Duck Ragu

Dining date: 7/1/12

duck ragu

Any casual reader of this blog may realize pasta is one of my favorite things to eat (all kinds of noodles, really). I’ve dabbled in preparing different pastas over the years with my most successful perhaps being the oxtail ragu with pappardelle. Following up on that effort, I’ve been meaning to make a duck ragu. Searching the web for recipes yielded a few variations on a Mario Batali recipe and I decided to go with one of them. The variations in the recipes were strictly whether or not to include porcini mushrooms, grate any cheese, or add sage; the base of each ragu was essentially the same.

The recipe I used is below:

Ingredients
4 duck legs and thighs, skin removed
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces red wine (Chianti preferred)
1 pound canned tomatoes, peeled whole
1 cup chicken stock
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

Directions
Wash duck legs and remove all fat. Pat dry.

In a thick bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until smoking. Add duck legs and cook until brown on all sides and remove, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add onion, carrot, garlic and celery and cook until softened, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, chicken stock and dried mushrooms and bring to a boil. Add duck legs and return to boil, lower heat, cover and allow to simmer for 1 hour. Remove duck legs and allow to cool. Pull all meat off the bones and return to pot, without the bones. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until quite thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat duck ragu in a saute pan until quite hot. Boil pasta until cooked and drain well. Put hot pasta into pan with duck ragu and toss well. Pour into serving bowl and serve immediately.

I followed the recipe closely, starting with the preparation of the duck. Skinning and removing the excess fat was the most painstaking part of the process (it didn’t help that I used 6 duck legs instead of 4 since I like my ragu a little bit meatier). The fat started to melt a little with the heat of my hand and everything quickly became quite slippery. Once ready, the legs were seared.

raw duck

seared duck

The following steps were similar to any braise: sweat aromatics, deglaze with wine and stock, and return meat to pot.

aromatics

duck in liquid

After an hour, the duck was removed and meat pulled off the bones. The meat was returned to the pot to simmer for another hour or so. I simmered it longer than the recipe stated to get the saucy consistency I was looking for (it continued to reduce on the stovetop), as well as to continue braising the meat to get it more tender.

shredded duck in sauce

Once ready, the sauce and meat were put into a sauté pan to toss with pasta (I used fresh fettuccine and dried pappardelle). Once plated, I grated some Parmesan cheese to finish.

duck ragu

duck ragu w/ pappardelle

I was pretty happy with the ragu. I liked the oxtail one more (personal preference) but felt this one seemed healthier (less unhealthy?) since there was significantly less fat in the resulting sauce. Next time I’d consider using an immersion blender before adding the shredded meat in order to make the sauce a little more uniform in consistency. Now, if only I could consistently make good fresh pasta..

Sous Vide Scrambled Eggs

Dining date: 5/28/12

While most of the foods I prepare sous vide have been meats, I’ve been trying to broaden my repertoire a bit lately. I’ve poached whole eggs a number of times; they’re one of the easiest things to sous vide since they don’t need vacuum sealing, just place them in the water straight from the carton. However, Gourmands Review tuned me in to a recipe for sous vide scrambled eggs. Given that I had recently returned home from Europe with some Spanish jamon iberico, I thought it would be an opportune time to make the eggs to go with the ham. Even more fitting was the fact that it was a Heston Blumenthal recipe, whose restaurant (The Fat Duck) I had dined at a few days prior.

The ingredient list of eggs, whole milk, heavy cream and butter sounded like a heart attack on a plate, so it had to taste good right?

Ingredients
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk
1.5 tablespoons heavy cream
salt
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1.5 tablespoons brown butter, melted, for serving

Directions:
Preheat the water bath to 167°F (75°C).
In a bowl, blend the eggs, milk, cream, and salt with a hand blender or whisk, then stir in the melted butter.
Divide the egg mixture in half and pour into two food bags. Seal under full pressure if using a chamber sealer, or use two zip lock bags and seal using the water displacement method.
Cook for 15 minutes, massaging the contents every 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the eggs to warm plates, drizzle with the brown butter, and serve.

