Saturday, May 16, 2015

NIB: Trip home and stuff I miss

I was able to make a trip back home. Like this baby koala hugging the tree there's a huge list of food that I would hug if not for the fact it would be better off in my belly... So I made a list and hit everything I could. I did miss a few pictures, like Pho at Pho saigon, Ramen at Michi and my very first meal off the plane BBQ at the salt lick.

Breakfast tacos from Taco deli with Dona sauce.... with BACON. The bacon in Australia is made from pork back which includes that circular bit that we call Canadian bacon. Anyhow, tortillas are hard to come by and I thought about bringing back a tortilla press but I didn't find a source for masa. The only place I found breakfast tacos in Sydney cost like $8.50 (in AUD but still it's outrageous).

Caldo de Res and Barbecoa taco at Vasquez. A favorite spot for my old team. This is what I get when I "want it all" and can't decide on barbecoa plate or the Caldo.

You can't go to Texas without having chicken fried steak... for breakfast.... that and biscuits and gravy and of course BACON (I had a lot of bacon here). It wasn't the best, but I had to hit the Jim's it's home to many a hangover meal and quick breakfast. I've got some curing salt and liquid smoke  (I don't have a smoker in Sydney) in my bags so I plan on making my own American bacon.

Of course I had to hit my favorite sushi shops, we went to Soto (my north austin favorite) and my wife took me to Uchiko for my birthday dinner.

But nothing beats my ultimate favorite: Mom's home cooked food. To celebrate my birthday (which I will actually skip this year as I fly over the international date line) she whipped up this great meal of all my favorites: Peking duck (using lettuce leaves to save on carbs), Hsin Chu Mi Fun 新竹粉 (Rice noodle dish from my mom's home town), Sauteed Chinese water spinach, soy pickled cucumber, thousand year old egg with Cha Shao and beef tendon and miso baked salmon. Thanks Mom!

I can't wait to come back home again there's so much I missed. At least I have these pictures to keep me warm as we enter winter down under.

Friday, May 1, 2015

NIB: Yasaka Ramen - No Ramen No Life

So in Austin we have two dedicated Ramen shops. To most of us growing up ramen was a 10 - 50 cent (depending if you go with the good stuff or not) package of fried noodles with a delicious hypertension inducing soup base. It's the mainstay of surviving on a budget in college so you can still have fun on the weekends. I hadn't had "real" ramen before trying it at Freddy's truck Michi (now a restaurant). It was a life changing event. I recommend the meat lovers in stout broth, on a cold winter day (heck even in the heat of summer) it'll do you good.

To my delight Australia is apparently full of ramen shops, granted quantity doesn't mean quality but just like most things I've encountered "down under" things are just a little bit different. One of the things I learned is that a lot of the shops here serve "thick" style broth. Now, being a fan of Michi's stout I figured "ok thick that's the stuff I want". Thick doesn't quite cover the description, I'd venture to say any thicker this stuff would be very close to the consistency of gravy. That was a more extreme example of thick, but in general the thick broth here is another level thicker than I'm use to.

We did find this great shop down the street from our flat, Yasaka Ramen.  Honestly the fact that they had a ramen noodle maker in the front window really drew me into the store (that and their mantra "no ramen no life"). I didn't get to see the machine in full action, but it looks to be a multi step machine that takes flour and other ingredients and ultimately cuts them into noodles. They were in the "flattening and rolling sheets into large spools" stage when this picture was taken.

All of the broth selections were tonkotsu (pork) broth, you could select the black garlic, soy sauce, or miso with a variety of toppings. The broth was made in what looked to be the largest pressure cooker ever made. They had Charsiu braising in another pot. The operation was pretty impressive, two guys on ramen one person operating frying type stuff for Karraga and Katsu.

