Test Kitchen: Haru Kishi – 11/16/10

Test Kitchen: Haru Kishi
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Haru Kishi is the new Executive Chef of the Beverly Hills location of Chaya Brasserie. What I find far more interesting is his culinary background. He was a part of the Joel Robuchon empire before coming to LA to be the head chef of Gordon Ramsay at the London WeHo. He has since moved on to the Chaya role, where he’ll be able to demonstrate his specialty – combining Japanese and French influences. This was definitely on display in this meal.

We tried a couple of the bar bites offered.

HAMACHI MOLE PRESSED SUSHI jalapeno mayo

This was an interesting starter. Pressed sushi rice was topped with slices of hamachi that were crusted with mole and seared with hot oil. For me, the rice, densely packed, was too much. The fish was good, though each bite was overwhelmingly rice.

MOROMISO WINGS

There was a miso-based marinade and a miso aioli to accompany the chicken. Subtly sweet and definitely savory, these were good chicken wings.

I typically don’t take pictures of all the drinks consumed throughout the meal, but I thought this drink was especially notable.

Matcha Whiskey Sour whiskey, lemon, matcha syrup, egg white

Check this one off under the “Japanese influences” category. Notice the warm green color, which is characteristic of matcha.

AMUSE apple onion velouté, applewood smoked bacon

The sweetness of the onions and the smokiness of the bacon worked well together in this rich soup. Small strips of onions and chunks of bacon sat at the bottom, making this one extra hearty and flavorful.

SHRIMP AND GRITS confit blu angel shrimp, quinoa grits, lobster vinaigrette

Loved Chef Kishi’s interpretation of this classic Southern dish. The quinoa was a perfect substitute for the grits, having a similar mouthfeel – though more earthy. I wasn’t a fan of how the shrimp was prepared though. Cooked sous vide, I found it rather mealy. Not really sure what happened here. The lobster vinaigrette added a little acidity to round out the dish.

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP foie gras ravioli, chicken cubes, shishito, micro cress

Beautiful soup. To me, this was pretty similar to a haute wonton soup. Maybe something I’d expect to find at WP24. The ravioli were delicate and filled with melt-in-mouth, rich foie gras. Add these with chunks of flavorful marinated chicken into a rich and hearty chicken soup, and you’ve really got something here.

POT ROAST wagyu cheeks, fondant potatoes, gingered carrots, beer sauce, onion crisps

Why not make a pot roast out of wagyu beef? Australian wagyu beef cheeks, that is. Rich and exceedingly tender, the beef was excellent. The onion crisps added some texture, while the fondant potatoes completed the meat-and-potatoes pairing. I could have used some type of greens here to lighten up the dish, though.

POACHED PEARS poached pears, chestnut cream, chocolate beignets, cardamom sugar

Lastly we had dessert which consisted of two parts: poached pears topped with a red wine foam and chocolate raviolis topped with cardamom sugar. The pears were somewhat unmemorable, though I loved the chocolate raviolis. The menu called them beignets, while the server described them as raviolis – I think they’re much closer to the latter. The dough was light and crisp, with a smooth chocolate filling. Delish!

I was pretty satisfied with this meal. While there were a couple of things I didn’t like (pressed sushi, texture of the shrimp), the bright spots outweighed them. Chef Kishi clearly demonstrated an ability to mix Japanese and French technique and ingredients, so it’ll be interesting to see what type of menu he develops at Chaya. I hope that he’s given a little bit of creative free rein and not overly confined to the overall concept of the Chaya chain, as I find their menus to be relatively similar across locations.

Previous Test Kitchen posts:
Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine)
Walter Manzke
Adam Horton (Saddle Peak Lodge)
Marcel Vigneron
Ricardo Zarate
Alain Giraud

Test Kitchen: Alain Giraud – 11/4/10

Test Kitchen: Alain Giraud
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles 90035

Alain Giraud has been around the LA dining scene for a while, most notably cooking at Citrus in the early ’90s and being the opening chef of Bastide in 2002; both of these were critically acclaimed. He left Bastide just as I had moved to LA, so I didn’t have a chance to sample his food then. His latest venture, Anisette Brasserie, closed just two months ago…before I could try it. However, his stint at Test Kitchen (to test out dishes for new concept, Maison Giraud) was the perfect opportunity for me to try some of his cooking.

Bread service (baked in-house) consisted of a baguette and brioche selection.

The baguette was solid, but I especially enjoyed the brioche for its light and fluffy interior. There was a slightly cheesy flavor as well, reminiscent of a gougere…or a cheez-it.

L’AMUSE BOUCHE

The amuse bouche was this salmon accompanied with apples, dill and a fennel cream. I thought the flavor of the salmon was very mild, but enjoyed the crisp sweetness of the apples.

