Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Graham Elliot

While Chef Graham Elliot (Bowles) is very well known and I had had food at his sandwich shop, Grahamwich (now closed), and at Lollapalooza, I had not been to his eponymous restaurant, graham elliot.  Starting with Charlie Trotter and then at Avenues, Graham Elliot became known for pushing the envelope with unusual flavor combinations and presentations.  He announced this year that he would be closing his eponymous restaurant to move to a smaller space and to reconcept.  As I had not been to this Michelin 2 Star restaurant, I decided I needed to get here before it closed.  While I had never been to the restaurant, I had been to the space.  It had been a nightclub before the restaurant, that I had been to several times and I could see the skeleton of the nightclub in the open space of the dining room.  The floor was hardwood and the walls and ceiling were black.  There was a large window that looked out onto the street and while there was some banquette seating which was white, most of the seating was with tables, also white, spread in groups throughout the room.  Because they were going to be closing soon, they reduced their menu to simply a single tasting menu.  Previous menus had had two tasting menus and an a la carte section.  That said, the menu was for a 15 course meal which was laid out similar to a periodic table of elements.  The course descriptions were also reduced simply to major ingredients so there was a bit of surprise and anticipation as to what actually would be coming out.  The first course, essentially an appetizer, was described simply as Popcorn.  What came out definitely did not look like popcorn.  What it was was Truffle Popcorn Gelato topped with a Chive and served with Cocoa Nibs.  The gelato was very smooth and had a strong truffle flavor with a roasted popcorn finish.  There were pieces of popcorn in the gelato to provide crunch.  This was not exceptionally sweet so the fact that it was paired with a chive and cocoa nibs (roasted and crushed cacao beans) made sense.  The cocoa nibs also added crunch.  Even though I am not a fan of popcorn, this was a good start.  It was whimsical and surprising and not too sweet.

While the first course was surprising, the next course pushed things even further.  It was called a Foielipop and the presentation was pretty cool.  It was a Birch Log with a Lollipop mounted in it.  The lollipop was actually a disc of Foie Gras rolled in Watermelon Pop Rocks.  You were instructed, to get the full effect, to eat the foielipop in one bite.  I like foie gras and I like Pop Rocks.  The combination was odd.  The foie gras was good.  It contributed the creamy and slightly minerally flavor that you would expect from duck liver.  The Pop Rocks brought the sweet watermelon flavor which I could see working in concert with foie gras without the Pop Rocks if it was a little less sweet.  The crackling though, kind of threw me.  I will not say that it was bad, but it was odd and it wasn't something that I might choose on it's own.
 The next course featured Prawns with Lime, Cilantro, and Avocado.  It was a complex dish if kind of a sparse looking plate.  The center of the plate had a prawn with fried kale and lime.  There was an Avocado Gelato with a Lime Puree at the front of the pate which was paired on the opposite side with a prawn mousse with kale.  On either side, was an avocado puree with a chip that brought to mind Guacamole.  While there was a lot of variety and combinations, they all played well together and were good pairings.

From the appetizers, the dinner progressed to salad, and while it didn't really look like a salad, that's what it was.  The course was described as Anchovy with Brioche, Romaine, and Parmesan.  These are key ingredients in a caesar salad and while it didn't really look like a caesar salad, it did taste like one.  The dish started with a Romaine Heart that was wrapped with an Anchovy.  This was paired with a smear of a romaine puree with brioche croutons, pepper, and Parmesan Cheese.  It was a very good course that captured what a good caesar salad is supposed to be.