And the ramen? Delicious! Definitely go visit if you're in Sydney. We still have a small list of must try Ramen shops, so much ramen so little time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tools of the Trade: Veggie Twister

As part of my next post I acquired a new toy! I've posted about a dinner I made with zucchini ribbons as part of the dish and later a bento using the ribbons. Zoodles (ribbons or spaghetti strings) have come into some popularity over recent years because of the low carb trend. Certainly a small plate of zoodles from one zucchini will save you quite a few carbs and calories than a similar plate of pasta. I figured with all the cutting calories and low carb-ing I've been doing it's high time I incorporated zoodles as a pasta replacement into a bento. Since I don't have my full kitchen here I had to find a way to cut my zucchini into noodles (or zoodle-ize them) enter "The Veggie Twister"

There are many forms of this device, in the US there's plenty of infomercials that sell the "Veggetti", I personally went with a Paderno spiralizer (it was on sale on Amazon once) back home, you can even use a vegetable peeler with a julienne blade. For the dinner I made I used a simple peeler to get the ribbons of zucchini. In the case of the twister, veggetti, and the spirooli/zpiralizer it's simply a spiral slicer. You place the vegetable in a holding device and turn or screw the vegetable in question and there's a blade at the end that cuts it into ribbons, thin spaghetti etc.

You can even pre cut your vegetables to get other effects. For instance if you cut the zucchini in half it's a quick way to get thin half moon slices. And you're not limited to zucchini (although they make the best "pasta") you can use carrots, radishes, cucumber, really anything you can wedge into the cylinder.

In the Veggie Twister, there are two cutter "ends" one that cuts long flat ribbons and the second that cuts zoodles. The zoodle end has a julliene blade followed by a flat ribbon blade to acheive the desired shape, the ribbon version has two flat ribbon blades. There's a vegetable "holder" that screws into each cutter end as the vegtable gets too short to continue twisting by hand. On my spiralizer when you're done you get a cylindrical "plug" which is the core of the zucchini and most of the soft seeds.  The Veggie twister uses the whole of the zucchini up until the end where you get a flat coin about half an inch thick. I think the big downside here is that cutting noodles that include the seed make the strands more fragile and the less capable of holding together when they cook.

Here is a shot from processing our "4th" zucchini (it looks like a lot, but it cooks down). From here you can choose how to cook them. You can eat them raw, blanch, microwave (2 mins), or saute. It really depends on how crunchy you want your noodles to be (more on prep in the next post). I find that microwaving gets the "softest" results. You just have to be careful not to over cook the noodles or they will simply fall apart. For a quick snack I'll zoodle a zucchini and pop it in the microwave with some marinara from the jar and have something yummy in 3 total mins.

I think it's a great idea, eating isn't only what we taste but what we see and smell and if a visual and textural trick can help you make missing real pasta a little less I see no harm, especially if you're counting calories. Are you going to eat these and say "wow, I can't believe that's not butter pasta"?No, but in many cases pasta is simply there as a way to convey the sauce (in fact many pasta shapes are designed specifically for the type of sauce they best carry) when the pasta isn't meant to be the main star.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

American Comfort Food Bento

Growing up I didn't have much in the way of traditional "American" food, my parents owned a Chinese restaurant so we had a lot of Kung Pao chicken and Happy Family.  In fact we had so much happy family I started calling it "sad family". The days we got to go to McDonalds (or as they call it here down under "Mackers") or even to the Luby's and Furr's cafeteria were for me a real treat. My Mom would do her best and learn as many of the dishes we'd request (she does a killer lasagna) but I never got burned out on what most of my friends would complain about.

So every once and again I would get a weird craving for what my friends would describe as they're versions of "happy family". Being away from home I've had a double craving for "American food" so I decided to do a little east meets west, healthy meets comfort American bento box.

New format here. I'm trying to make these posts short but still useful. I'll post the full recipes at the end.