Once the eggs were ready, I plated them with a little bit of chopped chives.

sous vide scrambled eggs

The last ingredient would be the jamon iberico, which I laid on top of the eggs to let the residual heat slightly melt the fatty slices.

jamon iberico

sous vide scrambled eggs, jamon iberico

In my first try at the eggs, I found them to not be as creamy as expected and they also seemed to be cooked a bit more than my liking too. Instead of fluffy, airy eggs these were somewhat firm. It did work well with the ham though, the salty pork flavor being an ideal pairing with eggs.

In my second attempt I stepped up the cream a bit and turned the temperature of the water down a couple of degrees…but I still liked the first batch better.

sous vide scrambled eggs

Given that my first two attempts have yielded OK-but-not-great results, it may be a while until I try this one again. For now, I’ll stick to poaching eggs.

Melisse (Los Angeles, CA)

Melisse
“Foie for All”

1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 6/30/12

melisse exterior

June 30 was the last day to legally serve foie gras in California (although some loopholes do exist). Melisse has been at the forefront against the ban and, combined with the fact that it’s one of the best restaurants in the city, I thought it would be the ideal spot to do a ‘last meal’ of sorts. For a number of months now, Melisse has been offering a “Foie for All” tasting menu featuring the ingredient in about 8 courses. Knowing that others would likely follow suit (and indeed, it did appear to be a full house), I made this reservation in the beginning of April and eagerly awaited this dinner.

We ordered a few drinks to start (pictured from left to right, top to bottom). We previewed the new cocktail menu (consulted on by Pablo Moix) at the 5×5 Collaborative Dinner in April, so it was interesting to see the final list here.

Pimm’s Rickey pimm’s, fresh pressed lime, topped with soda
Cameron Coup jameson irish whiskey, famous grouse scotch whiskey, orgeat almond syrup, lemon juice
Citrine el tesoro plata, aperol, grapefruit and lime juice

cocktails

citrine

My favorite of these was probably the Citrine with its grapefruit/lime flavors balancing out the aperol nicely. The Pimm’s Rickey tasted slightly watered down.

Grape, Pistachio, Goat Cheese

amuse

We began with Melisse’s signature amuse. The juicy sliced grape, covered in a thin layer of goat cheese and pistachio, was a well-balanced bite – sweet, savory, nutty. The spherification of grape juice provided the same flavors, albeit in a very different vehicle.

Bacon bread, olive bread, ciabatta, brioche and french breads were on offer this night. My first serving was of the latter two.

breads

bread butter

Foie Gras Cromesquis

Foie Gras Cromesquis

Next up was another small bite, our first of foie gras. It was a crispy croquette filled with a warm foie gras liquid. Warm and comforting, it was very similar to the one I had at the LudoBites foie gras dinner.

Foie Gras Royale Blackberry Gelee, Foie Gras, Caramelized Buttermilk Mousse

Foie Gras Royale Blackberry Gelee, Caramelized Buttermilk Mousse

Next we had a layered treat with blackberry, foie gras and buttermilk. We were instructed to get a little bit of each layer in every bite and were awarded with sweet notes from the blackberry complementing the foie gras mousse. Subtle but present flavors.

Terrine of Foie Gras Seasonal Flavors and Toasted Whey Bread

Terrine of Foie Gras Seasonal Flavors and Toasted Whey Bread

I really enjoyed this terrine with its creamy foie gras and a layer of sweet cherry. While the flavors were ones I’ve had before, they really seemed to shine on this plate. I liked being able to add my own salt & pepper to taste, as well as the nuts for texture. These were all spread onto the toasted bread to make some tasty bites.

Truffled Foie Gras Agnolotti Crisp Chicken Oyster, Summer Vegetables, Toasted Pistachio Consomme

Truffled Foie Gras Agnolotti Crisp Chicken Oyster, Summer Vegetables, Toasted Pistachio Consomme

The pasta was very nice with a slight chew and creamy foie gras center. The broth had a subtle nuttiness, and the grilled summer vegetables were a nice accompaniment. Even with the foie gras, this plate managed to feel rather light and really showcased the season. Beautiful colors too.

True Day Boat Scallop “Rossini”

True Day Boat Scallop “Rossini”

True Day Boat Scallop “Rossini”

Scallops, foie gras, and black truffles sounded like a dream team on a plate. While the combination of components was good, I don’t think they all came together in the ideal way. The scallop was on the smaller side and was slightly overcooked, while the one sliver of shaved truffle got lost in the mix. Still, the foie gras was seared perfectly and I liked the charred cipollini onions; the truffle and leek puree was a nice accompaniment too.

