Amuse Bouches: There were two amuse bouches:
River caviar on a brioche custard dome, red onion, egg yolk pearls, scallion, and crumbles of brioche. A beautiful composition for caviar – a bit of creamy, a bit of buttery, a bit of savory, a bit of herbs. I wish there was something a little more tangy – like a creme fraiche dome with brioche crumbs, instead of a brioche dome.
Gooseberry encased in a gelatin dome made from hoja santa with hoja Santa purée, hyssop, hoja Santa leaf, and puffed tapioca gooseberry purée The gooseberry popped in the mouth. Overall, a light and refreshing chaser to the “caviar” counterpart.
Butter Service: The strands of goats milk butter was topped with volcanic black salt. The yellow gel was an emulsification of olive oil and citrus topped with Copper River salt. The citrus was not sharp at all – a gorgeous marriage of oil and citrus. The green gel to the left is an emulsification of olive oil and herbs, topped with fleur de sel, I believe. I really liked this one, as it was incredibly herbaceous, and fragrant without being too floral.
Alaskan King Crab: On the sugar pane were brook trout roe, a baby cucumber, and jalapeno (bright red curls atop the sugar pane). This is not only a gorgeous dish, but it’s unique. I can’t say it was my favorite – it was a bit random and far-flung, not to mention just a bit difficult to eat and a bit too sweet for me. But, I did like the salty brook trout roe, which helped balance out the sweetness, and the overall light flavors (the meaty slices of king crab leg, which had been rolled into perfect circular discs, had been poached in citrus) – cucumber, broth and baby cucumber. Lots of herbs about. It was a little busy, but overall, a multi-faceted combination of flavors and textures (the sugar pane managed to stay crispy).
Faroe Island Salmon: The oil-poached fish practically melted in my mouth. It was immensely fresh and delicate, wonderful. There were black olive crumbles and what tasted like a black olive puree (though it was presented as balsamic vinegar). To my understanding, the entire fennel plant was used – the stalks and bulb had been shaved, the fennel pollen had been made into tapioca crisps, and the fronds and blossoms were used as garnish. The brandade seemed a bit random at first, but gave the dish a comforting body that was otherwise missing. Absinthe foam was dabbed here and about, it wasn’t too aggressive.
Grains, Seeds Nuts: This was, without a doubt, my favorite savory course of the evening. I fear that those diners who don’t sit at the chef’s counter won’t fully appreciate the wonder of how this dish was made. In the middle is a pile of cooked grains (I’m guessing barley was among them) and soft, plump, and sweet sultanas. There were also dots of herb emulsion/gel. Over the pile of grains was placed a rigid, tissue-thin, and crisp disk of amaranth seeds (how did they get the veil so thin – a single layer of amaranth?!). The bowl was then put under the salamender and the veil – probably from the steam from the underlying cooked grains – softened to become a thin skin that basically sealed the mound of grains in what looked like a large raviolo. On top of the “raviolo” were more grains, sunflower seeds, blanched sunflour sprouts, various herbs, and a chalky square of hazelnut oil. A warm broth was poured around the “raviolo.” The chalky hazelnut oil, when dissolved in the broth, turned into a fragrant, milky substance that gave the dish just a touch of creaminess. The flavors were earthy, nutty, and toasty – very autumnal, very woodsy, very natural. There were a rainbow of textures and temperatures and weights. AWESOME. The wine pairing (a South African wine) was outstanding – a spicy fragrance that really brought out the floral, woodsy flavors in the grains, seeds, and nuts.
Hamachi: This is the one dish of the night I thoroughly did not understand. There’s a long strip of cardamom meringue that is drizzled with citrus oil and then torched for a toasty surface. It’s sided with clusters of tapioca pearls. The chard was good, if not a bit unnattractive. The fish, to me, was overcooked. I’ve become accustomed to eating hamachi still a little rare in the middle, and have come to prefer it this way. This hamachi was too steaky for me. The narrow strip of fish was topped with a thin veil of lardo and surrounded by an apron of carrot foam. Then a sprig of purslane. Overall, this was a really strange dish, tanekd by the coooked hamachi. The vegetarian version, which substituted roasted cauliflower and hen of the woods mushrooms for fish, seemed much more my style.