L’OEUF Duo of Farm Eggs “Town & Country”

Next was a duo of egg preparations. Left we had “town,” which was a rich egg custard topped with porcini mushroom powder. I enjoyed the subtle porcini flavor, but wanted something more. The “country” provided that extra flavor as egg with bacon and chives – delish!

LES LEGUMES Farmers Market Vegetables Soup, Basil & Almond Pistou

Fresh farmers market vegetables were brought together to make this soup. The vegetables were tender, and each was distinguishable on its own. The pistou, very close to a pesto, added basil, almond and garlic flavors to the soup. This would be really nice on a cold day – ironically, it was probably around 95 degrees in LA on this day.

LA COQUILLE SAINT JACQUES Sautéed Scallops, Pistachios and Meyer Lemon Emulsion

I really enjoyed this dish. The scallops had a great crusty sear with a moist interior. The accompanying leeks added a nice sweetness, and the butter-based sauce added a creaminess that brought everything together.

LE VEAU Roasted Veal Loin, Mushrooms, Black Truffle Sauce


This veal was very tender, though not too flavorful on its own. The black truffle sauce elevated this dish, adding a richness and depth of flavor. The mushrooms (bluefoot, nameko, and one other) were really earthy and had an interesting taste to them.

LA FRAISE California Strawberries, Malt Ice Cream, Vanilla Cream

Lastly we had this dessert with strawberries topped with ice cream and a vanilla cream. The combination of the sweet strawberries and vanilla cream (kind of similar to a Cool Whip) was very nice, and the sliced almonds added some bite.

LES MIGNARDISES

We were presented with a plate of mignardises which included almond cookies, chocolate madeleines, and cassis jellies. My favorite of these was probably the madeleine, with its soft texture and good chocolate flavor.

As expected, Chef Giraud presented us with a very good meal. This was easily one of my favorite meals at Test Kitchen, and it’s easy to see why Giraud has been a part of the LA dining scene for so long.

Previous Test Kitchen posts:
Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine)
Walter Manzke
Adam Horton (Saddle Peak Lodge)
Marcel Vigneron
Ricardo Zarate

Test Kitchen: Ricardo Zarate – 10/16/10

Test Kitchen: Ricardo Zarate
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

I’ve tried Ricardo Zarate’s cuisine once before at his restaurant Mo Chica. I enjoyed my meal there, which was centered around traditional Peruvian dishes.   Zarate has been one of the hottest chefs in LA in 2010, so I’ve been itching to try more of what he has to offer. He’s been spending a lot of time at the Test Kitchen, so it’d be fitting that I try at least one of his Test Kitchen stints. I’d heard that he had recently spent some time staging at various restaurants, and wanted to show off a little bit of what he’s learned. Sounds good to me. I’m glad I came, as this was one of the strongest meals I’ve experienced here.

Four “bar bites” were offered on this night, and we tried each one.

Ceviche Shot Uni, Scallop, Pisco, Leche de Tigre

The seafood was tender and “cooked” perfectly. Mo Chica has some of the best ceviches in the city, so this was no surprise. The accompanying broth was subtly tart and subtly spicy, and I thought it paired well.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Yuzu Kosho

It’s hard to go wrong with these local spot prawns (overcooking them would be one way that comes to mind).  These were not overcooked at all; instead, they were moist and succulent. The yuzu kosho was a nice accompaniment, adding just a touch of heat, and the lime juice added some citrus to go along with the sweetness of the shrimp.

Anticucho de Corazon Rocoto sauce

Here we have beef heart skewers. Delicious. While the marinated meat was very flavorful on its own, the mild pepper-based sauce added just a little something extra to the meat.

Chicharron Crispy Pork Belly, Feta Cheese Sauce, Sarsa

There were a lot of components to this dish, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. There were many crispy textural parts – the toasted bread, the pork skin and the pork belly. I enjoyed the crunchiness that all three of these provided, and the feta cheese, tomatoes and onions added a little acidity and extra flavor.

The “bar bites” were actually quite a bit of food; next came the main tasting menu.

Abreboca Purple corn bread, foie gras butter, aji amarillo marmalade, figs compote

The bread was served warm, though I found it a bit dry. I did enjoy all of the accompanying spreads though, with the fig compote being my favorite for its fruity flavor and sweetness. This bread dish was paired with the following soup.

Sopa de Rocoto Peruvian red pepper soup, queso fresco sauce, croutons

Small bits of chorizo topped this dish, which was a soup based on the rocoto pepper. The pepper’s flavor was similar to a bell pepper. The soup wasn’t too spicy at all, yet had a nice sweetness. The chorizo added a nice depth of meaty flavor to this.

Causa de Salmon Ahumado Smoked salmon causa, aji amarillo yogurt, crispy quinoa

This dish tasted a bit different from what I expected. The salmon topping actually resembled a similar flavor to a spicy tuna roll. The yukon gold potato was tender and soft, adding some body to the dish, while the crispy quinoa added the texture. Quite nice.