Foie Gras and Dover Sole Sweet Corn Pudding, Porcini Mushrooms, Brown Butter

Foie Gras and Dover Sole Sweet Corn Pudding, Porcini Mushrooms, Brown Butter

This was an excellent dish with a sweet corn pudding being topped with a light sole and poached foie gras in a brown butter sauce. The flavors were well-balanced and really worked well, but I found the textural interplay to be strong too between the silky foie gras, meaty fish and creamy corn pudding.

Liberty Duck Breast Cured and Whipped Foie Gras, Leeks, Peaches, Hawaiian Heart of Palm, Toasted Macadamia

Liberty Duck Breast Cured and Whipped Foie Gras, Leeks, Peaches, Hawaiian Heart of Palm, Toasted Macadamia

potato mousseline

Our last savory dish of the evening was a duo of duck, if you will. The duck breast was cooked a nice medium-rare, juicy and tender. Small bites of duck confit, hearts of palm and the creamy mashed potatoes were all excellent. The difference-maker was the foie gras though. It was whipped and frozen in a long tube form, and grated like truffles onto the plate. Pretty cool. The liver slowly melted when in contact with the heat of the duck and sauce, permeating the dish with its flavor. Again, I enjoyed the side of salt and pepper to play with the seasoning.

“Strawberry Shortcake” Foie Gras Ice Cream

"Strawberry Shortcake" Foie Gras Ice Cream

Our last proper course was a play on strawberry shortcake. Two layers of thin cake sandwiched a foie gras cream and fresh sweet strawberries. The foie gras was present but not at all overpowering, blending seamlessly into the dish. The foie gras ice cream was very subtle in flavor; balsamic vinegar gelee provided sharp acidity.

Canelés and Chocolate Chip Cookies

canele chocolate chip cookies

Tropical Tea Macarons and Foie Gras Macarons

foie and tea macarons

Lastly, we were presented with some sweets to close out the meal. My favorite was the tropical tea macaron, exuding a flavor similar to a passion fruit iced tea with a perfect chewy texture. The foie gras macarons were a nice touch too, indeed bringing the foie flavor one more time.

Overall I found this to be another good meal at Melisse. While we had 9 different tastes of the ingredient, at no point did I feel tired of foie gras, a compliment to the varied preparations. The liver was incorporated in a way that it didn’t dominate any single dish; rather, it was worked into each plate in tandem with the other principal ingredients. Flavors were, for the most part, bold and well-balanced and the execution was also strong (though not perfect).

I suspect foie gras won’t be too difficult to obtain in California even though the ban is now in place, but I still found this to be a very fitting send-off!

Other recent foie gras dinners:
LudoBites: Best of Foie Gras
C.H.E.F.S. Dinner @ The Royce

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

Dining date: 5/6/12

shrimp & sausage gumbo

I thoroughly enjoy cajun & creole food – the food tends to be so full of flavor and comforting that it really jives with me. One of my favorite lunch spots in the downtown area, Fisherman’s Outlet, serves a seafood gumbo that I find almost irresistible. I finally decided to make a gumbo of my own, though it would be a bit different from the one at Fisherman’s Outlet. I decided to start with a more traditional recipe for a shrimp and sausage gumbo. This would be my first time making the dish and I’m pretty inexperienced with cooking in this part of the country; I’ve attempted making jambalaya a couple of times with mediocre success.

I based my gumbo almost entirely on a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen; any substitutions were based on what I could find at the market.

Ingredients:
8 ounces seafood stock or clam juice
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 medium red bell peppers, chopped fine
10 ounces okra, cut 1/4 inch thick
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 lb andouille sausage
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
4 medium scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of tepid stock, 100 to 110 degrees); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.

2. Heat oil in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spatula or spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.).

3. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, okra, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, about 30 minutes.

4. Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve (traditionally gumbo is served over white rice.).

