Wednesday, May 22, 2013

La Haine a Table

An interesting review / rant popped up on Le Fooding's website the other day, in conjunction, I guess, in some way with the Cannes Film Festival, resulting from a meeting at the LA Fooding event, the first in their new series, "Jus de Cervelle" ("Brain Juice"),  a place for "criticism, praise ... to report on the times..let's see if your mouth is big enough".

Self confessed "MacDonald's addict", French actor Mathieu Kassowitz, discussed Table, indie food blogger Bruno Verjus' new product driven place not far from the Gare de Lyon in Paris.

Kassowitz, a perhaps unlikely candidate to discuss food, calls it a subject that is of no interest to him, gourmet cuisine is "like fashion, where you give a kidney to wear something unwearable, the price to pay per gram of protein makes me lose my appetite even before I begin to eat, all that without even talking about these hipsters, elected to a closed off world that only they can understand and appreciate. (kudos for the hipster blast).

He goes on, describing his dinner, drinking a champagne (which he generously shares with the entire staff, other diners, then complains of the price (600€) , which makes him "want to vomit". One wonders why he didn't check the menu before... He says the idea behind Table is "to offer good food in the most convivial of circumstances.. a simple idea that made me want to be generous as well..but isn't Table just hype, the ambassador of cool popular food?" and goes on "to make someone pay 600€ for a bottle bought 150€ is a lack of taste, a lack of respect that needs explanation before a punch in the face".....ending with the word of advice, "If you come here, bring your own can of Coke".

While certainly not condoning Monsieur Kassowitz' review, Le Fooding, which normally shies away from the critical, seems to have found an interesting opportunity to tap into a rich vein of iconoclastic foodie rage. And doing what they do best, helping to democratize a culture that's become too niche and hipstery for many people's taste. Or have they..?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Pakta full of fusion-y goodness


Where does one go, I found myself wondering when you've created perhaps the greatest upheaval in recent world cuisine (El Bulli) when the steam runs out of the idea which has fueled and inspired thousands of chefs worldwide. When molecular gastronomy gives way to New Nordic. Niche cuisines!

"After all those years at El Bulli, I just wanted to take it easy and have fun", Albert Adria explained to me last night at his hot new table, Pakta, located in an edgy and seemingly uninteresting corner of Barcelona, across from a massive concrete fire station. The thirty something seater, with a small Japanese style counter at the entrance, wooden looms filled with colorful yarn and minimalist tables and wood seating has a vibe that shares both Nippon and Peruvian influences. The restaurant, you see, is inspired by the same homegrown fusion (termed Nikkei) that sent Nobu on his path to fame and fortune. Here it allows Adria to avoid the trappings of a traditional high level Japanese restaurant, which he thought would be too difficult for him.

Nikkei was grown from Japanese immigrants to Peru, which was  the first country to accept them a century ago. They brought their own cooking techniques and started to use local produce, the result being a natural fusion cuisine.

The team, from waitstaff to kitchen is almost entirely Peruvian and Japanese, with a few Spanish, Mexican and Argentians thrown in for good measure, and most of them have worked in the Adria empire in one form or another, either staging at El Bulli or gaining experience at the nearby 41° or Tickets.

Genial Argetinian chef Sebastien Mazzola, the imagination behind these establishments (and chef of 41° Experience, where he will return once his work here is done) developed more than 100 recipes for the new concept with Japanese head chef Kyoko Ii for a menu that will probably change monthly.

At 90€ for 25 dishes, it's a wild ride for the tastebuds and an incredibly interesting concept that seems to be going somewhere. Their next establishments, Bodega 1900 and Mexican influenced Yauarcan will expand their empire in another completely different direction and I look forward to trying each and every one of them.

Flashed sirloin steak, peppers, quail egg and potato "pillows"