Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'll have a bite of this and a bite of that

Wherein My Richard Blais postings are fast approaching Neal Stephenson levels; I guess the ultimate So Quoted blog would involve reading Neal Stephenson while eating at ONE.Midtown Kitchen. Or writing about Neal Stephenson eat at 1MK; yep that would do it. Actually, Stephenson writing about the kitchen could be quite interesting.

Previous mentions of Richard Blais and 1MK can be found:

For a bonus link, here's an interview with him in Food & Wine.

We went back last week for the tasting menu. Only available on Mondays and Tuesdays, it was ten dishes for $59. I think I'd read this was slightly higher; perhaps it varies some depending on the menu. Wine pairings are available, but as I was just getting over a summer cold/flu, I decided it was best to skip the alcohol. Not the case with the table behind us who looked to be absolutely looped.

Overall impression--an incredibly fun and entertaining evening. Some of the dishes made us laugh out loud, a couple we threatened to pick up and lick, and only one didn't really work for us. We were there for three hours and it flew by. A couple times we noticed there was a lengthy gap between courses, but it gave us more time to talk about the food. And we also used the time to sketch out some landscaping plans for our yard, so the time was used wisely.

Also to be noted: while I've been the one pushing to eat here, it's now The Wife insisting we do the tasting menu once a month. Can't argue with that.

We did our best to take notes, even though at times the descriptions were overwhelming. Didn't bring a camera, though I did see one group snapping shots. Chef Blais brought out about half the dishes himself and when he didn't come out, his sous chef showed up to explain what we were eating. We didn't catch his name, but he also was personable and helpful with any questions. Again, the waitstaff was very professional.

Looks like we ended up with eleven courses and it was a comfortable amount of food. I can't imagine what a 20-30 course meal like this would be like. Are the servings even smaller? Or do you just leave plumped up like that tomato sauce guy in 7?

To the food...

  1. Chips & Salsa
    Tortilla chips with a pico de gallo gel cube and tableside frozen margaritas

    A light-hearted introduction to the evening that eases you into a meal that will be different. On the chips are these perfect cubes of a yellowish gelatin. Took the juice from a pico de gallo and made salsa jello. Beautifully whimsical and the cubes had a very nice, intense salsa flavor. The frozen margaritas were created by whisking liquid nitrogen into a container of margarita ingredients. As the margaritas were freezing, a wave of liquid nitrogen fog flowed over our table. Gotta get me a tank of this stuff.

    Great tasting and the tequila went right to my head. Good decision to lay off the wine and I also skipped the champagne we were given. Next time.

  2. Shrimp Cocktail
    Shrimp with cocktail sauce pipette
    Very simple, just a perfect shrimp and cocktail sauce. However, the cocktail sauce was in the pipette and the pipette was in the shrimp. The idea being that as you bite into the shrimp, you squirt the cocktail sauce into your mouth. Probably could have used a slightly smaller shrimp. Required two bites and the first bite was without sauce.

    The wife is ordering pipettes so she can always eat shrimp this way; though she'll fill it with Datil Do-it hot sauce. What she really wants is a "shrimp cocktail twinkie." Shove a skewer through a shrimp, then use the pipette to fill in the hole.

  3. Summer Rolls
    Basil leaf with mozzarella topped with pineapple & balsamic vinegar gel cubes
    Simple combination of flavors with a small sliver of fresh mozzarella wrapped in a leaf of basil and topped with the sweet and sour of perfectly diced pineapple and balsamic gel. Obviously I need to figure out how to turn balsamic vinegar into gelatin, otherwise this is an excellent appetizer for home parties.

  4. Paté course
    Country paté, mustard and caviar, tempura fried mustard, raspberry relish?
    I present actual table conversation:
    The Wife: What's paté, again?
    Me: Well, a country paté is basically what spam is.

    Well, it is. I don't mean that in a dismissive way, but isn't spam essentially a productionized version of a paté? Anyway, 1MK makes their own patés and terrines--something I've been dying to try. In the F&W interview Blais mentions the Charcuterie book by Ruhlman and Polcyn. Got this for Christmas and it's drool-worthy. I need to schedule some time and make some pastrami. Start off with the basic pastrami and if that works, I'm thinking a salmon pastrami could be pretty good.

