Wednesday, May 25, 2011
JBF LTD: David Chang and Iñaki Aizpitarte
Easily the most anticipated of all the JBF LTD dinners was the collaboration between David Chang and Iñaki Aizpitarte. Known in food circles as culinary rogues, Chang and Aizpitarte represent a new wave of chefs who are pushing the culinary envelope and are unafraid of challenging their diners. Listed as the world's 9th best restaurant by S. Pellegrino (tops among all French entries), Le Châteaubriand has established itself as one of the preeminent destination restaurants despite Aizpitarte's rigid take-it-or-leave-it five-course prix fixe menu. Likewise, with his infamous reservation system, dislike of stools with backs and award-winning food, Chang is a kindred spirit.
Since MW was sick, ESC accompanied me to the meal. Like all of the previous dinners, we snacked on Mixed Nuts and Veuve de Vernay Brut, France NV until we were seated.
Arriving on a soup spoon, Chang's first course was a New Jersey Diver Scallop with Coconut-Lychee Cream, Umeboshi and Cliantro. No larger than an amuse, the dish's flavor profiles were classic Chang. The scallop was set against a juxtaposition of sweet and savory as the sweetness of the coconut-lychee cream contrasted with the salty umeboshi. But other than its high quality, I felt the scallop was otherwise lost among dish's stronger flavored components.
This course was followed by a Ruby Shrimp with Juniper, Cerignola Olive and Cucumber. ESC and I both agreed that while the flavor of the juniper was subtle, in tandem with the briny olives and refreshing cucumber, the dish was successful, and was by far Chang's strongest contribution of the evening. This was paired with a good Dry Creek Fume Blanc Sonoma, California 2007.
Excited to try Aizpitarte's food, his first course, and third of the evening was White Asparagus with Mozzarella, Sorrel, Finger Lime and Parmesan. A dish full of surprises, I was amazed by the various tastes, textures and temperatures. Fat stalks of white asparagus sat in a pool of smokey mozzarella milk with a finger lime, parmesan snow and sorrel garnish. A harmonious combination of smokey, salty and tart, this dish was otherwise perfect save the fact that the asparagus was unevenly cooked. The boldness and creativity exhibited by this course was a precursor of Aizpitarte's skill. This course was paired with a Albert Bichot Montagny Blanc Burgundy, France 2008
The best plate of food all night was Aizpitarte's Milk-Fed Lamb with Eggplant and Pickles. Sections of lamb loin, belly and kidney were paired with pickled onion and melon over a black eggplant purée, creating a dramatic presentation. Although incredibly gamey, I applauded Aizpitarte's inclusion of the kidney and thought the acid of the pickles was a smart choice against the rich, assertive lamb. Not to be forgotten, the eggplant purée was silky smooth, containing a smokey flavor which further rounded out the plate. Served with a Montgras Carmenere Reserva, Chile 2008, I thought this was the best pairing of the night.
For dessert, Chang served a Black Sesame Panna Cotta with Honey, White Miso and Strawberry. Though taking another page from his Asian-inspired sweet-meets-savory playbook, Chang's panna cotta lacked the nuttiness associated with sesame and was unfortunately overwhelmed by the saltiness of the miso.
While it was nice to chat with both chefs, who were clearly enjoying themselves (drinking and even spray painting each other), the food itself seemed somewhat of an afterthought. In an ironic twist of fate, what began as the most anticipated JBF LTD meal, ultimately ended up being the least successful. Though I would stop short of saying the meal was "bad," I clearly had higher expectations for the food we were served.
This meal was among a series of dinners hosted by the JBF LTD. To read about the other meals attended click here and here.
75 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
To see all the pictures from this meal click HERE.