We'll start with the star of the show: Meatloaf. As always I'm trying to be mindful of empty carbs, so I've blended together a few meatloaf variations I've been sitting on to put together a "healthy" meatloaf. I used a combo of lean meats and pork, on the spice front we have thyme, rosemary, mustard, salt and pepper, filler: I went with some soaked quinoa parsley and spinach, the glaze was ketchup, brown sugar and some vinegar (I had some apple cider from... well that's another post) and finally a couple of eggs for binder.

This actually came out great, I've done a quinoa meatloaf in the past but the quinoa ended up seedy and hard on the exterior. The soaking helped a lot and kept the quinoa from burning and absorbing a lot of fat and grease but still produced a moist meatloaf. And I think the quinoa blended in better than large hunks of bread that is the usual binder so it was more "meat loaf-y". The spinach was a good add as well in terms of getting some veggies in, that and it gave it some color.

Instead of the standard mashed potatoes, I went with my mashed cauliflower. I posted on this before a while back, but this time around no truffle oil. It's a pretty simple recipe: cauliflower, sour cream, butter, garlic and onion, chicken bullion and Salt and pepper.  Just boil the cauliflower for 15 mins, saute onion garlic with bullion and whizz the rest together in the food processor. I tossed it in the oven and it dried it out a bit and removed some excess moisture.

Here's where east meets west, I went with a four season green bean (四季豆). It's a simple green been dish sautéed with garlic and ginger with a soy sauce with a bit of sugar and sesame oil. The trick is sautéing the green beans in a bit of oil until they soften, alternatively I blanch the beans in water to retain some crunch. Then infuse some oil with the garlic and ginger and toss in the beans, soy sauce and sugar. As you plate finish with sesame oil.

Box Contents:

  • Quinoa Meatloaf
  • Cauliflower Mash
  • Four Season green Beans

Quinoa Meatloaf
1 pound ground beef  (85% lean)
1/2 lb lean ground beef (90% lean)
1/2 lb lean ground pork
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
5 oz baby spinach
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or 1 tsp fresh chopped)
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cu quinoa (soaked for 30 mins and drained)
1/2 cu ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider since that's all I had)

Preheat oven to 450F
Heat a non stick skillet and saute spinach with a bit of water until the spinach has just wilted. Set aside and let cool.

Combine meat, onion, spinach, parsley, egg, quinoa, worcestershire, mustard, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary. Mix by hand until fully incorporated. Put meat mixture into a greased loaf pan.

Combine ketchup brown sugar and vinegar and brush on to the top of the meatloaf.

Bake in the oven for 15 mins then turn the heat down to 350 and cook for 1 hour or until internal temperature has reached 155F then remove from oven.

Allow meatloaf to cool at least 10 mins then remove from pan and slice into 1" cuts.

(Serves 8)

Cauliflower "Mash Potatoes"
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 - 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
1 cup Low fat sour cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
White pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.
Bring the salted water to a boil. Cut off the outside leaves of the cauliflower, use knife to cut out the core with a large V. Cut into large florets. Drop into boiling water, cooking until soft, about 13 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic and bouillon cook until onions are soft, keep stirring do not let the onions brown or burn. 

Combine Cauliflower, onions, 1/2 sour cream, butter, salt and pepper into a food processor and blend and add sour cream until you get your desired consistency.

Put cauliflower in a casserole dish and bake for 15 mins until the top is set.

(Serves 4)

Four Season Green Beans "四季豆"
1/2 lb green beans
2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
sesame oil

sea salt, to taste

Mix together soy sauce and sugar.
In a non stick skillet  heat oil to medium high heat. Saute green beans until they are soft, the skins will darken and appear "wrinkled" make sure to stir continuously or the beans will burn. Drain oil into skillet and remove the beans.

Reduce heat to medium. Saute garlic and ginger until garlic is soft again keep the skillet moving do not burn the garlic and ginger. Add back the green beans, soy sauce mixture, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off heat and plate. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil prior to serving. 
(Serves 4)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Breakfast bento: Corn Frittata with Pecorino Romano Cheese

Another old post I've been meaning to put out. It's a quick corn frittata breakfast bento box I packed for work this was one of those under 300 calorie meals.