Tiradito de Pejerrey Peruvian King Fish carpaccio, garlic, ginger lemon sauce

The fish here was Spanish mackerel. The fish was tender, and I got a nice crunch from the bits of raw onion. The lemon sauce added some much-needed citrus, while the garlic lended a little flavor, without being overpowering.

Anticucho de Pulpo Grilled Octopus, roasted potatoes, tofu jalapeno chili sauce

The octopus, cut into chunks, was very meaty and slightly chewy. The roasted potatoes were slightly mashed, which turned out to be a nice accompaniment. As for the sauce, tofu has a fairly neutral flavor, so it wasn’t too noticeable. However, it did add some body to the chili sauce.

Asado de Costilla Lamb ribs, huancaina sauce, peruvian risotto

This was one of the best dishes of the night for me.  So tender, these slid right off the bone. The overall dish reminded me of the lamb shank at Mo Chica, which is delicious. Tender and flavorful, I wouldn’t mind eating a large plate of this lamb. The risotto was creamy and cooked well.

Picarones Sweet potato and pumpkin donuts with chancaca sauce and vanilla ice cream

Lastly we finished off with dessert. Hard to go wrong with donuts and ice cream. I thought the donuts were executed well, though I probably couldn’t have picked out the sweet potato and pumpkin flavors. The vanilla ice cream, however, was exceptional. It was rich and creamy, with a really nice vanilla bean flavor. Hell, if Zarate opens up an ice cream shop, I’m buying my vanilla ice cream from him. We jokingly (sort of) contemplated asking for a pint of this ice cream to go.

I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. Zarate’s Mo Chica focuses more on traditional Peruvian influences; here, he was able to expand a little bit to show off some versatility. Still, this meal centered primarily on Latin flavors (I don’t think Zarate will stray too far from it), but the flavors were strong and the execution was spot on. This was a very good meal, and I look forward to seeing what Zarate comes up with next.

Previous Test Kitchen posts:
Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine)
Walter Manzke
Adam Horton (Saddle Peak Lodge)
Marcel Vigneron

Test Kitchen: Marcel Vigneron – 10/1/10

Test Kitchen: Marcel Vigneron
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles 90035

Best known as Top Chef season 2’s runner-up to Ilan Hall and the chef everyone loved to hate that season, Marcel Vigneron has been cooking in LA ever since the show ended – most notably at the Bazaar with fellow Top Chef alum Michael Voltaggio. Vigneron clearly showed that he was a talented chef on the show, and I’ve been interested in trying some of his food ever since. When we found out he would be doing a short stint at the Test Kitchen, I jumped at the chance. Fellow bloggers dining at this meal were Christina of food, je t’aime, Famished Foodie and, of course, Kevin of kevinEats.

First, an amuse bouche from the kitchen.

These were potatoes in a tomato gelee with a little bit of parsley, cilantro and basil chlorophyll. Pretty interesting – the potatoes were nice and creamy, while the tomato added a little sweetness and acidity.

In addition to the main menu, two appetizers/bar bites were offered on this night.

Salty Potatoes chlorophyll mayonnaise

I loved the brilliant neon green of the mayo. The potatoes were soft and creamy (same potatoes in the amuse bouche), and perfectly salted. The mayo had a leafy-green vegetable flavor to it, which I thought was nice with the earthy potatoes.

Shishito Peppers kobayaki & bonito

These shishito peppers were a bit spicy for me. Okay, way too spicy for me. Though, I thought the flavor of the roasted pepper was nice before the onset of the heat. The bonito wasn’t really apparent.

Kombu Cured Hamachi crispy rice, pineapple, avocado

This was the first dish of the tasting menu. The hamachi had a nice clean flavor, with some sweetness from thin slices of pineapple (on the bottom). Really quite good. The rice crackers on top added a wonderful texture to round out the dish.

Halibut Cheeks flavors of puttanesca, artichoke

The cheek of a fish is often one of the best parts. In this example, it was cooked very well, leaving it tender and moist. However, the rest of the components (parsley sauce, marinated artichokes, anchovies, roasted and caramelized cipollini onions, kalamata olive powder) weren’t there for me. I found them hard to reconstruct all into one bite, and some of the flavors (including the anchovies) were rather overpowering.

Wagyu Beef Tongue & Fried Egg radish, beet, arugula, beans

It was a bold move to have beef tongue as one of the main courses. Definitely not the most approachable part of the cow, it can be pretty chewy if not prepared well. This wasn’t the case here – the tongue was very tender with just that subtle beef tongue flavor (it’s hard to explain, but I think you know what I mean if you’ve had it).

