Letter From the Editor Vol.2

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 Service Notes.

Live King Crab Salad from Chef Mark Andelbradt of Morimoto on StarChefs.comPhiladelphia’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 The Plate.

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 from Chef Matt Hoyle of Nobu 57 on StarChefs.com 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 in Service 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. On 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 puree.

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 Casino.

We ventured into Fatty Crab, Chef Zak Pelaccio’s homage to authentic Malaysian street food. Standout dishes includedWatermelon Pickle & Crispy Pork Belly from Chef Zac Pellaccio of Fatty Crab on StarChef.com 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 in the
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 Fried Boudin with Pickled Peppers from Chef Donald Link on StarChefs.comStars, 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.

Antoinette Bruno




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   Published: August 2006