Spanish mackerel on salsify, presented nigiri-style. Those pearls atop the mackerel? They look like roe, but at wd~50 you can never quite know. The orange are in fact trout roe, marinated in a classic ponzu; the green guys are cream cheese pureéd with seaweed and spherified with the help of agar agar. "It's supposed to be sort of like a seaweed salad," chef de cuisine Jon Bignelli told us. Lime zest finishes it off. (This triple serving would be for a 3-top.)
Plating the Mackerel
In the foreground, Spanish mackerel that's been cured and lightly charred on the flattop; in the background, salsify that's been blitzed in the Robot Coupe food processor, then bound with modified food starch and hazelnut oil to act as the "rice."
Lobster Roe, Charred Lemon, Green Grape, Coriander-Brown Butter
"We sort of have noodle issues here," laughed Dufresne. "We're turning everything into ***ing noodles," concurred Bignelli. "Peanut butter, cheese, edamame..."
Here, the "noodles" are actually lobster roe—which, with the help of glyercine ("and, well, we can't reveal all our secrets") is spread into sheets, steamed, then cut into fettucini-like strands. Underneath those "noodles": charred lemon, grapes, and pickled onions with the lobster meat, finished with a lobster–shellfish broth, grape juice, and brown butter solids with coriander seed.
Over all that, the broth is poured over tableside—flavored with classic pho spices of star anise, cinnamon, and clove, the broth is clarified in a centrifuge. It pours out deep brown but crystal clear.
Those crunchies perched on the edge of the bowl? "Instead of using beef tendon as-is, we sous vide it, then slice it, then dry it, then fry it like chicharrón"—supremely crunchy beef tendon practically masquerading as pork rinds.
"All the elements of the pho are there. It's just a little different."
Chef Dufresne Plating
Carefully coaxing carrot strips into a loose mound for the next dish.
Veal Brisket, Za'atar, Plum, Mustard
"You never really hear about veal brisket," says Bignelli of this dish, which he largely credits to sous chef Sam Henderson. "They often try to send us veal breast instead." First they're cured for 6 hours in maple syrup, honey, salt, and za'atar. The briskets are tiny, so after that cure, two of them are pieced together with transglutaminase (a.k.a. Activa or "meat glue") in order to make them a larger unit ("and the fat is kept in, so it keeps it fattier, it's more buttery by the time you eat it"). That double brisket is cooked sous-vide before it's thinly sliced and plated with plum, haricot verts, pickled and charred wild spring onions and green garlic, and mustard wafers. (Mustard wafers, which taste like they sound, are just Coleman's dry mustard powder combined with dijon and egg whites, with a bit of Worcestershire).
Crab Toast, Saffron, Kaffir-Yogurt, Arare
That's Peekytoe crab, "kept a bit lumpy to maintain that integrity," with lemon, lime, chives, and pickled Fresno chiles. It rests on a saffron cake, "just a classic cake batter that I totally jammed with saffron"—that's buttered and toasted to use as the base.
Yogurt with kaffir lime garnishes, plus tiny orbs of arare (glutinous rice crunchies) and micro sorrel; "Together, we think they sorta taste like Fruit Loops. But alone, the arare sorta taste like Kix."
Sole, Black Licorice Pil Pil, Fried Green Tomato, Fennel
The Atlantic-caught grey sole itself is tightly rolled and bound with more transglutaminase. "We really like the gelatinous texture and thickness of turbot, but we wanted to use locally-caught fish. This way, the sole gets that same texture," explains Dufresne. Two pil pil sauces adorn the plate, the white essentially a classic, the black made with squid ink and licorice candy. "To pick up the licorice theme," pickled baby fennel and fennel fronds garnish the plate.
Things get technical with the "Fried Green Tomato," which isn't quite that: green tomatoes are chopped up, combined with hydrated basil seeds and gelatin, and bound into a patty with Activa. That's the "tomato" that's then breaded and fried.
The zucchini fanned out is cryovac-ed with pistachio oil. It's un-cooked, but the sous vide process causes enough damage to its cell structure to give it the tender crunch of a cucumber; underneath is a sauce of "really awesome buttermilk" blended with nasturtium blossoms and xanthan gum. Nasturtium leaves garnish, with crumbles of a pistachio brittle.
Plating the 'Root Beer Ribs'
Heritage pork ribs are marinated for 24 hours in Fitz's root beer from St. Louis, then bound into a cylinder with Activa and cooked sous vide at 72°C for 20 hours. After cold smoking, the cylinder is sliced and coated with the root-beer scented braising liquid combined with pork stock, cooked down to a glaze.
'Root Beer Ribs,' Rye Spaetzle, Apricot
For the spaetzle, they dry rye bread from Nordic Breads, make it into a flour, and make spaetzle from that; the relish uses shio kombu, dried apricots, candied ginger, mustard greens, and preserved lemon.
Jasmine, Cucumber, Honeydew, Chartreuse
... with a jasmine-scented cream, honeydew compressed with honey and chartreuse, and cucumber ice cream underneath.
Plating the 'Yuzu Milk Ice'
Basil purée (gelled with agar agar) joins poached rhubarb that's compressed with yuzu, orange zest, sugar, and citric acid. A caramel-hazelnut crumble joins that on the plate, before...
Yuzu Milk Ice, Hazelnut, Rhubarb, Basil
... the yuzu-milk ice. It's essentially a soft-serve milk ice that's placed in a sealed container fitted with a one-way valve. The air is rapidly removed from the container via a powerful vacuum, causing the tiny bubbles in the soft serve to expand. The ice cream expands to about 5 times its original volume before being refrozen and served.