Asian in New York and Creative Comfort Food in New Orleans
In this issue of the Dishrag we are proud to announce
the 2006 New York Rising Stars. Since January, StarChefs.com has
been scouting New York for this next class of culinary phenoms.
Given the abundance of talent, we’re dedicating our next few
Letters from the Editor to chefs and restaurants that stood out
during our search. In this letter we will highlight the city’s
hottest Asian restaurants, two of which are part of sushi empires
owned by celebrity chefs. We spent time with their chefs de cuisine
who are responsible for running the day-to-day operations. Often
these restaurants include two chefs de cuisine who divide the tasks
of overseeing the hot and cold kitchens, a topic in this volume's
preeminent restaurateur, Stephen Starr, has erected monumental restaurants
Buddakan and Morimoto
in the Meatpacking district, sleek and expansive versions of their
Philly originals. Under the direction of Morimoto-san, Chefs de
Cuisine Mark Andelbradt and Makoto Okuwa are at the helm of the
hot and cold kitchens, respectively, at Morimoto.
During my visit, Andelbradt, an espuma master, injected cherry tomatoes
with CO2 in his Live King Crab salad, a technique
for creating “fizzy tomatoes” that literally popped
in the mouth. Sushi Chef Okuwa’s Shikamaki, a square-shaped
maki roll, was unusual both in its ingredients and presentation
– the roll was made with prosciutto-wrapped tuna, and a single
piece was served in a bowl with daichi foam and garnished with mountain
peach lollipops. Learn more about the dish in this issue's On
For years now, Nobu has
defined sushi in New York, but its recent offshoot, Nobu
57, is not to be overlooked. Chef Matt Hoyle’s
cuisine, featured on the Omakase menu, is grounded in well-researched
and sometimes forgotten traditional Japanese techniques.
Uni Chawan Mushi, a traditional egg custard usually prepared with
shiitake, took on the briny flavor of the sea when Hoyle reinterpreted
the dish using sea urchin. Duck Nabe was cooked tableside in Japanese
Nabe paper, an elegant and entertaining presentation highlighted
Notes. Pastry Chef Gabriele Riva completes the dining experience
with his take on Vanilla Rice Pudding, simply served in an aluminum
rice cooking pot.
I also visited Geisha,
which deserves serious consideration for its culinary endeavors.
Chef Michael Vernon serves innovative Japanese cuisine using classic
French techniques as in the Colorado Rack of Lamb with puree of
salsify, braised lamb maki rolls, natural lamb jus and salsify chips.
The Plate showcases the colorful Kazutiny Sushi Cocktail, named
after its Master Sushi Chef, Kazuo Yoshida. The dish features ingredients
not typically found in sushi, such as quail egg and cauliflower
The small plates trend has begun to cross ethnic
boundaries beyond Spanish and other Mediterranean cuisines. At Butai
in the Flatiron District I sampled “Robata-style” small
plates, ranging from Japanese conch (a delicacy rarely seen on menus
in the States) to shiitake mushrooms prepared on an iron-slated
charcoal grill. The Flatiron neighborhood also recently witnessed
the opening of Japonais, where Chicago
Rising Star Chef Gene Kato, Sushi Chef Jun Ichikawa and their partner,
Miae Lim, have transported their successful concept of modern Japanese
cuisine to New York diners. We look forward to a visit there soon,
as well as to their new Las Vegas location in the Mirage Hotel and
We ventured into Fatty Crab,
Chef Zak Pelaccio’s homage to authentic Malaysian street food.
Standout dishes included
the Watermelon Pickle & Crispy Pork Belly Salad and the giant
bowl of sweet Chili Crab. Pelaccio mastered southeast Asian flavors
and cooking techniques from his year living in Thailand and Malaysia.
For many chefs it's not easy to find the time and resources for
culinary travel, but for those who do manage to spend time abroad
learning the roots and traditions of the cuisine they are serving
US, it certainly pays off.
“Sip for the City”
in July, a five-day dining and drinking experience dedicated to
the history and spirit of the cocktail, called for a visit to New
Orleans. Unfortunately this culinary American landmark is still
struggling to repair its seams. While the French Quarter is very
much physically intact, the streets and restaurants were barren
much of the two days we were there. During my trip I had the opportunity
to visit two past New Orleans Rising Stars,
Chefs Donald Link and Scott Boswell. Link finds inspiration for
his latest small plates restaurant, Cochon,
not only from his grandfather's home cooking but also the fast food
served at filling stations. The results are indulgent dishes like
boudin sausage meat lightly breaded and deep fried, rabbit and dumplings
baked in a casserole (another On
The Plate feature), deep fried chicken livers served on pepper
jelly toast, and oysters baked in chili sauce.
Scott Boswell’s Stella
is quintessential French Quarter fine dining. Boswell recently rebuilt
the restaurant from the ground up and, despite a serious labor shortage,
has amassed a sizable kitchen staff. I particularly enjoyed the
Heirloom Tomatoes 4 Ways (featured in On
The Plate) and Red Tasmanian sweet crab and jellyfish salad.
Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Stanley,
Boswell’s new casual café dedicated to New Orleans
classics like gumbo and seafood po’ boys, but it’s on
the top of my list for my next visit.
Rebuilding the city is the mission of New Orleans’
many talented chefs like Scott, and serving good food that will
attract more visitors is their most obvious contribution to that
effort. I can’t encourage you enough to visit and support
this rich culinary destination.