I followed the instructions step by step, first using my shrimp shells to fortify my shellfish stock (directly simmering the shells in a combination of the stock and water). I used stock from a carton; I wanted clam juice but wasn’t able to find it at the market. The roux was the part I was most concerned with since this was my first time making one and I feel like I’ve heard a ton about the importance of a quality roux. The longer it’s cooked, the less it acts as a thickening agent and the more it provides a deep, kind of  nutty flavor. I cooked mine for about 40 minutes, stirring almost constantly until it reached a fairly deep chocolate color.

roux

The rest of the steps were rather straightforward, which included sweating the aromatics and adding the liquid to simmer.

aromatics

adding stock

I next added the sausage and, after about 30 minutes, the shrimp. I actually had some sea scallops on hand, so I quartered them and dropped them in too. Lastly, off heat, I added the parsley and scallions.

finishing gumbo

I scooped up some rice in the middle of a bowl and ladled the gumbo around it. My first plate had a bit too much rice – the starch can really soak up the soup so I’d recommend starting kind of small.

shrimp & sausage gumbo

shrimp & sausage gumbo

Overall, I thought my gumbo turned out okay. I really have no idea if I executed the recipe the way it was supposed to, but I’d like to think I followed the directions pretty well. The andouille is key, providing much of the flavor; next time, I’m gonna try packing in the seafood.

Bread Street Kitchen (London, UK)

Bread Street Kitchen
10 Bread Street
London, EC4M 9AB
Dining date: 5/26/12

bread street signage

After dinner at The Fat Duck, my friend Shawn chose this lunch spot for my last meal in London before returning home. It seemed fitting to try one of Gordon Ramsay’s many restaurants during my stay, and this was one of the few open early enough to squeeze in a quick meal before my flight back to LA.

Ramsay has about a dozen restaurants in the UK and Bread Street Kitchen is his newest, opened in September of last year. While he’s probably best known for his fine dining restaurants, Ramsay does have a number of more casual restaurants (including a pub) in his portfolio. Bread Street kitchen falls into the latter category, with a menu that features a raw bar and items out of its wood-burning oven among a host of other options.  It’s a pretty large space with floor-to-ceiling windows throughout and a long, open kitchen.

interior

kitchen

Tamarind chicken wings, spring onions, coriander

Tamarind chicken wings, spring onions, coriander

The wings were covered in a delicious sweet glaze, yet still held up a pretty crispy batter. The meat itself was juicy while the chopped onions provided a little bit of cool freshness to complete the bites. Well done.

Braised pork collar, mustard glaze

Braised pork collar, mustard glaze

I’d have to say this large hunk of meat looked really appetizing as it came out. The pork itself was smoky and sweet, rich with a few gelatinous pockets. I’m not a big fan of the gelatinous part, but anyone who does would probably love this.

Slow-roasted Dingley Dell pork belly, spiced apple sauce

Slow-roasted Dingley Dell pork belly, spiced apple sauce

Another meaty dish, this was a generous chunk of pork belly – not too fatty. The skin was delightfully crispy, while apple sauce provided a sweet, fruity (albeit typical) accompaniment.

Steamed bass, braised leeks, razor clams, samphire, shellfish dressing

Steamed bass, braised leeks, razor clams, samphire, shellfish dressing

I ordered this dish, wanting something a bit lighter. The fish was moist, complemented by light flavors of the leeks and a shellfish essence in the sauce. Little pieces of razor clam provided subtle chewy texture, while samphire (a plant I’ve never seen in the US, apparently indigenous to the UK) provided some earthy balance.

Hand-cut chips

Hand-cut chips

Carrot and red onion coleslaw

Carrot and red onion coleslaw

Macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and cheese

We also ordered a few sides to go along with the entrees (all a la carte). They were good, albeit nothing special. I ordered the fries and liked how they came pretty thick-cut, crispy with a fluffy interior. Kind of reminded me of my grandmother’s french fries.

We passed on dessert since we were a little short on time. Plus, we had Oddono’s gelato just before this meal so we kind of had dessert for breakfast.

Bread Street Kitchen provided a casual atmosphere and simple, well-executed food. The food isn’t particularly unique but it isn’t trying to be. After the dinner the night before, it was a welcome sight to come back to something more comfortable. Next time though, I’m ready for Royal Hospital Road.

