Monday, April 9, 2012

Evolve Cuisine: Recap & News

Chef Daniel Barron and his team of culinary mad-men-- that is, mixologist Mike Yen and pastry chef Jeff Bonilla-- led diners through a nine-course, oceanic feast for the senses with the pop-up concept's latest, The Cambrian Event at Fixtures Living (3/30). 

For those of us that slept through geology class, let's review: the Cambrian was the first period in the Paleozoic era during which time all animal life was aquatic. 

Barron's main ingredients came from local seafood purveyor, Catalina Offshore Products, with additional sourcing from Santa Monica Seafood, Direct Ship Sitka Alaska, and Better Halfshell. The culinary experience was remarkable and challenged my perception of seafood, how it's prepared and the accompanying flavors and textures that I wouldn't expect to work based off menu descriptions alone. 

With each course there was a gasp and then silence, followed by foodgasmic noises-- moaning, giggles and even rounds of applause. The Evolve Cuisine Forward team certainly thrilled us by way of delicious intricacies; Yen's mid-meal cocktail course elicited screams from the ladies; and Bonilla's sweet, shrimp cake confection  was a mind-boggling, delightful finale. 

Modernist cuisine is something I've experienced only a handful of times, so I'm afraid that my words and photographs do little justice in recapping The Cambrian Event. Days prior, Barron advised that I just sit back and enjoy, not bothering with writing down descriptions and taking the perfect pictures. I controlled myself to an extent, and enjoyed myself wholeheartedly. 

Evolve's next event will be announced this week sometime, with another scheduled for Fixtures Living at the end of May. Rumor has it that Barron and his crew will be opening and temporarily occupying a new restaurant with their pop-up concept for 2-3 weeks, also sometime in May.  

The Cambrian Event recap: 

One of Yen's cocktails: a take on the Bay Breeze. What I found particularly remarkable was that its capsule had the texture of a ripe piece of fruit's skin when bitten into. Ten more, please.

Barron's first course included two seared, hand-picked sea scallops with a pistachio-toffee-like crumble. The caramelized, sweet nuts accented the scallop's natural sugars, all of which sat on top of a pistachio "fluid gel." Served with watermelon serrano chili "crisps" (that were more like flattened pieces of cotton candy) made for an incredible start. 
Second: venus clam wrapped in kelp with Sunomono gelee, fermented black bean sauce, Bac-Ha, raddishes, Wasabi agar agar and lotus root chips. The dish was salty, vinegary and plentiful texture-wise. 

Next, a real show-stopper: Sweet, refreshing and elegant, a divine, whole San Diego spot prawn swam in a chilled, oceanic broth with mango, daikon, shaved green papaya and sesame powder, garnished with a fried shrimp shell. Purified sea water was poured over liquid co2, with Barron advising that we inhale the sea breeze deeply before diving into what proved another fantastic dish.  

Spot prawn close-up. 

This dish was incredible. Crunchy, flavorful sea beans served with a smoked soy-sauce and truffle espuma and a sweet sesame dressing. Freeze dried, coffee toasted sesame seeds were the perfect topper. I could eat these all night, in bed. It was such a savory, decadent dish-- our whole table was flippin' out. It was also served with a uni-bisque in a syringe, to be sucked down first, but I'm allergic so I couldn't experience that portion of the dish. I can't imagine it getting much better, though.

This was crazy: Mike Yen's margarita, made to look like sushi.  Nectarine posed as ginger, and fish eggs were not-- they were balls of tequila! All of the drinks traditional flavors were here, just in costume. Lime and salt included. *Applause*! 

 Fresh yellowtail was sous vide then pan-seared and served with clarified peanut butter -- oh, YES!-- raisin coulis, braised celery and toasted rice. The flavors reminded our table of sate. We loved this dish especially and would like to see clarified peanut butter packaged and in grocery stores ASAP.

Barron and his team of mad-culinary-scientists plating his second to last course. 

Tender, pink grouper cheek over charred ramps and the best damn slice of cucumber I've ever had. Go figure, it was compressed. In its shell, strips of New Zeland blue abalone had a Tzatziki-like sauce, fresh mint and strips of wood-grilled, cilantro naan bread. I am not a huge fan of abalone, but this dish made me reconsider. (I was about to pocket the gorgeous shell but a server put the kibosh on that idea.) 

Curry's crazy cousin: Halibut cheek confit (in coconut oil) over red cargo (rice) topped with a ginger-kaffir-dashi sheet and coconut powder. The statement piece was of course the  unseasoned, tender white asparagus that accompanied such a dramatic (and delicious) finale. 

Dessert plating! 

Jeff Bonilla pulled off what seems to be a consistent failure on Food Network's Iron Chef series, and that's the use of seafood in a dessert. The Baja shrimp "whipped prawn brulee"  was spongy and sticky sweet with tangy buttermilk gelato serving as the prefect foil. Streusel, micro thyme and bourbon creme crumble were incredible touches. 

1 comment:

  1. These presentations and entrees are new to me, I have yet to see anything like those in person. It seems culinary is evolving again as this could be the fusion of fusion.

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