The next course was actually a bit more straight forward and looked like what it was supposed to.  It was described as Kobe with Spinach, Bearnaise, and Potato.  It was a Beef Carpaccio with Bearnaise Sauce, Spinach Leaves, and Potato Chips.  It was a simple dish that did everything very well.  The carpaccio was tender and flavorful, the spinach and potatoes added some crunch, and the bearnaise added a buttery richness.
From salad, we went to the soup.  The prime ingredients in the soup course was Sunchoke with Ham, Sage, and Dill.  I had had a Sunchoke before and I knew that is was a vegetable of some type but I didn't know exactly what it was.  It turns out that it's the root of a certain type of sunflower and is related to an artichoke.  It has the texture of a potato but is slightly sour and looks like a ginger root.  A bowl was brought out containing a sunchoke a ham marshmallow with Fried Sage and Dill.  To this was added a Sunchoke Puree, it was all very flavorful.  It was like a sourish potato with a light ham flavor from the marshmallow that dissolved when the liquid hit it.  The thyme and dill added flavor and a little crunch.
 After the appetizer, salad, and soup, came a palate cleanser before the entrees.  It was a Pumpkin Sorbet flavored with Cloves, with Pumpkin Brittle, and a Kale Chip.  It was simple, flavorful, and cleansed the palate as it was supposed to. 
 Before I went to the restaurant, a friend told me that I had to try the sweetbreads.  As I was having a Chef's  Menu (and there was no a la carte menu), I had no choice in the matter.  Sweetbreads, however, were the first of the entrees.  The menu describes the course as Sweetbreads with Cranberry, Salsify, and Chestnut.  The Sweetbreads were tempuraed and served with Salsify, Crushed and Roasted Chestnuts, Cranberries, Baby Greens, and a Fish Sauce.  The tempura was light and crisp over some very tender sweetbreads.  The the salsify added some crispness, the fish sauce was savory, and the cranberry added a tart finish.

The normal progression in entrees is offal, fish, fowl, pork, and beef and while the next course did follow that progression, it was a bit surprising because it was a twist on something that you might expect for breakfast, lox and bagels.  The menu described the course as Salmon with Caper, Onion, and Bagel.  It was a piece of Smoked Salmon topped with Tomato Jam, a little Cream Cheese, and an Everything Bagel Chip.  It was surrounded with Capers, Onion Jam, and Dill.  While it didn't look like what you would expect of Lox and Bagels, that's what it tasted like and it was very good.
The progression did get twisted a little with pork being served before the fowl.  It was listed as Pork, Pumpernickel, Mustard, and Brussels.  This dish was again a little odd.  The braised pork shoulder (which was under the foam) was very tender and flavorful.  It was topped with a bitter Pumpernickel Foam with sauteed Trumpet Mushrooms, Mustard, and Baby Greens.  This was also very good but unless the baby greens were brussels, I don't know where they were.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, the greens added a bit of a vegetal flavor, and the mustard added a nice sour and spicy flavor.
While the next course was listed as Hen with Thyme and Celery, it just as well could have been listed as Rice with Mushrooms and Celery.  The dish was a risotto with a lot of mushrooms made with a guinea hen stock and a small amount of guinea hen.  It was topped with Celery Root and Baby Thyme.  Whatever it was called, it was very good.  The rice was perfectly cooked and stock and mushrooms added a lot of good flavor.
The final entree was technically not beef but like beef, it has a flavor strong enough that it makes the best sense to finish entrees.  It was listed as Venison with Huckleberry, Yogurt, and Wheatberry.  It was a Venison Loin with Bulgur Wheat, Raw Turnip Slices, Cooked Turnip with Huckleberry Sauce, Microgreens, and a Yogurt Sauce.  It was like eating the deer and what it ate and it was very good in every combination.
 After entrees comes Cheese which was served with Vanilla, Pecan, and Quince.  The cheese was a light cheese that was Bruleed like a custard.  The Apples and Quince were cooked together with the vanilla and served with an almond crumble.  It was creative and tasted very good as well.
 For the first dessert, Apple was repeated.  It was the featured ingredient with Coffee, Caraway, and Cider.  It was presented as an Apple Sorbet, and Apple Chip, Pickled Apples, a Cider Gelee, Caraway Foam, and a Coffee "Custard".  It was neat to have apple in many different presentations and it was very good.  Different elements were crisp, sweet, and sour and the coffee and cream added a bitter creaminess.

The dinner finished with Chocolate which was presented with Malt, Parsnips, and Sorrel and an Olive Oil Sauce.  The chocolate was presented in many formats.  The malt was an obvious flavor combination with the chocolate but the parsnip was a surprise and the olive oil added some depth of flavor.  The chocolate was presented as gelato and dark and white solid chocolate.  It was a very good finish to a very good dinner.  I was very glad that I was able to go to Graham Elliot before it closed and I am excited to see what the new restaurant will be like.  


No comments:

Post a Comment