The egg, cooked for “six and a half minutes” and fried in pankow, was marvelous. With its rich and creamy yolk interior, and crispy breaded exterior, this was one hell of an egg.

Vadouvan Lamb Chop cauliflower, amaranth, mint

This lamb, from New Zealand, was cooked a little bit on the rarer side, which made cutting with a butter knife pretty difficult. However, I thought it had a nice lamb flavor without being too gamey. The cauliflower, made into a couscous-like consistency, was interesting, though it didn’t have a strong presence.

Ricotta Fritter baby peach panna cotta, agave

I enjoyed the crispy light fritter; here it was paired with a very smooth panna cotta. Just a little sweet, the textural contrasts were very nice.

Macadamia “Sponge Cake” textures of strawberry

I didn’t care so much for this sponge cake. I found it rather dry, with an oatmeal or cereal-like flavor. Unsweetened cereal. The strawberries were a nice touch, but I wanted a little bit more sweetness and moisture out of this dish.

Overall, there were some hits and misses in this meal. I came in with pretty high expectations, so I’d probably have to say it was a little disappointing. Still, Vigneron’s dishes displayed some really interesting techniques and flavors that clearly showed he is a very capable chef. It will be interesting to see where he will be cooking in the future.

Some guest chefs were also in the kitchen this night! From left to right: Alex Reznik, Walter Manzke, and Marcel Vigneron.

Previous Test Kitchen posts:
Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine)
Walter Manzke
Adam Horton (Saddle Peak Lodge)

Test Kitchen: Adam Horton – 9/27/10

Test Kitchen: Adam Horton
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles 90035

Test Kitchen continues its ever-popular run, this time with chef Adam Horton of Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas. Saddle Peak Lodge uniquely features a variety of wild game in a fine dining setting, including elk and ostrich on its menu. Just 27-years old, Horton is doing his best to modernize the rather ‘traditional’ menu at Saddle Peak. This meal, titled “The Modern Face of Saddle Peak Traditions,” would be a better view into Horton’s vision, and a place for him to showcase what he can do. I’m glad that the Test Kitchen has given him (and others) the forum in which to try new things, and stretch their imaginations.

Dining in this party this night were Test Kitchen staple Kevin of kevinEats, Christina of food, je t’aime, and my friend Shawn. Tonight, no ‘bar bites’ were featured, so we went straight into the first course.

Wild boar “spread” with grilled toast

This was my kind of “spread,” as it was basically shredded boar meat. Tender, rich and savory, I enjoyed this pairing of boar with the crusty toast.

Heirloom tomato, buffalo and its cheese

Here is Horton’s rendition of a caprese…with a little bit extra – the buffalo mozzarella was paired with actual buffalo meat (sounds like a logical progression, no?). The caprese was a solid rendition, and I enjoyed the addition of the buffalo meat carpaccio, which added to the richness of the dish, and added a little more complexity and depth of flavor.

Escolar with sumac, edamame, horseradish, uni, flavors of pho and puffed rice

I enjoyed this dish – the escolar’s flavors, though rather mild, were not overwhelmed by the horseradish. I was missing some of the flavors of pho, however, and this was something I was looking forward to, being an avid fan of the noodle soup.

Pork belly with vadouvan, apple, yogurt and cucumber

This was probably my favorite dish of the night. The pork’s skin was very nice and crispy. The meat, while rather fatty, was very tender and flavorful. I was able to pick out the curry-like flavor of the vadouvan, and the sweetness of the apple was a welcome addition.

Elk with almond, bacon, brandied cherries and squash

Next we had New Zealand elk. The tenderloin was tender, though not quite tender enough to easily cut with a butter knife. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too gamey at all. The sweetness from the squash, and especially from the cherries, was a bit too much though, and overshadowed the elk.

Parmigiano Nero with apple, hibiscus, white chocolate and olives

Next was the cheese course. Now, I’m rarely a fan of the cheese course and avoid it whenever possible (in favor of another savory or dessert course).  However, I really enjoy parmesan cheese and actually enjoyed this course. The sweetness of the white chocolate and apples balanced well with the nutty richness of the cheese.

“Thai green curry” with chicken, lemongrass, cilantro and lime

The description of this course SO does not sound like your typical dessert. Coming out of left field, it sounds more like a popular entree at your neighborhood Thai restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed the lemongrass custard, with the complementary flavors of the cilantro and lime foam.  The kicker was the small pieces of chicken skin, reminiscent of bacon bits, which added some chicken flavor and crunchy texture to the dish. Really interesting, and I think it worked!

This was another satisfying meal at the Test Kitchen. There were no complete misses, though I had my disagreements, particularly with the elk. I was glad to see Chef Horton’s take on some more ‘modern’ dishes, while maintaining some of the traditions of Saddle Peak.

Chef Adam Horton in front middle, with staff from Saddle Peak Lodge: