12 days: on the tenth day of christmas: tanaka…. (2015)

~ He speaks Japanese, of course.  But he also speaks Spanish, French, and more English than I speak in any of those languages.  His name is Atsushi Tanaka, and I ate at his Restaurant A.T. in Paris last year (here are the photos from that dinner in September of 2014).  At the time, I had […]



He speaks Japanese, of course.  But he also speaks Spanish, French, and more English than I speak in any of those languages.  His name is Atsushi Tanaka, and I ate at his Restaurant A.T. in Paris last year (here are the photos from that dinner in September of 2014).  At the time, I had not heard of him – I was urged to eat there by my friend Laurent Vanparys (ironically, a Belgian whose Flemish name means “from Paris”).  And, judging by the clientele in his restaurant that night, neither had the rest of Paris.  I think I was the only non-Japanese person in that small dining room.

But in the year since, I have seen Tanaka’s name billed at culinary events around the world, including this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, where he was the tenth chef to cook with Christopher Kostow at The Restaurant at Meadowood.


6th Course: Duck & Beet Roots


Tanaka has worked for chefs, who have dynamic plating styles (Pierre Gagnaire, Quique Dacosta, and Bart de Pooter, among others), and it shows.  In introducing Tanaka to his staff at line-up, Kostow even highlighted Tanaka’s unique and particularly eye-catching presentations. They’re artful, and colorful.

One dish, for example, recreated the effect of camouflage with a patchwork of green and grey crisps made from bamboo charcoal powder and parsley.  Underneath these wafer-thin chips was raw horse mackerel.  All of this was showered with a frozen powder of juniper berry cream table-side.  It was very dramatic.

So was an austere-looking plate of hinoki (Japanese cypress) cream, “sponged” onto the plate with the underside of a side plate.  With it came a hillock of milk crumble, ashen with charcoal, atop which sat a turn of hinoki ice cream, also tinted grey with charcoal.  Next to this lunar landscape was the accompanying side plate, with the counterpart hinoki cream smear on its upturned side.  This side dish was finished with a stamped out round of blueberry cake, inky with the fruit’s juices, and topped with a single, fresh blueberry.  

I had never had hinoki before.  In this dessert, its flavor was faint, but discernible, its fragrance mellow and sweet, tasting of wood. (Four Magazine published the recipe for this dessert.  Note, it is plated slightly differently in the magazine photo than it was at the Twelve Days of Christmas.)


8th Course: Hinoki


Amadai, Tanaka served with its crispy scales and celeriac.  Duck, he served with beets.

More interesting to me was a bowl of quince and apple cooked in butter, topped with pine ice cream, and then veiled in a translucent sheet of pine “paper.”  A frozen powder of pine cream was scattered over all of it.  

I have to admit that at first, the pine paper was kind of annoying.  The papery plastic wrap-like sheet was nearly impenetrable.  I had to use my fork to shred my way to the ingredients underneath it, and even then, I largely just folded it up and mixed it in with the rest.  But, all together, the flavor of the pine, apple, and quince was extraordinary.  And, I even liked the chewiness of the paper, which dissolved quickly in my mouth.


Searing foie gras.


Kostow’s side of the menu was full of great hits this night.  He gave his corn porridge a much-deserved encore appearance (I wrote about this dish on the sixth night).  I find it both admirable and amazing that Kostow doesn’t like to repeat any dishes during the Twelve Days of Christmas, even though he has to cook three or four courses each night for eleven nights in a row, followed by an entire tasting menu on the twelfth night (you do the math).  But of all of the courses that came out of his kitchen at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, this is the one I would have most wanted to have again (so thanks, Christopher!).

Kostow also marinated whole lobes of foie gras with herbs and then seared them – the entire surface – with glowing-hot embers of white oak.  I watched David Guilloty, one of the cooks, do this earlier in the day and was mesmerized by the smoke, which billowed from the fatty livers as he methodically worked his way around them with a log of hot coal.  The lobe was sliced across, and the thick slabs – blushing in the center, ringed with a delicious rim of char – were served with some winter pea tendrils and buttery slices of toasted brioche.  Foie gras is usually something that I happily forego.  First, it’s hard to find anyone who can cook it properly.  Secondly, it’s hard to find anyone doing anything interesting with it anymore.  This dish succeeded on both counts.


9th Course: Pine, Apple, Quince


Kostow anchored the dinner with a beautiful cut of pork collar, which and been rolled and marinated in cherry leaves.  This tender round of meat was topped with a preserved cherry and a rich meat sauce with fennel.  It was so simple, but so flavorful.  I loved it.




Below, you’ll find the menu from the tenth night of the Twelve Days of Christmas featuring Atsushi Tanaka.   To see all of the photos from this dinner, CLICK HERE.


Brown butter.

Fried Salsify
Honey gel, broccoli blossoms.


First Course 
Kohlrabi, sudachi.

Second Course
Coal-Roasted Foie Gras
Winter pea.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Third Course 
Amadai & Celeriac

Fourth Course 
Our Corn
Butter, white truffle.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
Duck & Beet

Sixth Course 
Preserved cherries, wild fennel.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Seventh Course 

Eighth Course 
Pine, Apple, Quince


Forlorn Hope
Semillon, 2011

Riesling, 2012

Stony Hill
Chardonnay, 2009

Ribolla Gialla, 2013

The Scholium Project
Syrah, 2010


In the garden.


Below are links to my posts and photos from all of the Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended over the past four years at the Restaurant at Meadowood.  Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Photos: Tanaka’s striking “camouflage” dish; Tanaka’s duck and beet course; Tanaka, with Katianna Hong plating the Hinoki dessert; David Guilloty searing foie gras with hot coals; Tanaka’s pine, apple, quince course; the wine pairings; Nick Speth with Tanaka in The Restaurant at Meadowood garden.

Categories 12 days 2015 dessert dining michelin restaurant restaurant review travel

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