    Back to the dish. Wonderful paté, dense and chunky, the only complaint being there wasn't enough. At the time I wouldn't have pegged this as my favorite dish, but I'm finding, even a week later, that I'm constantly running my tongue across the roof of my mouth in some form of sense memory. The combination of texture and flavor from the grainy mustard and caviar is something I need to try again.

  5. Fried green tomato & ranch ice cream
    That pretty much says it all. Wonderful.

  6. Fish & Chips
    Sashimi Grouper, fried tartar sauce, malt vinegar gels, English peas
    Probably our least favorite dish. We're not really sushi people, so I'm not getting excited about this. It's mostly a texture thing, as there isn't a lot of flavor. Again the gel cubes provide an intense burst of flavor and the tartar sauce was nice (I'm guessing the tartar sauce is frozen, breaded, then fried--when you cut one open, the tartar sauce oozes out). I also hate peas. However, I did eat these and they weren't bad.

    Probably a hit with sushi fans, while it made me think they were being stingy with that paté. Not to nitpick, just chalk this one up to user error (meaning us).

  7. Shrimp noodles
    shrimp noodle in broth, pickled cabbage, wasabi, bonito
    I think we have the ingredients out of order. Was it a bonito broth? Whatever it was, the broth had an initial, intense flavor, and then just evaporated off the tongue without an aftertaste. Loved the noodles. Wonder how easy these would be to make in the home kitchen?

  8. Aroma dome
    Smoked sea scallop, smoked mashed potato, wine sauce, pickled cucumber
    Wow. Think this might be The Wife's favorite. We seriously debated whether it would be ok to pick the plate up and lick it. Perfectly seared scallop, lightly smoked, with extremely buttered potatoes. Better get me some hickory chips, because The Wife is planning on me smoking some potatoes on the Weber.

    The aroma dome is interesting. As the plate is set in front of us, a wine glass is placed over the scallop. Underneath is a torched hickory chip and the glass fills up with smoke, imparting a subtle flavor to the scallop. Leave the glass there as long as you like.

    Chef Blais said he's working on a prototype for the aroma dome, though the wine glass worked nicely. My first thought was a Klein bottle, but after looking at it again, I don't see how it would work. Too bad, it's a neat piece of glasswork.

  9. Miso Barbeque Pork Belly
    Marinated with miso and cooked sous vide 72 hrs, eggplant marmalade, tomato marmalade, honey sauce & barbeque sauce
    I would have been perfectly happy ending with the aroma dome, then we get this exquisite pork belly. I'm thinking I've discovered my ultimate comfort food. This would be the perfect food for a frozen Minnesota day...worked pretty well for a hot Spring day in Atlanta, so no complaints. Paired wonderfully with both the eggplant marmalade and the tomato marmalade. Be sure to drag the eggplant through the honey. Barbeque sauce was a bit sweet for my taste, but that's me.

    Just great, I'm in my happy place now.

  10. Lime parfait and peach sorbet with fruit
    Dessert? More food? Yum.

  11. Chocolate cake with crème brulee sauce and praline gelato
    More dessert? Sated and satisfied, we were starting to shut down when they brought out the chocolate. Chocolate cake doesn't do it justice, but we were in sensory overload and didn't understand a damn thing anyone was saying. It was some sort of french pastry--a baked chocolate custard--crusty on the outside, velvety on the inside.


That's it. Whew. We'll be back in a few weeks. I've been quite lax the last few weeks about cooking meals or just working on new things. Maybe it's just the summer heat and a salad or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just sounds better than an hour or so in the kitchen after work. But a meal like this is invigorating and has me looking through my cookbooks for new ideas. Gotta find some liquid nitrogen and gel sheets and get to work. Would also help if Chef Blais would schedule a Liquid Nitrogen 101 class. Or just let me come in and work evenings and weekends as a kitchen slave.

I do have some experience as a kitchen slave. A couple years ago I worked as an extra pair of hands in the East Lake Golf Club kitchen during the PGA Championship. Their executive chef was one of the instructors for a Culinary Arts Certificate class I took. Excellent class and since the last time I'd worked in a professional kitchen was many years ago prepping and cooking at a couple of Minneapolis pizza restaurants, very educational. Many days I wonder if I should switch professions and go back to the kitchen....Now I'm really digressing.

update: We'll be going back July 11 for a birthday dinner.

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