Cooking with Friends: Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood)
435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 1/14/13
New for 2013, the team behind the ever-popular Animal began a series of dinners called “Cooking with Friends” in which a guest chef would join for one night and cook a collaborative dinner, with a portion of proceeds going to the chef’s choice. I’m always intrigued by meals like this as it provides an opportunity to try something unique, particularly if it’s an out-of-town chef.
For this first dinner, the guest chef was Christopher Kostow of the Michelin three-star The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, CA. My only visit to the restaurant was at the tail end of 2009, and was actually one of the meals that inspired this blog’s creation. Given Meadowood’s accolades and reputation for serving a highly-refined, super-seasonal/local type of dining, the restaurant was packed for the one-night dinner. I was very excited for this one.
The eight-course menu was priced at $135 and the beneficiary of this dinner was Cancer for College, a charity that provides college scholarships to cancer survivors.
dungeness crab, apple, pomelo, tarragon, kohlrabi, wood sorrel (animal)
The first course featured cool, sweet lumps of crab with crisp textures of sliced apple. Tarragon added some depth, though I felt like I’ve had these flavors before.
beans, cuttlefish, avocado, epazote (Kostow)
Creamy beans and tender cuttlefish provided a unique textural sensation while sitting in a slightly sweet, earthy broth. I thought the flavors really went well together, while something (a toasted grain?) provided small crunchy bits.
turnip, carrot, sake cured steelhead roe, walnut (animal)
Crisp root vegetables were accompanied by a very nice dashi jelly and salty cured roe. The smoky-salty interplay was a welcome tandem with the sweet carrots, turnips and onions.
winter peas, bone marrow, green garlic broth, hedgehog mushroom, sour wheat crouton (animal)
This was maybe my favorite dish of the evening. The peas were a little creamy, though still with a snap, while rich bone marrow and mushrooms added more richness and depth to each bite. The croutons were extra crispy, providing texture while sitting in the mildly garlicky broth. A very nice mix of flavors and textures.
rutabaga, maple, goat’s milk, oregon white truffle (Kostow)
A sweet slice of rutabaga was accompanied with an extra sweetness from a crunchy maple honeycomb – for me, it was a bit too sweet. The mushrooms provided some subtle earthiness, though overall it was just a little too sweet for me.
abalone in chicken skin, jus of its liver, cabbage (Kostow)
This was an interesting concoction; abalone and chicken were prepared in a ballotine, stuffed in its skin. There was a pretty subtle flavor, heightened by the rich liver jus, while crispy chicken skin provided extra flavor and texture. Sauteed cabbage and seaweed balanced out the richness.
lamb neck, lime pickle, date, soft grains (Kostow)
A rich and fatty piece of lamb neck (resembling pork belly) was next, luscious and delicious. Sweet pickled lime rind and dates were nice accompaniments, as were the small pieces of creamy lamb marrow.
beetroot, meyer lemon, fennel, white chocolate, pistachio (animal)
Sweet and savory flavors were featured in the light dessert course. A meyer lemon sabayon balanced out the sweetness with a mild tart flavor of its own, while white chocolate provided the crunch in each bite.
I thought this was an excellent meal and actually exceeded expectations. I was glad to see the style of food served was much closer to Meadowood’s concept, something very different from Animal’s rich, hearty, and sometimes offal-centric cuisine. Perhaps as an ode to Animal, Kostow included some of the lesser known cuts such as lamb neck, lamb marrow and chicken liver in his own dishes while staying true to his style. I was impressed with the Animal guys’ ability to cook at this level, something very different from what they’re known for. The dishes had a very consistent style throughout; it was almost impossible to distinguish if it was Kostow’s team or Shook/Dotolo’s team preparing each plate. I’m excited to see which other chef friends make it into Animal’s kitchen.