Acquerello Risotto: The risotto (Acquerello is the brand of the risotto) was fortified with creme fraiche. The grains seemed to be somewhat different – perhaps a touch longer – from the short and pearly Carnaroli/Arborio grains. This risotto was just a touch more “mushy” than your usual risotto, which is more firm and consistently textured. However, I note that this risotto was not overcooked; I suspect the textural difference was due to the grain.
The black truffles (from Burgundy) were a bit weak. Throughout the risotto were pieces of meaty matsutake mushrooms in differnt forms, as well as little pieces (and one large strip) of duck confit, making it more like a cassoulet. I really liked this component of the dish, as did I love the candy stripe figs, which gave it all a mellow sweetness. The oxalis was dabbed here and about, a grassy, bright relief from the otherwise heavy flavors. To the left, you’ll see a disc of red wine reduction gelatin skin, which was laid over part of the risotto and a dab of oxalis puree. Overall, a very comforting and homey dish, though made significantly more sophisticated with the addition of the truffles and figs.
Beef Short Ribs:Perched on the ingot of meat, which was a caramelized broccoli floret.Hovering over the meat was a bird’s nest canopy of fried shoe-string potatoes hung with herbs and ribbons of radishes. There were shards of crisp lime meringues atop the potato canopy (very bright-tart). And waxy potatoes (one new potato, the one in the fore was a purple Peruvian) sitting on a herb puree. The shortrib meat was meltaway soft, extremely tender, very flavorful. The potatoes were also very nicely cooked. There were a lot of fragrant components on this dish, yet it didn’t taste overly “floral.” It all worked well. It wasn’t the most exciting dish, but it was beautiful.
Sudachi: The inside of this was sudachi juice (an Asian citrus). It was frozen into a ball, rolled in togarashi, and then dipped in cocoa butter to be set. The outside shell was waxy, with little flavor (cocoa buttery), but the inside was a gush of juice. The ball is topped with powdered sugar. A cute and refreshing pre-dessert transition bite. It was served on a gigantic, metal votive tree.
Lots of things going on here, and none of it was superfluous, which is what I like about Duffy’s dishes. It’s well-thought out and beautiful to boot. The crabapples had been slightly cooked, so they were soft, filled with a sweet gel (the crabapples seemed glazed with it too, it seemed). The crabapple ice cream was the right balance of tart and sweet, with just a touch of tannins. Sage was the perfect, woodsy, autumnal herb pairing. The ale ice cream was weak – not enough of that yeasty beer flavor, which I think would have given this dish another dimension. There were lots of different textures, which I liked. The croissant had been dehydrated, so it was crisp. There were clusters of puffed grains (they looked like mustard seeds). Simply gorgeous.
Strawberry: The candy-striped “tube” was actually a frozen, hollow tube that was filled with a delicious cream (think loose yogurt) spiked with Chambord and vodka (to prevent the cream from freezing). The ends were capped with strawberry sherbet-like discs. In the bowl were also torn pieces of buttery financier cake, basil puree (you see them on the tube), basil seeds dipped in some kind of gelatin solution (the dragonfruit-looking pods on the candy-striped tube), and basil blossoms.
Also in the bowl were various forms of strawberry, including strawberry-flavored meringue kisses, dehydrated strawberries, and strawberries macerated with simple syrup. The Thai “long pepper” was incorporated in the amber-colored gelatin cubes. There was also a piece of foam-like substance (not unlike the foie gras foam at wd~50), which was – unexpectedly crispy. Chef told me that this was actually yogurt foam that had been dehydrated.
Chocolate: The dish was decked with huckleberries.
The Ocumare chocolate ice cream arrived as nuggets in a bowl of liquid nitrogen. The large nugget was put on the plate tableside and then cracked by the server, which was a little akward. The “sweet Aztec” is the Mexican version of oregano, which added a bit of savory appeal to the dessert. And there were nubs of dark Ocumare chocolate cake, slightly dried; I liked that. The chamomile panna cotta disc in the center got slightly lost among the other, heavier-hitting flavors. Overall, the sweet Aztec and the brown butter, especially, really helped bring out the dark chocolate flavor. To that end, it was a very successful chocolate composition.
Norman Love Chocolates: From darkest chocolate to lightest chocolate:
Red = Dominican Republic
White = Equador
Purple = Madagascar