Molecular gastronomy…fusion…modern styled food…Avante Guard…new Asian. Terms like these are typically what get people excited about a new restaurant, especially in LA where this kind of cuisine is still, well, Nouveau versus other cities like NYC and Chicago. So it was with great anticipation that I set off to hit two strangely similar yet quite disparate experiences on the same evening. I had made reservations for Michael Voltaggio’s single night at Breadbar over a month ago. Chef Voltaggio is an up and coming contestant on the newest season of Top Chef. Plus, he recently had a stint at Bazaar before landing at the Langham, so I went expecting something very special with a molecular gastronomy twist. However, it was only a week ago that the menu for the grand opening of Bistro LQ became available. http://www.bistrolq.com/Menu WOW. What innovative, unique cuisine – also with molecular gastronomy flair. So we decided to experience small plates at both restaurants on the same evening for an interesting study of these techniques.
We first went to Bistro LQ – A new endeavor by Laurent Quenioux, also of Bistro K fame. We just ordered a few items from the “Overtures” section of the menu – starters. The decor is surprisingly minimalist – perhaps the chef does not want it to interfere with the sensory perception of his dishes. We allowed the waiter to steer us for most of the five item selection. We asked for what would best show off the chef’s talents.
Sorry about the images here – camera difficulties. You will get the idea.
Uni – Sea urchin tapioca pudding with yuzu kocho, kumamoto Oysters in yuzu Martini gelee
This was one of my favorites. Flavors were great. He used a nice dashi with the uni. However, the tapioca (aka boba) was a bit too thick and chewy and I think overwhelmed the delicate texture of the uni. The oyster in gelee was nice but it did not really connect to the uni.
Veal Cheeks and Pea Composition – Pea Guacamole, pea gazpacho, peas shoots salad, fresh corn sorbet
A decomposed dish as you can see from the picture. We could not eat either the guacamole or gazpacho as the taste and texture was mealy and the flavors were very Vons hummus. The salad was nice. We could have both sworn the corn sorbet was uni, but the waiter said (well implied, anyway) we were nuts. The veal cheek itself was braised nicely but overall unremarkable.
Oat Meal Infused in fresh fennel lobster broth, cinnamon roasted Maine lobster
No, No, No. Cinnamon, lobster, and oatmeal are just not meant to share a bed.
Mr. Fierson Eggs -Two poached hen’s eggs, Spanish chorizo and date infusion
The eggs were perfectly poached, the chorizo was a nice accent. The dates were a subtle accent to the dish. The entire effect was again, unremarkable.
Smoked Herring –Warm potatoes, a light Jerez vinaigrette and sautéed quail egg
The waiter really had to talk us into this one by promising it would not be too fishy. It was too fishy. And too smoky. And the quail eggs were a bit overcooked.
The last dish we had, not pictured, was actually the shining star. We passed on dessert and they brought us over a beautiful plate of 10-15 small petit fours and chocolates that were exquisite. My favorite was a homemade marshmallow. This plate could have easily sold for $15 or more. I wish I could order just that.
As I am re-reading what I wrote, I realize it doesn’t sound so good. But I suspect it is not the kind of place to order just starters. They push the 6 or 9 course degustation menus. I think that would be the way to go. THe menu is very, very interesting and this chef is really fabulous, based on Bistro K history. I think they just need time to feel out the menu and refine some of the dishes. It is worth revisiting in a few months.
Moving on to Bread bar for the Michael Voltaggio celebration. It is worth noting that this is the Breadbar location in the Century City mall. It is not really a restaurant. They were ill-equipped for this event and to say service was a disaster would be an extreme understatement. But I did not care too much, as I was there for the food. One of the most amazing surprises of the evening was when it became quickly apparent that almost every food blogger in LA showed for this event. Kevin of kevineats.com took pictures of all the bloggers who would allow it and posted them as part of his review. His review is also far more detailed than mine and you should check it out as it is very well-written. http://www.kevineats.com/2009/07/hatchi-at-breadbar-los-angeles-ca.htm
As part of the Hatchi Menu, you could choose as few or as many courses of the 8 available for $8 a piece. Pairings per course were also available.
Sadly, the servers threw all the courses on our table within about 10 minutes of each other – we had all six served in two batches of three items. Then it took us about 45 minutes to get the 2 dessert items. No one ever stopped by to explain anything. Hot items were cold, cold items were melty. Other bloggers were complaining of the exact opposite experience – 20 minutes + between courses. At the very end when we got our check, we all could not help but laugh when the harried waitress looked at us, paused, and said, “Sorry for the….” and wandered off without even finishing the sentence.
Still, beneath the entropy was really great talent. It was such a contrast to the items we had just had at Bistro LQ. The flavors and textures were clean and far better integrated. And still quite creative and inspired. I am anxious to visit Chef Voltaggio at the Langham-his new home. Here is what we had (better food, better pics All the dishes were great, but sadly, because of no interaction with the chef or the servers I spent most of the time wondering what I was eating. It is for that reason I do not detail the dishes below outside of naming them. Kevin seems to ha
ve had much better luck then me getting all the details, as well as an autographed menu. Of course it took him hours to eat. It took us about 20 minutes. Not sure if I will attend another Hatchi dinner at breadbar because of the chaos – I shall await for the reviews of tonight’s and see.
“An Experience of Texture and Flavor” Wine pairings by David Haskell
Japanese Tomato Tartare
Green Almonds, Parmesan “Overeasy”,
Salmon Belly, Philadelphia Cheese,
Smoked Salmon Roe
3. Hamachi Crudo
Smoked Egg Yolk, Sea Sponge,
Watermelon, Wild Rice
Crispy Chicken Thigh
Cuttlefish, Green Garlic,
Sweet and Sour Mushrooms
Poached Egg, Pea Consomme,
Short Rib, Saul’s Pastrami, Tamarind,
Hazelnut Praline, Salty Caramel,
Nitro Coffee Mousse
Jasmine “Rice Cream”, Strawberry, Yuzu
The Dining Room at the Langham [San Gabriel Valley]
1401 S. Oak Knoll Avenue, Pasadena
8009 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770
One thought on “Molecular Gastronomy Taste-off: Voltaggio @ Breadbar VS Bistro LQ”
So we had identical meals, yet yours took under an hour, while mine took over three. Ahh the hilarity/absurdity of it all… Bistro LQ is on my list to check out however.