The Fat Duck (Bray, UK)

The Fat Duck
High Street
Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ
Dining date: 5/25/12

fat duck door

I recently attended an extraordinary four-day wedding in India. On the way back, I wanted to capitalize on the fact that I was halfway around the world and stopover somewhere interesting to explore/eat. Options throughout Asia piqued my interest but my friend Shawn proposed that I visit him to spend a couple of days in London with the main reason being to dine at The Fat Duck. He’d been wanting to go but hadn’t had a chance to yet – I didn’t need much convincing.

Opened in 1995, The Fat Duck has become a world-renowned destination (~30 miles outside London), having been bestowed 3 Michelin stars each year since 2004 and being named the best restaurant in the world in 2005 in one particular survey (it consistently held a spot in the top 5 until dropping to #13 in 2012). The chef, Heston Blumenthal, is known for modernist cooking (and a lot of molecular gastronomy) and a wild sense of imagination when it comes to his cuisine. Needless to say, I was very excited for this one – this would be one of those rare meals where I walked in expecting a meal that I would remember for a lifetime. It wouldn’t disappoint.

DSC_0402

The Fat Duck is tasting menu only, around 14 courses for £180. The first thing that came to our table was this trolley filled with cold champagnes. Dining at the Fat Duck seemed like a festive occasion in itself, so we kicked off the meal with a glass.

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AERATED BEET ROOT Horseradish Cream

aerated beet and horseradish cream

The first dish to hit our table was this amuse bouche. Looking kind of like a macaron (and having a texture similar to one), the shell exhibited a strong beet flavor, while a subtle spiciness crept up in the cream.

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Campari Soda

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS

Three choices of cocktail aperitifs came next. Some type of powder was frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen, resulting in a light and airy shell that melted once it hit my mouth. I had the campari soda and, indeed, it did taste pretty darn similar to the real thing.

We decided to start with a lighter white and progress to something bolder later in the meal.

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RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream

RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO

RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO

The mustard ice cream was the most pronounced flavor in this dish, which was both refreshing and mildly spicy. The red cabbage gazpacho itself was sweet, balancing out the ice cream nicely.

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

I had seen a picture of this dish ahead of the meal and was very curious how it all worked; it’s easily one of the most memorable presentations I’ve ever seen, resembling something like a foggy forest floor. Dry ice is hidden under the grass, and a dense fog billows out as water is poured over. Food-wise, we started with a film that we placed on our tongue – the film gave off a smoky/woody essence on the palate. The two main edible components were the truffle toast and layered quail jelly, crayfish cream and chicken liver parfait. An odd combination of ingredients, but they worked well together to make some delicious savory bites.

SNAIL PORRIDGE Iberico Bellota Ham, Shaved Fennel

SNAIL PORRIDGE Iberico Bellota Ham, Shaved Fennel

The porridge itself was tasty with a rich creaminess. Tender chunks of escargot were a nice pairing too, as were the thin slivers of fennel. I didn’t think the jamon iberico was too pronounced though.

For the next dish, we had the option of the foie gras from the tasting menu or a special scallop dish that day. Three out of the four of us decided to stick with the foie gras.

ROAST FOIE GRAS Barberry, Braised Kombu and Crab Biscuit

ROAST FOIE GRAS Barberry, Braised Kombu and Crab Biscuit

The foie gras itself was cooked perfectly, topped with a sweet fruity topping. It was good, but I thought the flavor profiles were a bit “typical,” especially considering our previous dishes.

Our fourth did really enjoy his scallop, though.

scallop supplement

MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY (c.1850) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

Our next dish brought back the whimsy with its tower of sandwiches and a teapot. We were presented with gold pocket watches (presumably the Mad Hatter’s) which were placed into the teapot. We were instructed to stir gently and marveled at how the watch disintegrated and ended up turning the liquid into a sort of rich bouillon. Crazy. A quail egg and some caviar accompanied the delicious soup, which we ate with toast sandwiches….as in, crispy toast in between slices of bread. So cool, and tasty too.

