"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Recipe - December 21, 2010

Recipe was suspicious. It hid behind a cloak of decency and respectability, but I knew better: The yuppy Thai one door down was owned by the same owner. A New American and a Thai places, sandwiching a card shop in the middle, seemed as innocent as a drug cartel and a factory, connected underground by a cross-border tunnel.

Recipe seemed suspicious because it smelled of fusion. If I begin another rant on the reasons why “fusion” cuisine has consistently failed, I will only be repeating myself. On the other hand, if I start dissecting what “fusion” is, then I may as well write a thesis on it and serve it up for dissertation. Having said that, I cannot help but wonder why fusion does not work: In theory, it should. Ceteris paribus, the more diverse the culture is, the better food it has. Take the Vietnamese sandwich that seems to be the newest craze in New York City these days: It is a mix of French and Vietnamese – baguette & pate v. picked vegetables, cilantro, and the delicious pork bits. Or, let’s take tempura: The concept was borrowed from the Portuguese to fry things in batter. Last example, ramen; Do you really think that is Japanese? Ramen started out its life in China; later a branch morphed into the Japanese ramen as we know it today. Therefore, fusion can be good. Many ex-fusions have managed to pull themselves out of such uncertain origin and establish themselves into respectability, or even, acquire certain charisma to attract many devotees and converts. Perhaps then, it may simply be a matter of time to filter out the inedible, the misguided and the undesirable. At the end of the day, it is survival for the fittest, even for food.

Rock Shrimp Toast

It might have been the word, “rock,” that put a smoke before my eyes: Why else would I have picked this dish? I was suffused with endorphin-infused bonhomie after a very self-righteous workout that put me into a rather brainlessly trusting mood: I followed the waiter’s recommendation from appetizer to entrée.
When the two rectangles of fried bread appeared, I almost wanted to cry out in dismay: I was trapped in a fusion restaurant and I was being served a delivery-Chinese favorite. Measuring a tiny corner, I cut into one toast, while my initial rage swinging into a mild depression. The toast was acceptable, but it was not desirable. The bed of green leaves tried to alleviate the permeating greasiness. We can all try and do our best, but we are forever cursed by our genes, aren’t we? Some can eat and eat and their metabolism still seems to burn up faster than what are fueled into their bodies; some can take Calculus Three and embark on a life of deciphering the beautiful truths of higher mathematics (It did not come across as a surprise that I was not blessed with either gene, did it? I must work on my envy control.). In short, this shrimp toast was born a shrimp toast and was going to die as a shrimp toast; and a shrimp toast is destined to be a greasy finger food. Gentrified it might have been, sitting prettily cross-legged on a dais of greens, but whom was it trying to fool?

White Asparagus Risotto

While the white asparagus richly perfumed the risotto, the sliced asparagus added a nice crunchiness in contrast to the cooked rice. The risotto was somehow creamy for reasons other than use of dairy, the result of which was a watery risotto. The stingy use of shredded parmiggiano further emphasized the want. Lastly, the cherry tomatoes placed haphazardly on the plate seemed out of place esthetically both on the plate and also in the mouth.

Lamb ragu

After a furious debate, I had initially placed my bet on the vegetable lasagna; however, two seconds later I ungracefully called back the waiter to change my order to lamb ragu – his fail-safe pick: The combination of homemade pappardelle seemed to have belatedly cast the deciding vote. What he should have told me was that the ragu was in fact a lamb noodle soup, as in a chicken noodle soup (the red-and-white label kind). The pasta dish arrived in a large cocotte in a questionably light broth. There were a few pieces of tough lamb cubes of the stringy kind generally near tendons, which needed much more loving time in the stewing pot than the mere few hours until lunch time. The pasta appeared to have been a collaboration between a five-year old, who had tried to knead the dough with too little arms, and a three-year old, who cut the dough with a plastic knife, in a kindergarten art class. The unshapely, limp strands were soggy and offered a poor resistance against the chewy lamb.

Pan-seared seabass with greens and vinaigrette

The crispy fish was adequately seared with attractive browned edges – nice but average (although many chefs seemed to have skipped this basic part of their culinary training). The green vegetables dotting the plate were quickly cooked to retain their bright freshness. The vinaigrette, however, was a real and a wonderful surprise: Light, tangy and creamy, it more than accentuated the fish and vegetables; the vinaigrette sauce was the star of the dish.

Chestnut Panna Cotta

Rich, velvety and decadent, the result of heavy cream flavored with sweet chestnut paste, was nothing short of self-indulgence. Fresh chestnuts would have been more advisable; however, considering the price-to-performance ratio of the lunch menu, I will be willing to live with chestnut paste, and not unhappily, either.

Address: 452 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10024
Phone:  (212) 501-7755

No comments:

Post a Comment