Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conversations with the Chef

Whenever possible, my favorite way to eat in a restaurant is "omakase," i.e., chef's choice. Of course, this generally only works in restaurants I have frequented previously, although it also works sometimes in places with open kitchens where the chef notices that I am eating everything not nailed down, or at least not faster than my fork, chopsticks, or fingers.

The best part of omakase dining is the opportunity to try something new or unusual, which might include something that the chef is excited about having recently created or something he enjoys eating himself (I am referring to the chefs I know, who happen to be male, so I am not intending to be sexist with this pronoun usage). Sometimes the chef is testing something out on me, which is flattering as well as fun. Sometimes the chef is showing off to remind me that his kitchen prowess is even greater than hitherto expected. Sometimes the chef is treating me to a taste of something extraordinary because he knows I am celebrating a special occasion (which can frankly be just eating at his restaurant).

The stressful part is when the chef comes by to say hello or checks in to see how I like a particular dish. I have just experienced an incredible expression of the chef's artistry. What words can I use to convey on the spot, at that moment in time, not only mesmerized by the flavors I had just experienced but also with whatever minimal literary skills I possess further impaired by the accompanying wine or sake, exactly how mindblowing the poached geoduck with ponzu and grated daikon was, how the flavor of the freshly shucked baby peas melted in my mouth with the white chocolate and mint, or how the pink, tender duck breast slices with their outlines of savory, melty, charred fat blended perfectly with the chewy, earthy and creamy farro risotto.

As highly descriptive words like "wonderful" or "delicious" escape from my mouth, I want to yell, do you have any idea how amazing this food is?

Thankfully for most of these chefs the answer is of course I do, you silly drunk person.

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