Eggs, Fresh Corn off the cob, shallots, percorino romano cheese, butter, milk, salt pepper and a bit of paprika.

I made this dish right at the beginning of summer and picked up the corn from the farmers market. The corn was unbelievably sweet (you would have thought I added sugar to the mix). It was a perfect protein breakfast didn't leave me hungry later.

This recipe came from an issue of Cooking Light and I couldn't think of any corners to cut here's the recipe that I have from my notes. Actually I think there was some parsley but I skipped it since I didn't have any on hand but I think it was only for show.

Corn Frittata with Pecorino Romano Cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/3 cup diced shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons butter
1 ounce pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Heat a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add corn and shallots to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and paprika, if desired. Place corn mixture in a bowl; cool slightly. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels.

2. Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, milk, and eggs in a bowl; stir with a whisk until well combined. Add corn mixture to egg mixture, stirring to combine.

3. Preheat broiler to high.

4. Return pan to medium heat. Add butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add egg mixture to pan. Cook 1 minute, without stirring. Gently slide pan back and forth to keep eggs from sticking. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 4 minutes or until eggs are set and golden on the bottom. Sprinkle cheese evenly over eggs. Broil 1 minute or until eggs are just set and cheese browns.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 227 Fat: 13.4g Saturated fat: 5.8g Monounsaturated fat: 4.4g Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9g Protein: 14g Carbohydrate: 14g Fiber: 2g Cholesterol: 292mg Iron: 2mg Sodium: 520mg Calcium: 135mg

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Da Chang Mian Xian 大腸麵線: streetfood challenge

This is actually a post that's been sitting in the queue for quite some time. A while back we had a Taiwanese potluck where everyone brought a food favorite from Taiwan. I didn't have a favorite food so I said I'd make whatever someone wanted. One of my wife's friends had a real hankering for Da Chang Mian Xian (大腸麵線 also called Mee Sua), a Taiwanese vermicelli street food dish, I of course open my big mouth and say: "sure how hard could it be to make?" (famous last words). Surely there was a recipe or something to go on.

As it turns out this no there's wasn't a recipe to go on. Fortunately this was something I had tried before, my wife took me back in 2012 to visit her favorite Mian Xian  restaurant (Ah Zong Mian Xian 阿宗麵線) when we were visiting her old university stomping grounds.  All I remember from this place were a few things: 1) it was really hot outside 2) there was no where to sit so everyone was standing around (ok a few chairs) 3) the bowl of vermicelli was piping hot (why was I eating hot food in the heat?!). Sure, it was tasty, but I didn't burn it into my brain since there was little to no reason for me to want to replicate this dish. (had it been really cold I might have had a different impression).

First let me explain the dish to you. The vermicelli is a thin noodle that has been cooked/toasted so that so it holds up under cooking. If you use the white vermicelli it turns into a blobby gooey mess because the noodles don't hold well in soup form (they dissolve since they are really thin). Mian Xian is served many ways, sometimes with Oysters but in this case Da Chang (大腸) which is pig intestines that have been braised. This is the same braising liquid for beef shank, tendon and many other Chinese braised dishes. For those of you not accustom to Asian cuisine I know you're going "blech". I'll admit there's quite a distinct flavor, but the Da Chang itself is very similar to braised pork belly (fatty bit minus the meat). It goes really well with the starchy noodles. Yeah I won't expect you guys to knock down the doors to try this recipe but this is very popular street food so keep an open mind (I'm looking any of my new friends here in Australia, I ate your vegemite you can tolerate a post about pig intestine)

Anyhow as I said there weren't any complete posts (in English or Chinese) on how to make this stuff. There was some videos (in Chinese) and some broken webpages (also in Chinese) and a lot of pictures and accounts. I had to rely what I remembered, what I know about the dish, my wife's taste testing to help me get it right (and I did get high marks for getting it right at the potluck). So after all that, for posterity I'm recording the recipe and my trials and tribulations here:

First the intestine, I ended up in Korean Grocery store to find this. I will warn you this is strong smelling stuff. I cleaned it rinsing and turning the length inside out (I kind of stuffed it inside itself) and then salted and doused the intestine in white vinegar (inside and out) and letting it sit for 10 mins. while I worked on the prep for the rest of it.

