Breadbar Japan Benefit Dinner (Los Angeles, CA)

Ibaraki, Japan Benefit Dinner
Breadbar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Dining date:  5/16/11

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This was one of my most anticipated meals in recent memory. Urasawa. Cimarusti. Manzke. Three of my favorite chefs in one place?! No way! Breadbar and Comme Ça teamed up to feature two benefit dinners with 100% of the proceeds going to Japan earthquake/tsunami aid. It was set up as a collaborative meal with 6 courses, each prepared by a different chef. The impressive lineup consisted of Noriyuki Sugie (Breadbar), Hiroyuki Urasawa (Urasawa), Michael Cimarusti (Providence) Walter Manzke (formerly Church & State, currently popping up), David Myers (Comme Ça) and pastry chef Ramon Perez (Sona). Appropriately, the menu was strongly Japanese-influenced.

Needless to say, I was super excited for this meal – great chefs, great cause. Joining me were Diana and Kristen, as well as Daniel (effing dericious), Christina (food, je t’aime) and Danny (Kung Food Panda).

First up was a selection of breads. For a place called Breadbar, I’ve never been impressed with the bread.

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Noriyuki Sugie: pumpernickel, aged lard, artichoke barigoule, caramelized eel, sansho pepper
NV Jean Philippe, “Brut, Blanquette de Limoux,” Languedoc, France

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We started pretty strong here with a trio of bites. I first had the eel with pineapple – sweet and savory. The pumpernickel with aged lard really reminded me of Chinese sausage…which I thought was just really weird, in a good way. Lastly, the artichoke barigoule was cool and refreshing, in a way, with a light artichoke flavor.

Hiroyuki Urasawa: duo of tartar hokkaido scallop and marinated salmon roe, wasabi, shitake mushroom, toro, osetra caviar, takuan, scallion
Hananomai Sake “Katana” Junmai Ginjo, Japan

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For a number of reasons, this was my most anticipated dish of the night. Hiro Urasawa never does events like this, so this was a most opportune time to try some of his food without dropping half a grand. The scallop/salmon roe combination was cool and had good flavor, though there was something in there with a mushy texture. I liked the toro/caviar combination even better – savory and salty, rich yet light, very good.

Michael Cimarusti: soymilk panna cotta, santa barbara sea urchin, geoduck clam and fresh wasabi
Epiphany 2009 Riesling Santa Barbara County, California

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This was one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve seen in recent memory…and it tasted as good as it looked. The soymilk panna cotta was silky smooth with just the right amount of soy flavor. Both the uni and geoduck were cool and tasty, not fishy at all. Finally, some cucumber and Japanese puffed rice added some texture. One of the best overall plates I’ve had in a while.

Walter Manzke: santa barbara prawns, thai curry, spring pea
Jean-Marc Brocard, 2009 Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France

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I’m a huge fan of Manzke and can’t wait until he finally opens a permanent restaurant. The prawn was so delicate here, cooked perfectly leaving a soft and supple piece of fish. A little bit of lemongrass was an excellent accompaniment to the shrimp, and I liked the creamy Thai curry as well.

David Myers: charcoal akage beef, maitake tempura, tsukemono
Fat Monk 2009 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California

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This dish looked burnt when it came out. Like it was stuck in someone’s chimney for the duration of a cold winter.  This was on purpose, but I’m not sure I enjoyed the charcoal maitake tempura. Mushroom flavor was present, but it was really, really crispy and broke apart. The meat was good but not really anything special.

Ramon Perez: sakura cream, black okinawa sugar, alpine strawberry, cherry blossom-yogurt sorbet
Mizbasho Sparkling Sake “Pure,” Gunma, Japan

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Dessert was outstanding. I’m not really sure how this was done. The base was sort of a gelatin/custard hybrid. Sweet but not too sweet, with bright fresh fruit flavor and floral accents from the cherry blossoms.

mignardises: chocolates, marshmallows, green tea macarons

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These were pretty good. I liked the mini macarons best – good matcha tea flavor.

I found this to be a rather strong meal. I was really excited about this one, but tried to temper expectations knowing that one-night collaborative dinners such as this one are often not as strong as the lineup would suggest. I had no disappointments here, really. Good food, good company, and a good cause – you can’t beat that.

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