A little while back Gayot came out with a list called the “Top 10 Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants.” This immediately caught my attention. Alinea in Chicago was the impetus for me to create this blog. I adore the creativity, science, and ingenuity that goes into using molecular gastronomy techniques to produce dishes that amaze you visually, texturally, and of course with flavor. As I scanned the list, I saw all the classics. I eyed the cities in hope of seeing something new, something that would not be too far for travel. And then I see “Orange County.” For a second, I thought it was a reference to Florida. But no, it was Orange County California. At a place called AnQi, from the same An family who created Crustacean in Beverly Hills, home of the best garlic noodles in LA.
I tried to research it, but found little information. If there are blogs out there with pictures, please email me as I could not find any. In contacting the restaurant, I learned why. The molecular gastronomy experience is not something one can get by just coming into the restaurant and ordering it. They handle the dinner as a private party. It is presented in a private room with dedicated staff. I had to set it up weeks in advance and sign a contract. It requires a minimum of eight people, and runs $160 pp (+tax and tip) for 16 courses.
The young chef is Ryan Carson. He is completely self-taught and quite talented. What he presented that night was brilliant. The flavors, textures, temperatures, colors were extraordinarily well-thought out and well-balanced. Every dish was remarkable.
The only other experience in LA that even comes close to this style of dining is, of course, Bazaar. But while I have been to Bazaar 4 times and have always enjoyed it, it is just not on the same level as what they are doing at AnQi. Certainly from a high-tech standpoint Bazaar is impressive. I love the foie gras lollypops, the air-filled philly cheesteak, and their famous liquid olive. But it all feels somehow gimmicky. It is a place you take people so you can say “Isn’t this cool?” AnQi is certainly cool. But it is also something else; it is delicious.
Molecular Tasting Menu
Just some of the wines. There was also a Colgin Syrah, an 86 Volnay, and lots of great whites, bubbles, and Sake not pictured.
Champagne & Caviar
nicolas fueillete gelee, american sturgeon caviar
A great way to start the night.
sweet & sour salt
Think potato sticks but beet. But more intense beet-ness then the veggie chips you might be picturing.
yuzu lemonade air, jalapeno-white soy mignonette, pop rocks
Probably the course of the night. The pop rocks and oyster mouth sensation was so memorable. It was as if the poprocks actually made the oyster more oyster-ry.
sweet & sour tangerine sheet, beet sorbet, avocado silk
The white stuff was like bacon dippin dots – liquid nitrogen treatment. Another great study in using not just flavor and texture but also temperature in creating a unique mouth feel and taste.
Chef Ryan Carson
So young, so talented. I hope he stays around for a while.
Ahi Tuna Nicoise
kalamata „olives‟, 64*C quail eggs, butter lettuce granita
That is a duckfat fried potato on top. This dish, like the others, is complex, but complex like a mature Bordeaux or Burgundy. Come to think of it, that 86 Volnay paired quite well with this.
Kurabota Pork Belly
kimchee consommé, freeze dried banana, peanut butter powder
No, not sweet. The banana and peanut butter embraced the pork in almost a Caribbean style, and the kimchee had just enough heat and acid to cut the fattiness.
“Looks Like Tartare”
compressed watermelon, mango egg, dehydrated caper
Wicked cool presentation. Vanilla syrup accented the flavors. Anise was in the “egg.” The saltiness and crunch of the caper was a perfect foil to the dish.
Foie Gras Torchon
cherry-yuzu gel, bacon dust, iced celery, ‘instant’ ginger-pineapple brioche
Another great study of texture; silky foie gras with snow-like smoky bacon dust with the “instant” brioche flakes that were kind of reminiscent of panko meets sponge cake. Yes, he reused the bacon. But I really liked it so I am not complaining.
Jidori Chicken Confit
himalayan black truffle, butternut squash, chanterelles, hazelnut brittle
This is the kind of dish that would do well on Iron Chef – very seasonal, local ingredients combined in an extraordinary style
Misoyaki Black Cod
garden vegetables a la greque‟, suspended foie gras miso broth
While I appreciated all the elements of this dish, this one was my least favorite of the night. It was too close in flavor to the typical cod in miso I have had at various Izakayas.
You put your lime in your coconut This was not typical sorbet. The mouth feel was closer to hand-whipped cream. Fluffy and creamy but yet still “dense” with flavor more like a gelato.
burnt carrot, shitake mushroom demi-glaze, wasabi tater tots
Amazing caramelization on the carrot. The fillet was sous vide. And MUCH better than all of Michael Voltaggio’s sous vide meats I have had at the Langham, Sashi, and Breadbar.
wasabi tater tots (served with Fillet, above)
Everybody loves tater tots.
Heirloom Melon Gazpacho
compressed heirloom melons, orange soup, yuzu salted mango sherbert
The compression added a certain dimension to the melon that intensified the flavors. Like what you might get with compressed homemade tofu. Yes, he reused watermelon. But it was a completely different presentation so again, I forgive the repetition.
tangerine tapioca pearls, rose meringue, jasmine sorbet, thyme fluid gel
Fun and whimsical. Like being inside a children’s book.
De-Constructed Carrot Cake
saffron crème anglaise, carrot jellies, cream cheese ice cream
Every molecular chef I have encountered seems to loves dessert best because with all the sugars, fruit enzymes, etc. the opportunities for scientific creativity appear to be boundless. This dish certainly exemplifies that. Ryan did not actually make this dish or the next, he had a special pastry chef make them. I will add his name to this post once I get it.
hazelnut praline, star anise-orange emulsion, popcorn ice cream
This is the only dish that I can say reminded me of something I had at Alinea. I was happy to experience it again.
In closing, to be able to have this kind of foodie experience in Los Angeles was mind-blowing. I strongly recommend you get a group together and try it, as who knows how long it will last.South Coast Plaza
Costa Mesa, CA 92626