Here's a shot of what all went into the braising liquid: Rice wine, Soy sauce, sugar, ginger, green onion (white and green parts) and my dad's favorite brand of five spice packet. The five spice is actually sealed in a tea bag material so it's perfect for throwing in and removal later.

After thoroughly rinsing the intestine I filled the pot with water added the intestine and brought it to a strong boil. I drained the liquid rinsed the intestine one more time and then added all the braising liquid together brought it to a boil and let it simmer for a good four to five hours.

When the Da Chang is done (I cut a bit off a tasted it for tenderness to now when it's done, it should not be "rubbery" at all and pretty much melt in your mouth). Slice the Da Chang on a bias (diagonal). Remove the five spice bag and strain the braising liquid into a bowl.

While you're waiting for the Da Chang to finish it's time to work on the soup and noodle part. The base for the soup is pork bones. You bring the bones to boil and drain (removing the impurities that come initially from the marrow) and re-adding water and bring to simmer. If you miss this part you'll end up with a cloudy soup. I let the broth simmer for at least one hour but I let it go for as long as I was waiting for the Da Chang.

In a separate part, I sweat the sliced shallots. When they are soft I toss in some fried shallots (gives it some more shallot flavor).

Note in the picture I have the wrong noodle package, the one in the picture is the "white" mian xian and it results in a very different texture. Use the "red" mian xian which has been pre cooked. I didn't get a picture of when I made it with the right noodles (title picture) but it looks about the same the only difference is that it held up over time maybe a little thinner in consistency.

Into the onions I put in two quarts of the soup broth, bonito flakes (3/4 of the package) and the bamboo shoots and bring the whole thing to a simmer for 10 mins to let the bonito flavor add to the soup.

I create a cornstarch with cold water (must be cold water or it doesn't disolve!)

Finally I add the whole package 300 grams (about 10.5 oz) of red noodles, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper and sesame oil and bring to medium high heat. I cook the noodles for about 5 mins.

Add the cornstarch slurry to thicken a little at a time. If you over do it you can add additional pork broth. Just keep playing with it until you have a thick soup.

Ladle into a bowl and top with Da Change. Offer black vinegar, chopped green onions, bonito flakes and Da Chang braising liquid as condiments.

Ok that's it for now. I'm not even sure how to label this post, it's not equipment, vacation, or in a box food challeng? For those of you that have wanted this recipe, Enjoy!

Da Chang Mian Xian (大腸麵線)

2 lb Large Pig Intestine
White Vinegar
4" piece of ginger peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4" inch pieces
4 stalks whole green onion cleaned and cut in half)
1/4 cu Mi Chiu (rice wine)
1/2 cu Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1 packet of five spice steeping bag
3 lb Pork bones for stock
2 Tbsp cooking oil
4 shallots thinly sliced
1/4 cu fried shallots
1.4 oz bag of shaved bonito flakes
1 can (227g "short can") shredded bamboo shoot
2 Tbsp Black vinegar
1/4 cu cornstarch
1/2 cu cold water
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 stalk green onion thinly sliced
additional black vinegar and soy sauce 

Thoroughly wash intestine inside and out and rub salt cover in white vinegar. Allow to sit for 10 mins.  Mean while in a large pot bring enough water to cover intestine to boil. 

Rinse intestine and place in boiling water. Let boil for 5 mins drain and repeat once.
After draining add ginger, green onion, mi chiu, soy sauce, salt, sugar, five spice and bring to boil.  Lower heat to simmer and simmer covered for four to five hours until very tender.