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“SOUND OF THE SEA”

"SOUND OF THE SEA"

SOUND OF THE SEA

The assault on our senses continued as a sea shell was brought to our table. A small iPod was in each shell and we listened to sounds of the sea/beach as the next course came. A selection of fresh sashimi including mackerel, halibut and cured abalone were accompanied by tapioca sand and a seawater foam. I can’t say for sure that the sounds elevated the flavors, but this was another fun dish. The fish was good, as was the strong sea flavor of the foam, and I found the texture of the tapioca sand to be addicting.

Given I had flown in from Mumbai this morning (the 7:30 dinner began at midnight Mumbai time), I needed a bit of a pick-me-up. Three espressos definitely did the trick.

iced double espresso

SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

The poached salmon was cooked rare with a surprisingly subtle liquorice flavor. The salty trout roe and excellent asparagus may have overshadowed the salmon itself.

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POWDERED DUCK (c.1860) Blood Pudding, Umbles and Apache Potato Puree

POWDERED DUCK (c.1860) Blood Pudding, Umbles and Apache Potato Puree

POWDERED DUCK (c.1860) Blood Pudding, Umbles and Apache Potato Puree

Our last savory course involved the restaurant’s namesake ingredient (there had to be some kind of duck served in this meal right?). It was a tasty and succulent piece of duck breast, though the skin was disappointingly a bit limp. I enjoyed the potatoes and blood pudding though, and the duck spring roll was a fun way to present the duck, as well as provide texture.

HOT AND ICED TEA

HOT AND ICED TEA

An intermezzo of sorts, I was very amused by this one. We were advised to drink this as soon as possible and were awarded with distinct warm and cold liquids. Aside from the playfulness, it was a good cup of tea too.

MACERATED STRAWBERRIES Olive Oil Biscuit, Chamomile, Coriander, Jelly and Ice Cream Cornet

MACERATED STRAWBERRIES Olive Oil Biscuit, Chamomile, Coriander, Jelly and Ice Cream Cornet

MACERATED STRAWBERRIES Olive Oil Biscuit, Chamomile, Coriander, Jelly and Ice Cream Cornet

The first dessert was this creation – an earl grey ice cream cone followed by this macerated strawberry dish. The strawberries were very sweet, balanced by a sort of savory olive oil biscuit. Everything on the plate was edible, including the picnic tablecloth look-a-like.

THE “BFG” Kirsch Ice Cream and the smell of the Black Forest

THE "BFG" Kirsch Ice Cream and the smell of the Black Forest

THE "BFG" Kirsch Ice Cream and the smell of the Black Forest

We progressed into the richest and final dessert of the evening. The server sprayed the aroma of “Black Forest” into the air just as we began to dig in. I can’t say the aroma consciously did much, but the gateau was a good one, with cherry and alcohol notes working in tandem with the chocolate. Chocolate crumble was crucial too in adding just a bit of crunch.

The cheese course supplement was a relatively reasonable £15 (given it was a generous portion); two in our party decided to partake.

cheese

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WHISK(E)Y WINE GUMS

WHISK(E)Y WINE GUMS

WHISK(E)Y WINE GUMS

Next to arrive at the table were these gummies. SO cool! These were gummies of various whiskeys (reminded me of the Haribo happy-cola bottles) from around the world. They packed a punch too, having a strong whiskey flavor…as they should’ve. Maybe I was just pretty full or buzzed, but I had a difficult time distinguishing the nuances between the whiskeys.

“LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP”
AERATED CHOCOLATE Mandarin Jelly
COCONUT BACCY Coconut Infused with an Aroma of Black Cavendish Tobacco
APPLE PIE CARAMEL with an Edible Wrapper
THE QUEEN OF HEARTS she made some tarts..

"LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP"
"LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP""LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP""LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP""LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP"

Lastly, we were left with a bag of sweets. Of course, these were fun and whimsical too, particularly the pop tart-like Queen of Hearts.

I do not hesitate in saying that this was one of the most (if not the most) unique and imaginative meal I’ve ever had. The creativity, the whimsy and the execution of these plates combined to make something pretty extraordinary. Having said that, when people ask if it’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten I don’t think I can say yes to that. While there were a number of delicious dishes, none of them made me think “this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.” Still, I thought the meal spanned a wide variety of ingredients and flavors, all of them working pretty well. This was an excellent all-around meal and easily one of the most memorable I’ve had; it’s surely a destination worth visiting when in London.

Full picture set can be found here.