Monday, January 03, 2011

Molecular Gastronomy Part Two

A recent meal at Aphrodite Restaurant.

To save writing "This tasted super!" six million times, I'll say upfront that every bite was outstanding. This was one of the best meals of my life. It was performance art. It lasted over four hours, and despite the long list of dishes, it wasn't too much food - the courses were small, some only one bite - and it wasn't very rich. Also, despite what you might think when reading the details, nothing was gratuitous or gimmicky; everything made sense, was delicious, and was edifying.

Chef: David Faure
Address: 10 bd Dubouchage, Nice, France

The Revolution menu at 98 euros each:

Tangerine-vodka cocktail with dry ice (-78 degrees). Served in a round fish bowl steaming like a science fair exhibit, with a hollowed vanilla bean as a straw.

The virtual oyster ("A la recherche de l'huitre perdue"). On a bed of kelp, an oyster shell with what looked to be a raw oyster, but turned out to be eggplant and kiwi with a pearl made out of something in gel form. Also on the plate was a small glass of sea urchin mousse, and a tiny piece of buttered bread - we were instructed what order to eat it all in.

Nitro-Dragon of Vodka and green apple, curry wrong-smoked caviar, and Rai Faure cream. The waiter prepared them at the table, and made one for himself first to demonstrate. He dipped the Vodka/green apple espuma in liquid nitrogen and then put the result on top of the rest of the ingredients in a ceramic spoon. You slide the contents of the spoon into your mouth, where they create a sort of flavor-texture explosion. Then you breathe out through your nostrils, causing two huge jets of steam to shoot out your nose (like a dragon). Much giggling ensues.

The bread without bread. Long narrow strips of breadless bread are presented in a glass vase. One is a long strip of cooked parmesan cheese. Another is a strip that is akin to a big potato chip. I couldn't identify all of them.

Illusion of meat macaroni with duck liver. The meat-truffle macaroni was an extruded gel. It was served with peas, pea mousse, and some perfectly prepared, rare liver.

Warm spherification of liquid Pissaladiere, olive oil, oregano.
Pissaladiere is a Nicoise specialty of pastry with caramelized onions on top. This rendition was a deconstruction of the traditional dish in liquid/gel form.

Texture and temperature. Ravioli of "sot l'y laisse" with roasted chicken juice (+70 degrees) and morel ice cream (-20 degrees). Morel ice cream is an AMAZING accompaniment.

Plume Iberique. Spanish pork, from the back of the neck, smoked with el Gringo, grilled green asparagus, peanut juice. This was served in an upside down glass dome full of smoke. When served, the waiter lifted away the glass dome and the smoke swirled around the diner's head. The meat was flash cooked in something very hot that caramelized the outside more than I've ever tasted.

Brie cheese ice cream, gingerbread, violet jam.

Sorbet. Made in front of us with liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees). The waiter took what looked like juice, combined it with the nitrogen, and whipped it with a whisk. It was amazingly creamy and lucious. The only drawback: the cold and acidity caused my tongue to hurt for a few minutes.

Virtual fried egg. Prepared at the table in a frying pan dipped into freezing liquid nitrogen, the waiter broke an egg into the pan (the egg was faked up) and it looked just like a fried egg - but it was a mango "yolk" with an unsweetened coconut "white". Cool trick and tasty.

Deconstructed dessert: wrong caviar or Irish coffee? The waiter ran up to the table an apologised profusely that he'd forgot to bring one of our first courses. He put down what appeared to be caviar, sour cream and blinis. But the caviar turned out to be irish coffee turned into tiny gel balls, and the whipped cream was unsweetened with an intense coffee flavor. (The blinis were regular blinis.)

Sweet morphing: The final dessert of the evening was a tray with a series of little things on it. One diner was chosen to serve, and instructions were given about the order and way to eat each:
  • Green lemon sorbet sparkling lollipop - this crackled and popped in the mouth.
  • Fruit jelly without fruit.
  • Cornetto of strawberries and white balsamic vinegar.
  • Wasabi chocolate with a tube of raspberry chok to spread on it.
  • Solid "sex on the beach" - a tiny version of the cocktail, deconstructed.

Helium balloons to suck on and talk funny.

Here's Molecular gastronomy part 1.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Square Head

On a recent trip to the south of France, I saw a lot of pragmatic, creative, effective transit infrastructure:
  • Elevators and escalators all through Monte Carlo to move residents up and down the steep streets.
  • Tunnels tucked away in congested areas to divert traffic underground.
  • Underground parking tucked away all over the place. Seven levels of parking under the old town of Monte Carlo.
  • A shopping zone in Nice with the street permanently blocked to cars (with an LRT running where the road was) but with lots of parking behind the stores.
  • Many, many trains.
  • Ferries.
  • In Nice, rental bikes. (As I noticed in Washington DC a couple of months ago, these don't seem to be used at all. I know they're popular in Holland; I don't know why they seem to be a dud in some other places.)
  • Buses running within and between towns that are so clearly marked that newcomers to the area can use them without trouble.
  • Convenient parking everywhere: street parking and parking lots.
  • Despite issues such as roads built by the Romans, narrow Medieval streets, huge amount of tourists, and a high cliff running through the densest areas, lots of cars moving well.

And this is off-topic, but here's an office building in Nice. God, I love France!