A "backwards menu":
Tate "works backwards" when crafting the day's menu, thinking produce first and then matching protein when needed. Here, radishes get a little crunch from some chicken skin.
Bread and Butter Service
They bake the bread mornings in the wood-fired oven, and make the butter in-house too. With all that whey separated out, "we use it pretty much on everything. That’s one line that goes through all the menus; we use a lot of whey."
Yuka braised in squid ink with leek ash and aioli. "It’s like a Dominican thing; yuka fries and adobo."
Roasted radishes, chicken skin, tapioca, and whey.
Three Cooks, One Dish
Though Tate takes the lead on most aspects of the menu and the cooks hold a dish or two for the night, they often jump in whenever needed; stations are set up by dish, not mode of preparation.
Poached Quail Egg
Cook Joey is "relatively new but eager and ready to go." Here he works on carefully separating a lightly-poached quail egg for the onion course.
Ramps and Spring Onions
Many ingredients are prepped on an electric flat top and then finished off on the wood-fired range.
Onions and Eggs
Depending on the flow, one chef can complete a dish or three. This one had Joey doing most of the assembling and Tate finishing off the plate.
All plates finish on the pass, where Tate or owner Kyle Wittels keep up with which tables are at what course.
One convenient thing about the "casual setting" aspect of Le Restaurant's kitchen? Butcher paper, blue electric tape, and Sharpies are cheap and available.
Caramelized savoy cabbage, poached oysters, coffee cream, stem lettuce, Meyer lemon dressing, and ramps.
Tate Draws a Celtuce
"Celtuce [stem lettuce] comes from northern California, though it's native to China. We braised it, and it gets a texture like asparagus and a flavor like artichoke."
Cabbage, Caramelized for the Night
"The weather took a bit of a dip and isn’t as warm as it was at the beginning of the week, so I went back with some winter stuff and caramelized the cabbage instead."
A Fresh Chickpea
Christian gave me one. I'd never had one. Christian's nice.
Pannise is like a chickpea polenta. Here, Christian plates his, made with those lovely fresh chickpeas.
Pannise from fresh chickpeas, Cayuga Blue goat cheese (from Lively Run up in the Finger Lakes), snails first braised and then finished on the wood-fired plancha, sorrel leaf.
Christian Stoking the Fire
Christian (who worked with Tate at Savoy and has a baking background) was in charge of making sure the fire stayed red-hot. The heat can fall really quickly, or rise to around 1000°. They use oak and cherry wood to keep it going.
Note to anyone entering the Le Restaurant kitchen; you will smell like smoked cherry wood long after you leave, possibly two days later.
Tate Basting Squab
The meat, fish and game are all roasted and then re-finished in the oven part of the massive wood-fueled system, which vents into the building's original chimneys.
Building Squab Course
Golden beets were the focus of this dish, on which the squab will come to rest.
How to Break Apart a Squab
1) Use poultry scissors to cut out the backbone. 2) Flip and work through the joints with chef knife. 3) Get annoyed, grab a filet or boning knife, and gently work your way through the rest.
(Instructions via observation, not Tate's guidance.)
Roasted Wood Pigeon, cauliflower, golden beets, cardamom, ras al hanout.
Mulberries Finishing off the Dessert Course
Whey makes its way through most of the courses at some point. Here, it makes a bright little topper alongside pickled mulberries.
Spiced chocolate palette, milk chocolate, whey, chocolate sauce, milk jam, pickled mulberries.