In a separate pot add pork bones cover with water and bring to boil. Drain and add 5 qts of water and salt, bring to boil, lower heat to low and simmer for at least one hour (the longer the better)

When intestines are soft remove from heat. Strain braising liquid and reserve and slice intestine on bias. Return sliced pieces to the braising liquid until ready to serve.

In a pot heat 2 tbsp cooking oil. Add shallots and cook until soft. Add fried shallots and stir constantly for 1 minute. 

Add 2 quarts of pork broth, 3/4 bag of bonito flakes, bamboo shoots and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Create a slurry with cornstarch and water.

Add black vinegar, salt, sugar, white pepper, sesame oil and red noodles. Cook for 5 mins (or according to package instructions). Adjust broth to taste. Add slurry a little at a time until the soup reaches desired consistency.

To serve ladle a bowl full of noodles and soup add sliced Da Chang (intestine). Set aside sliced green onion, black vinegar, soy sauce, rest of bonito flake, and Da Chang braising liquid as condiments.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Simple bento from Australia

Greetings from Down Under! I'm on temporary assignment in Australia (next two years) and we're finally settling into our new place. This is my very first use of the new kitchen. A simple bento box from what I could find at the local grocery store. Nothing fancy I'm afraid. I'm just glad I got to cook

I'll confess I cheated this time around. I don't have any spices or really anything in the kitchen other than flake sea salt for seasoning. This chicken came pre-spatchcocked and pre-marinaded. I will say it was very convenient. From what I could tell (the label was sparce on details) the marinade was made of oil, garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper (maybe a bit of tarragon) and lemon and thickened with mayo. $13 AUD about $10 USD... (sigh) everything is very expensive here.

This was my first experience in cooking with a convection oven. It browned the chicken quite well but the outside was achieving a golden brown faster than the internal temperature was getting to target (I did bring my trusty thermapen). Towards the last quarter of the cooking time I dropped the oven 25 degrees Celsius and turned off the convection functionality. I had feared over cooking but the breast meat came out perfectly. I later found some sites that recommended 25 degree F drop (which is only ~4 degree Celsius) or on roasts a 20 to 30% drop in time. I might have to play with this a bit more that or go back to conventional oven mode and see what that does to the white meat.

For vegetables I found some broccolini and a beautiful package of oyster mushrooms. I grabbed a head of garlic.

I got the kettle boiling and blanched the broccolini for three minutes and put it to the side. Dropped in some extra virgin olive oil and infused it with a bit of the garlic for a bit. (note I simply smashed the garlic, I didn't want too much garlic flavor in). Sautéed the mushrooms, added the broccolini and finished it with a bit of salt. Some times simple is best.

I'm hoping to get my cooking back on track. And during this time I'm hoping to capture some new foods and ingredients while I'm here and post some new places to check out if you find yourself down here. I'll still be coming back home for regular visits but consider this "EatingInABox: Down under edition".

Box Contents:

  • Garlic marinated Roasted Chicken
  • Brocollini and Oyster mushroom Saute

Happy Chinese New Year 2015

Happy Chinese New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Joel Robuchon my first experience with a 3 Michelin Star restaurant

One of the many things on my foodie bucket list was to dine at a 3 Michelin star restaurant. I had my chance a few years ago on our trip to Las Vegas but at time we only had only stumbled upon Robuchon and there was only a day left and there were no places on the reservation list. After recounting our trip to my friend, he asked "OMG did you go to Joel Robuchon? I had the brioche from the bread cart and nearly cried". Since then I had been plotted my return to Las Vegas just to try this restaurant.

I had no idea what to expect out of my experience at a three star Michelin star restaurant. I only knew that the food would be top notch and I was told that the service was a completely different level of experience. We had an idea when my wife asked the maître d' "can I...." his reply before she finished was "Yes of course! we never say no!".

