty great.
A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino, October 5, 2005 —
Just a short note to say WOW! The response to our new electronic
Omakase, a Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino has
been overwhelming. It should be known that these books we've been
doing are truly a team effort. I want to thank: Peyman for his
gorgeous and authentic photographs, Jenny for the beautiful and
natural aesthetic and design, Debbie for her hardcore editing
keeping the verbosity to a minimum, and Alex for the days he spent
in the kitchen and running around Seattle shopping to make sure the
recipes actually worked as written. And of course, Tatsu Nishino and
his wife who were gracious enough to share their time with us. Tatsu
spent a significant chunk of his busy schedule walking us through
(and re-walking us through) every detail of how he prepares those
delectable dishes. One of my favorite moments of each of the books
we've made has been when we did the test dinner and the chef comes
and eats his food that we prepared from a draft of the book. In
Tatsu Nishino's case I remember one key moment where he took barely
a fraction of a bite into one of the dishes and immediately and
gently called back to us in the kitchen "did you forget the salt?"
Sure enough. The fact that he zeroed in right off the bat is no big
surprise. Still the intimate access that we got to seeing how this
wonderful food is made and being able to represent it in such detail
and live it (as best we could with our skill set) was really super
exciting. Hopefully that comes through in the book itself.
And most importantly, thanks everyone for the huge
number of downloads as well as the fantastic feedback on the book. The
response of folks on the web is what motivates us to spend all this time
making these little creations.
Next post, back to regular programming.
Omakase, A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino, October 3,
2005 — How do you follow up the making of a first ever
beautiful electronic cookbook
filled with detailed recipes of incredible food? By making another
To be completely truthful, making our first cookbook was
a ton of work. And in the final hours of making the last one, we were
all happy to be done. But within five minutes of seeing reactions to
that initial book, it was clear that we wanted to make another one. But
first we had to convince someone to let us do it. We had to find a chef
who made fantastic food and was willing to let us obsessively document
every detail of how he put together each component of an entire
exquisite meal. We immediately identified our target – Tatsu Nishino.
For years now we have loved eating Tatsu’s wonderful
food and enjoyed Eri’s warm hospitality. We had actually raised the idea
of the cookbook with Tatsu and his wife Eri for some months before our
last book came out. I’m relatively sure they had no idea what we were
talking about – “an electronic cookbook?” And then one day, we showed up
with a copy of the book. They won’t admit it, but I think they were
shocked that we had been telling the truth and had actually managed to
produce a cookbook. We hope the pleasure Tatsu and Eri and Nishino’s
have given us is clearly evident in every page of this book.
And so now, we invite you to download this brand new
electronic cookbook, Autumn Omakase,
a Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino. One tasting
menu. Nine recipes. One hundred-twenty four pages of obsessive detail.
399 gorgeous photos of every step, not just of the final dish. We're
hope you enjoy the use of this book as much as we enjoyed its creation.