homage series: michel bras
I’ve been trying to go to Mission Street Food for several months now and, for some reason or another, have not been able to make it. However, when they decided to kick off a series as an homage to some of the world’s most influential chefs with Michel Bras, I decided to make it, once and for all.
Michel’s restaurant in Laguiole, France is currently ensconced at seventh place in Restaurant Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants in the World. His dish, Gargouillou, has inspired current culinary giants like David Kinch of Manresa and Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz. A version of this dish appears in this homage.
Now what is Mission Street Food? It is a non-profit charitable organization that donates the proceeds to feed the hungry. Anthony Myint takes over Lung Shan restaurant on Thursday and Saturday every week and offer incredibly good food at affordable prices. In fact, they are currently looking for backers so that they can open a full-time charitable restaurant.
To begin, you make your way into the Mission at 18th Street at this restaurant that can best be described as a Chinese dinette. The walls are plastered with what looks like very colorful Communist propaganda posters. If you happen to be a party of two, you may have to share your 4-top with another couple (which happened to us!). Don’t be alarmed as you may be seated with people who would have the same interests in food that you do and may someday be good dining partners in the future.
Because we made the decision to eat here at 4:30pm (our reservation was at 6:00pm), we didn’t have time to bring wine and partake of the $5 corkage fee. We just went with the cocktails that they offer, which turned out to be quite good.
Thus, we ordered the Grey Album and the Blueberry-Acai Soju cocktail while we wait for our meals. And for our dinner, we ordered EVERYTHING off the menu to share.
The Grey Album is their version of a Black-and-Tan: one pint of Boddington’s Pub Ale and one pint of Olde English 800 malt liquor mixed into a plastic takeout container. Absolutely surreal. My cocktail of choice, the Blueberry-Acai Soju cocktail, is more in keeping with this homage. But then again, with these surroundings, one can say that the Grey Album served in a plastic container would be the better choice.
The first dish was very promising: creamed egg with beluga lentils, creme fraiche, allium bouillon, and brioche. The allium bouillon mixed with the creamy soft poached egg takes on a wonderful creamy soup.
I had to hesitate to order the next dish. First, because it is named after the Chinese dinette that we’re in and because well, it’s vegan. It’s also the one dish that is not part of the Michel Bras homage. I’m glad we ordered it. The Lung Shan Vegetable Delight is a miso soup with dumplings encased in wonderful earthy shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
The next course is the course that has inspired many a chefs, the Gargouillou. Those who know me know that I am a meat kind of person, so it is more than a stretch that this vegetable dish would be something that I would become very passionate about. Thus far, I’ve tried different versions of this vegetable concoction, at Manresa and most notably at Saison here in San Francisco, where we sat in the kitchen as part of the Chef’s table and watch them make a Gargouillou over an hour and a half using over 20 different vegetables. In this version, there are a variety of vegetables beautifully plated with herbs and seeds.
Three Spoons is exactly that, three spoons each with a different bite-sized treat. This version of another Bras classic includes a spoon for the artichoke puree, one for the fresh scallop with clam essence, and another for aspic made from beef consomme. Yes, that amber filling one spoon is solid and not liquid.
The Roasted Beet is my second favorite (after the Gargouillou). The roasted beet is served here with goat cheese made personally by the chef, olive soil, and miner’s lettuce. The olive soil was made by frying chopped olives with some sugar to make them look like soil. The crunchiness of the olives combined with some sweetness imparted by the sugar makes for a wonderful combination. The miner’s lettuce, or winter purslane, adds some kick and additional complexity to the beet.
At this point, other then a spoonful of the scallop with clam essence, we really have not had what one can call a ‘meat’ dish. In this course, local halibut is poached and served with pearl barley, asparagus, rau ram, and sea urchin foam. I would have to say that the sea urchin foam makes this dish!
The Seared Foie Gras is served with pickled rhubarb, braised walnuts, and tarragon. A definite winner, but I really wish I had a nice glass of Sauternes to go with this. That would make this one PERFECT!
For the cheese course, we get two types of cheeses from France: Comte from the Jura mountains and creamy Brillat Savarin from Normandy. These were served with chef-churned butter, local greens, pear, and artisanal bread.
For dessert, we had Wheat Crisp and Jersey Ricotta with Chestnut Honey, or otherwise known as glorified Rice Krispie Treats. For me, this was the weakest of the lot. They really would’ve earned extra points if they take this homage to the limit and offered a version of the molten chocolate cake, another of Michel Bras’s inventions.
At the end, I now look forward to Thursdays just to see who Anthony Myint will honor next.
UPDATE: Just got a comment from Anthony Myint, and so I would like to correct some, ahem, misinformation. Thanks, Anthony!
- We are not a non-profit. We just run a business and then donate our profits to local hunger related charities (or at least we had been doing so for about 15 months). Currently though, we are turning our profits towards opening a full-time restaurant.
- I cook at Mission Street Food, but in some respects, I am more like a producer and food consultant than chef. The backbone of the homage series is Danny Bowien and Ian Muntzert.
~ by foodieplanet on March 28, 2010.