12 days: on the eleventh day of christmas: yu… (2015)

~ A dinner series called the Twelve Days of Christmas hosted by a Jewish chef wouldn’t be complete without Chinese food, right? Enter: Justin Yu. He’s the chef and co-owner of Oxheart, a restaurant in Houston where he has earned national acclaim for his vegetable-focused menu. The last time I was in Houston was in 1988.  So, unfortunately, I haven’t eaten […]



A dinner series called the Twelve Days of Christmas hosted by a Jewish chef wouldn’t be complete without Chinese food, right?

Enter: Justin Yu.

He’s the chef and co-owner of Oxheart, a restaurant in Houston where he has earned national acclaim for his vegetable-focused menu.

The last time I was in Houston was in 1988.  So, unfortunately, I haven’t eaten at Oxheart yet.  But, by coincidence, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to taste Yu’s food this year.

In late September, Yu came to Kansas City to cook at a charity dinner that I help organize every year.  Then, in November, I saw him in Carmel, where he cooked at this year’s Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine dinner.  And, if the third time is supposed to be a charm, then Christopher Kostow had impeccable timing in inviting Yu to the eleventh night of the Twelve Days of Christmas at The Restaurant at Meadowood to fulfill all of our holiday hopes and stereotypes by cooking what Yu and I irreverently refer to as “our people’s food.”  (Yu, his co-owner and pastry chef Karen Man, his cook Sam Chang, and I are all children of Chinese immigrants, causing me to joke that BravoTV has the “Shahs of Sunset,” and The Twelve Days of Christmas have the Mandarins of Meadowood.)

I jest. Sort of.


Scallion cakes.   Winter Greens Babka


I walked into the kitchen and Karen Man was making scallion pancakes.

I love scallion pancakes.

She was spreading the sticky, bubbly dough with a scallion paste made with pork fat.  One by one, she rolled them up, forming them into little rounds to rest.

On the other side of the kitchen, Katianna Hong, the executive sous chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood, was also rolling out dough.  Onto it, she was spreading a green paste made from random cuttings of winter greens from the garden.  Hong rolled the sheet of dough into a log and tucked the entire strip snuggly into a buttered babka mold.  She patted a strip of parchment paper on top of the dough, making sure the top was even, and then weighted it all down with rocks.

Back and forth Man and Hong moved, between their floured countertops, with their rolling pins, and their babka molds and sheet trays.

It was great, this synergy, between East and West, Yu and Kostow.  It became a running thread that tied this dinner together nicely, placing it among my favorite dinners this years.



On the night before the Twelve Days of Christmas started, I had dinner at The Restaurant at Meadowood.  At the end of my meal, Kostow served a miniature chocolate babka, topped with a thin plaque of chocolate that was melting onto the warm cake.

At this dinner, he turned those babkas into canapés.  Now swirled with winter greens instead of chocolate, they were quickly toasted and topped with a slice of goat butter.  I might have had a two or three of them (don’t worry, I made sure everyone else got one first).

Along with the vegetable-filled crystal dumplings (a.k.a. har gow) in warm kohlrabi broth that Justin Yu served, and his mung bean crêpes, the three canapés presented on this night were among my favorite canapés this year.  Those mung bean crêpes were folded over a Gulf shrimp filling pungent with “Gulf shrimp sofrito,” which Yu made from dried Gulf shrimp in the style of Chinese dried shrimp.  I especially loved the bit of cilantro tucked into the wrap, providing a bright, grassy relief from the rich, flavorful sofrito. It was a fantastic combination of textures and flavors.



Back to those scallion pancakes: they were pan-fried, and then dusted with a powder of dried scallions and collard greens.  Golden and crispy on the outside, they were hot and flavorful on the inside.  Infused with pork fat and scallion, they were fatty without being soggy or greasy.  The cakes were quartered and sent out to tables to share.  On the side, Yu served a relish of radishes cooked down in pork fat.




The highlight of this dinner for me was Yu’s smoked beef ribs.  These Flintstone-sized plate ribs, which are commonly used in Texas barbecue, were rubbed with black pepper and smoked on the bone.

For service, the ribs were removed and the beef sliced thick, the way Texas brisket is.  The meat was served with nothing more than a warm beef broth spiked with tangy Chinese black vinegar.  The simplicity of it was a confident statement; it really needed nothing more.  The meeting of ashy, black pepper heat with the sweet, musty acidity of the vinegar was a combination that was both new, and yet familiar to me.  It was at once Texas barbecue, and Chinese beef; common ground between two seemingly different cultures and cuisines.  Exceedingly moist and fatty, the meat was perfectly cooked, served with only a fork and spoon.




On Kostow’s side of the menu was a tartine of herbs and seaweed, served with a jar of whelk conserva.  The tender whelk meat was suspended in a flavorful fat, which I spooned liberally over the buttered strip of bread.

Kostow also served a rosy slice of duck breast with vegetables from the garden.

And for dessert, Kostow presented a crowd favorite: a rich purée of grilled dates anointed with a touch of walnut oil.




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


Mung Bean Crêpe
Gulf shrimp, “sofrito,” cilantro.

Crystal Dumplings
Kohlrabi broth, citrus oil.


Winter Greens Babka
Goat butter.

(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

First Course 
Fermented Alliums
Pork fat, radish.

Second Course
Tartine of Herbs & Seaweed
Whelk conserva.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Third Course 
Pink-Eyed Pea
Green peanut, mushrooms.

Fourth Course 
Duck & Vegetables
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

Fifth Course 
Beef Rib
Black pepper, black vinegar.

Sixth Course 
Carrot-Fennel Cake.

Seventh Course 
Grilled Dates
Walnut Oil.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)


Wei Chi
Semillon, 2012

Tocai Friulano, 2013

Enfield Wine Co.
Chardonnay, 2013

Stalin Family Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010


So Asian.


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: Yu’s beef ribs with black pepper and black vinegar; Karen Man making scallion pancakes; Katianna Hong slicing a log of babka of winter greens; Sam Chang serving Yu’s mung bean crêpe with Gulf shrimp; Kostow’s winter greens babka topped with melting goat butter; Justin Yu and a Flintstone-sized smoked beef rib;  Christopher Kostow dusting his tartines of herbs and seaweed, served with whelk conserva; the wine pairings; Christopher Kostow, Justin Yu, Karen Man, Sam Chang, and the staff of The Restaurant at Meadowood.

Categories 12 days 2015 dessert dining drink michelin restaurant review travel

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