The bread cart was quite a site. Usually you get a bread basket, if you're lucky it contained a couple of selections of bread. A whole cart was presented to us with breads of all sorts. It was preceded with a cart with what I can only describe as a "tower of butter" which the was artfully carved with a spoon and presented with fleur de sel and a small bowl of very delicious extra virgin olive oil. The cart contained every bread I could think of.

It was hard to choose even though there seemed no real limit. I picked a classic brioche, mini bacon pain d'epi, and the square "milk bread". We also sampled croissant, cheese brioche, cheese pastry bread. Each piece was delicious and had their own characteristics. The brioche had a chewy crust and a soft pillowy inside the croissant was every bit as good as the full sized versions I had in Paris. Wow, what a start to dinner. They toasted our first selections and never hesitated to offer more when we glanced over at the cart.

We started with an Amuse Bouche of corn veloute with smoked duck. The white square bits were described as some sort of savory marshmallow. Very delicious.

I had two choices for appetizer. I opted for Le Caviar Imperial: salmon tartare with osetra caviar. The salmon was mixed with some tobiko in order to give it a crunchy texture. I really enjoyed this dish super decadent.

For my second appetizer I got L'Oursin, sea urchin with langoustine and pureed cauliflower on top of a vinegar gelée and seaweed. I love sea urchin and this was by far some of the freshest tasting I've had. The vinegar gelée was an interesting texture the slight sour flavor was great with the langoustine and fat of the sea urchin. I was amazed at the precision on the plating, each of little mini kisses of cauliflower puree were perfectly spaced and dotted.

My wife got the Le Foie Gras De Canard, grilled foie gras bell pepper confit in acacia honey. She usually hates bell pepper but however they treated it she found it delicious. She felt the Foie gras was too rich,  I think when paired with honey I could see how it was a bit overwhelming, I dutifully took one for the team and helped gobble it up, I didn't have a problem with "too foie gras".

My first main course was a Caramelized black cod in Malabar pepper sauce with bok choy served with a lobster roe chip (you can do that?!). The fish was perfect, the sauce amazing. This is one of those things that I cannot describe it's just burned into memory.

Second main course was a Sliced grilled beef rib-eye, bone marrow condiment with daikon and matsutake mushrooms. The beef was perfectly cooked and had soft melt in your mouth texture. Not one bit tough but a perfect crunchy au poive crust.  You see those chip looking things on the upper right corner, those were tiny eggplant slices lightly fried. It was served with a creamed potato which they didn't spare on the butter.

My wife's main dish was Lobster roasted with chestnuts and asparagus with shellfish jus (which tasted like they had some saffron in it).

Finally (sort of) dessert La Sphére, bubble sugar sphere with campari sorbet, kaffir lime creme. I really hesitated to break into my dessert. The sugar glass sphere was filled with the kaffir whipped cream and a grapefruit sorbet (not campari). It looked like a Christmas ornament. It was served with a citrus marmalade and (somehow) perfectly cubed grapefruit and mint sugar crumbles.

We also had the Lychee sorbet with fresh raspberries.

If that wasn't all enough they had yet another cart with just miniature sweets.

This is what we ended up picking. Each bite was delicious and the attention to detail was delightful (just look at the lady bug "mini chocolate macaroon"). They offered us more but it was impossible to have another bite. Starting on the left going clockwise, dark chocolate truffle, strawberry macaroon, espresso macaroon, chocolate lady bug "macaroon" , Pistachio cupcake with marshmallow topping, pistachio chocolate truffle, white chocolate (something), miniature coconut cream pie.

I've never had such a magical experience for dinner. The service was beyond anything else I've experienced by a long shot. My water glass was never empty and half the time I didn't even notice it being refilled. There were easily six people attending to our table. They struck a perfect balance of being attentive and not intruding on a romantic dinner. I'm glad to have checked this off my todo list a very memorable experience.