Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Publican - Chef's Menu

While I have been to most of One Off Hospitality's restaurants, have liked them a lot, and have been to brunch a few times at The Publican, I had never been to dinner there.  After my last fantastic brunch there (and the fact that a few close friends had missed it), I decided that this must be a thing so when things fell together, I scheduled it and a few of us went for dinner.  I decided that if we were going to do this, we should get the full experience, so we went with the Chef's Menu, which I thought, considering the price, was going to be something like a five course meal.  As I mentioned before, The Publican is modeled after a German beer hall with a high ceiling, with hanging lights and much of the seating on a large U-shaped communal table.  There are also some high top tables at the front of the restaurant and some booths along one side, but we sat at the communal table.  On the walls were some very large paintings of some very fat pigs which fit with the theme of the restaurant, which is Oysters, Pork, and Beer.  To that end, we all started with some nice beers.  Their beer list is large, international, and very German-centric.  They do have some very good American craft beers on the list though and I started with a Dogfish Head Midas Touch, a beer based on a 1700 year old recipe with Honey, Saffron, and Muscat Grapes.  As for the food, I will quickly say that I was mistaken about five courses, there were many more than that and at times the progression was fast and furious.  It was all served family style.  If there is a dish for which The Publican is famous, it is their Spicy Pork Rinds.  They seem to be distributed very freely, it is where our brunch started last fall, and it is where we started our Chef's Menu.  Served in a paper funnel, the pork rinds are large, and very light, but are full of flavor.  They melt in your mouth and it was like eating clouds of porky goodness.
After the beer and the pork rinds, we had had two of the three parts of the base on which the Publican was built, the natural progression would be to go to the third, the Oysters, which was what came next.  The oysters (east coast) were served raw on the half shell on ice with a spicy sauce to eat with them, some lemon for squeezing over them, and some House Made Crackers to cleanse the palate afterwards.  There was an oyster for each of us (obviously, it would be very difficult to share a single oyster).  They tasted very fresh and briny and finished a nice representations of the basics.
After the oysters, we progressed back to pork with some duck.  We were served a bowl of Pulled Pork and Duck with Peach Preserves which were to be spread on Sourdough Toast that was served next to the bowl as build your own Rillettes.  Everything about this was very good.  The pork and duck made a great flavor combination.  The toast was crisp and flavorful with the peach preserves adding some sweetness to the mixture.  The sour of the sourdough contrasted well with the sweetness of the pulled pulled pork and peaches and it was all good.
After we had hit the Oysters, Pork, and Beer, our progression made a foray into the world of vegetables.  We were served, in quick succession, a Beet Salad with Burrata (Cream-filled Mozzarella), Pickled Red Onion, Flaxseed Tahini, and Spiced Peanuts, and a Grilled Cucumber Salad with Mojama (Fileted Salt-Cured Tuna), Zhoug (Hot Chile Sauce), and Grilled Pita.  I really like beets, so between the two, even though they were both very good, that is the one that I preferred.  The beets were roasted perfectly, but were still very juicy and had a nice bittersweet flavor.  The picled red onion added a sweet and spicy flavor and the tahini added a savory nutty flavor which was added to with the spiced peanuts.  The cucumber salad was also bittersweet, but also had flavors of salt, spice, and tuna.  The pita was like a soft cracker with a crisp exterior and a softer interior and made a good delivery system for the salad.
From the vegetables, we received a Hamachi (Yellowtail) Escabeche (a raw fish "cooked" in acid, similar to Ceviche) which was served with Green Goddess Dressing, Fava Beans, and Salsa Verde.  The Yellowtail was very tender and fresh which went well with the richness of the Green Goddess and the spice of the Salsa Verde.  It was nice, light, full of flavor, and a nice progression before the heavier meat dishes started.
While we were eating the hamachi, our next dish, which looked like another rillette arrived because it was meat served on bread.  It was not, however, if you will excuse the pun, for the faint of heart, because it was Duck Heart.  It was served with Boursin, a soft cheese french cheese made with garlic and herbs, Pepper Jelly, Dill, Treviso, a red spear-shaped relative of radicchio, served on Sesame Toast.  I will say that the idea of the dish might have annerved people that were skittish, but other than the creamy texture and the garlic flavor of the Boursin, I really don't remember much about this and I said this very quickly after eating it.  It sounds to me as if it should have been pretty good, but it was quickly swept out of my memory and didn't stick.  I would actually like to try it again to see if it was that forgettable or if I was just overwhelmed by the other great dishes that were served.
The meat continued with another couple of  dishes that were disguised by greens, but quickly revealed themselves.  We were served Boudin Noir (a French Blood Sausage) with Pickled Ramps (Wild Onions that come out in the early spring), Potatoes, Fresno Chiles, Goat Cheese, and Dill, and Country Ribs with Pickled Carrots, Turmeric, Cilantro, and Cashews.  I started with the ribs which were done simply to emphasize the meat (instead of a rub or barbecue sauce) and presented with vegetables.  It tasted very good, but did require a little caveman-style eating (gnawing on the bone) and the pickled carrots, cashews, and cilantro, provided for a light accompaniment.  The Boudin Noir was a nice hearty, savory, flavorful, and well cooked sausage.  The flavors presented with it, the ramps, chiles, and dill, added some spicy and tart flavors.  While the sausage was easier to eat, I liked the rib better.
The course progression took a little bit of a left turn, next and we were presented with some Fried Cauliflower.  It was presented with Brun-Uusto Cheese, a Scandinavian-style "bread" cheese that grills well, Spiced Honey, and Scallions.  This was another course that I liked everything about.  The cauliflower was crispy on the outside, while still retaining a soft and juicy interior, and had a great flavor.  The Brun-Uusto Cheese also had a crispy exterior with a chewy interior, that added a depth of flavor to the cauliflower.  The honey provided a nice hit of sweetness with a hint of heat to finish, and it was good all together.
With all of the food that we had received so far, we were starting to slow down, so it was good that we were receiving our final savory dish.  It's presentation, however, was a bit daunting.  We received a large metal bowl of Bouchot Mussels with a broth made with Publican Lambic, Bay, Celery, Butter, and Garlic.  We were also given some good French Bread to sop up the broth.  While the mussel shells were about standard size, the mussels inside looked enormous and there were a lot to eat, but we managed to make it through the bowl and enjoyed the mussels and the broth.
We were not given a menu to tell us how many courses we would be getting, what we would be getting, and in what order, so after we quickly passed the five courses that I had expected we would be receiving, we were kind of flying blind.  It came as kind of a relief then when our desserts came.  We were given three desserts, all served at once.  First to hit the table was the Cookie Jar, which was filled with a variety of Cookies.  We also were served A Pineapple Upsidedown Cake, and a deconstructed Apple Tart.  I started with the cookies, grabbing a sweet and chewy bite that was similar to a caramel.  I also had a Chocolate Chip and an Oatmeal (and took another couple home when everyone else had hit the wall).  The Pineapple Upsidedown Cake was sweet and soft with a lot of Pineapple, and Crumbles. and the Apple Tart was tasty and really interesting with pieces of very delicate pastry covering, sweet Fried Apples, Brown Sugar Crumble, and Ice Cream.  It was all very good, it was a great finish to what was a fantastic, surprising and very filling dinner.  It was a lot of fun and I definitely would do it again, but it definitely would not be an everyday thing.   

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