September 22, 2016

Not one shade of gray

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A week ago I received an invitation to a join a special dinner featuring two chefs with Michelin stars at their respective establishments.  I'm familiar with the cuisines of both Philippe Orrico and Akrame Benallal, and was curious about what a "4-hands" dinner would be like.  After getting assurances about the identities of my dining partners - as I don't care to waste my time in the company of certain people - I took the tram from my office and walked through the doors of Restaurant Akrame for the fifth time.

The theme for the dinner - the second night of only two - was black and white.  Each chef would cook dishes based on one of the two colors.  Not surprisingly, Akrame chose the dark side... which put Philippe in the white corner.  Again, not a surprise.

I hadn't really thought about it, but when g4gary mentioned dressing up for this dinner, I thought it was a pretty good idea.  So I made sure I put on a white dress shirt and squeezed into the pair of beige jeans I had long outgrown.  I was gonna be Team White/Orrico!

We started with a few bites.
Brioche with mustard and Parmesan - actually the texture wasn't like a brioche at all, but a little more firm... almost like a Krispy Kreme donut without any glaze.  The grainy mustard inside plus the little wafer of cheese made it a little salty.

Parmesan cookie with radish; potato paper with sardine purée - the cookie was pretty nice and the little dot on top was pretty acidic.   No surprise that the sardine purée inside was on the salty side, but it sure was tasty.

Pearl: oyster / tarragon / vodka lemon / charcoal granita (Black) - the oyster comes from Geay, just inland in the Marennes-Oléron region.  This came with some tarragon oil, which was completely overpowered by the acidity in the vodka lemon and charcoal granita.  Nice and refreshing, though.

Sea: white risotto / yellow tomato water / langoustine / sancho pepper (White) - the risotto was cooked in yellow tomato water, served with some raw-ish (mi-cuit?) langoustine and basil oil at the bottom and garnished with mizuna (水菜).

We were told to "mix everything together" before we eat, which was a good call.  The cheese in the risotto had a sharper flavor profile, and no doubt the acidity was there from the tomato water.  The langoustine was fantastically smooth and silky.  The kicker (literally) for me, though, was the sansho (山椒) pepper - which delivered the tongue-numbing kick I love.

Sailor: black snapper / beetroot / rhubarb (Black) - the snapper was cooked in beetroot juice (blegh!) and sat on a bed of beetroot brunoise, with beetroot juice and charcoal juice, as well as some cream and chervil.  Once again we are asked to "mix everything together" by our waitress.

Not a real fan of this dish, which wasn't surprising given the presence (or should I say omnipresence) of beetroot.  The cream on the side - together with the chervil - actually managed to cover up the earthy flavors of beetroot that I abhor.  But the problem for me is that the snapper itself tasted a little funky... perhaps because it had absorbed the beetroot flavors, or perhaps because it didn't work so well with charcoal.  Nothing wrong with the execution here, just that any dish with beetroot runs a high probability of me hating it...

Meat: free range guinea fowl / turnip / apple / pecan nuts (White) - the guinea fowl sat on a bed of turnip mash, and was topped with purée of sour apple, crumbled pecans, slices of raw turnip, and some baby red perilla leaves.  And of course, we were told to "mix together" before eating...

I liked the sweetness from the turnip mash, and there was a good variety of textures.  The guinea fowl itself was nicely done and still very tender.  But let's be honest here... while guinea fowl sounds more exotic than chicken, in the end it still kinda tastes like chicken... although there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  This was nice.

Milky: goat cheese / mountain honey (Black) - I think the mountain honey worked really well with the gamey Sainte-Maure de Touriane and charcoal.

Sweetness: coconut / caramel / passionfruit (White) - LOVED this one.  Mango and passion fruit, cacao crumble, coconut foam, and perilla leaves.  Tropical and fruity, right up my alley.

Sweetlove: black tube / truffle / chocolate (Black) - very good.  Slurp.

Finally, there's the dark chocolate with sea salt as mignardises.

The team at Akrame very kindly poured us a few glasses of wine to go with our dinner:

2014 Henri Perusset Mâcon-Villages - nice and tropical with floral notes.  High acidity.

2014 Aegerter Saint-Véran - some ripeness on the palate.  Otherwise kinda bland.

Clos Dady, vintage unknown - a little peach.  A lot drier than expected for a Sauternes.

This was indeed a very interesting dinner and contrasted the cuisines of the two chefs very well.  As much as I found the charcoal dishes from Akrame interesting, in the end it wasn't a surprise that my favorite dish - the risotto - came from Philippe.

Many thanks to The Forks and Spoons for the kind invitation, and for the very enjoyable company this evening.  Now I'm just gonna need to plan that BYO dinner at Spaghetti House we talked about tonight...  Stay tuned, everyone!

1 comment:

KC said...

Luckily I was there, hahaha.


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