WAIT!?!?!? A five chef collaborative, progressive dinner you say?? Here in LA? And it happens more than once? Well there has been a few incarnations of the famous 5X5 dinner for charity. Last Sunday’s was the last of the year, and at Michael Voltaggio’s ink http://mvink.com/. The group who got together for the 2012 edition were, Voltaggio along with Josiah Citrin of Melisse http://melisse.com/, Rory Herrmann of Bouchon http://bouchonbistro.com/ , Michael Cimarusti of Providence http://www.providencela.com/, Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria http://www.angeliniosteria.com/along with special out of town guests, Bryan Voltaggio of Volt http://www.voltrestaurant.com/and Alex Talbot from Ideas in Food http://blog.ideasinfood.com/
If you know me, or have read anything else I’ve done in regards to eating, you would know I very much ink. It is one of my favorite in the city. A city that is often disparaged when it comes to it’s dining scene. But here is one of the shining stars in the restaurant world. From service to the actual eating, everything is top notch. Tip top notch. One thing I hold in high regard when dining, is service. Are there enough people on the floor, are they paying attention, is everything running smooth, are you missing anything, are they pleasant? Amongst other notable needs of any person in the service industry. From the buser to the host, how does it all run? At ink, it is a well oiled machine. Every. Single. Time. I respect, and admire that.
And for this special night they brought in some talented and fun hired guns. Josh Goldman, who was Voltaggio’s old Sommelier, GM, and general confidant. A man well versed on the in’s and out’s of fine dining and drinking. I mean, he did work at one time for Joe Pytka. He has since moved on to other ventures, which don’t involve as much time on a floor for a night’s service. He has maintained his charm, and general great attitude. Joining him in helping run the floor service was Donato Poto, the GM and owner of Providence, where Michael Cimarusti is chef http://www.providencela.com/ one of the few Two Michelin starred restaurants in Los Angeles. And, in my opinion, the classiest, most innovative seafood restaurant in Los Angeles.
So all the pieces were in place for a dining experience for the ages. Leading off was the host himself, M. Voltaggio and his ‘snacks’. And not your average, ordinary ‘starter’ snacks. I mean what would you expect from Mr. Voltaggio?? Chicken fingers?? Get outta here. This dish started off the evening in an outstanding way.
It was a slate serving platter with homemade sour cream, fried beef tendons, and a bag of cool ranch “Doritos’s”. A well thought out and delivered snack. The beef tendons were so light and crispy. I didn’t know you could ever get tendon to melt in your mouth. Accompaning this was a tiny bouquet and BBQ mushrooms. A small portable salad wrapped in rice paper was a handheld salad. Fresh, crisp, clean flavors. Underneath were some small radishes that had a BBQ mushroom dusting. It was like a light rocky dusting of mushrooms with a dollop of pho. Packed, literally packed with flavors. The description doesn’t do it justice. Definitely something that needed to be tasted to get the whole gravity of this dish. Very, very nice, a great way to start this night.
Next up was Josiah Citrin’s Avocado Gazpacho. It was a bowl with amazing hokkaido scallop, king crab, oyster, and a mariscos cocktail granite. On top of this was poured the gazpacho over-top. Man, oh man. Talk about a dish filled and packed with flavors! The scallop and crab were just a delight. The surprise was the mariscos cocktail, an icy delight that slowly melted and melded into the rest of the dish. This was the dish that we wanted to be uncouth and lick the plate. The gazpacho was so rich and creamy. The dish was served with a nice Italian white, Fiano di Avellino, 2009 Campania, Italy. Matched so well. The acids in the wine really worked well with the seafood. A real delight.
Next, we had Rory Hermann’s Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm with heirloom beets, young fennel, candied macadamia nut and beet vinaigrette. A very, very, interesting dish. Just how every single component was thought out and put together was really great. This wasn’t just whipped together. Each individual part could stand on it’s on. The center hearts of palm was a rich creamy terrine topped with some of the nuts and beets. A very inventive dish. It was paired with a Grenache from Martian Ranch, Santa Barbara, CA 2011. The wine was young, but the fruit forward flavors and subtle acid’s made it work together.
And then, was my favorite dish of the night. Michael Cimarusti who knows how to handle some fish. It was Wild Monkfish, with blood sausage, Weiser farms piquillo peppers and pickled celery. Wow. Just wow. The monkfish cooked exquisitely. Perfectly. There was just a nice light crust on the top of it, it added another dimension to the fish. The blood sausage was small pieces that got lost on the side. But the pepper sauce was heavenly. Sweet, and spicy with a real depth of rich flavors. Magnificent. And a small side salad of pickled celery. Very rich and flavorful. Paired with a nice, earthy Nerello Mascalese, I Custodi, from Etna, Sicily 2007. For those people who don’t think reds pair with fish. This was an overall winner. I could have this dish every night and not get bored.
As if, the rest wasn’t enough, now Gino Angelini made Maltagliati di Polenta with lobster amartriciana sauce. A simple pasta dish. Not that simple though, because the pasta was made with polenta. I love me an Al Dente pasta, and this was thick yet had a soft delicaness of it. The tomato sauce with the lobster was amazing. It seemed like with such a rich tomato sauce it would have more bite, and overtake the lobster. But the sauce was very light, and not too acidic. I would love to try this tomato/lobster with a smaller lighter pasta. This dish still worked for me though. Especially with a delightful French Chardonnay. 2010 Domaine Guillot-Broux, Macon, France. This isn’t your Grandma’s oaky Napa Chardonnay. No, no, no. Light, crisp, with just the right acid to offset the tomato, but worked well with the lobster.
Well first off, sorry this picture was a bit dark. It was a pure delight, and wish everyone could of seen and tasted it. But I’m not a big flash photography person in restaurants. So this is it. And it was a dish so packed with flavor, that it was nearly indescribable. Lambchetta with smoked almond, cocoa, and raisins. With a delightful, thick almond butter paste. Wow. Mr. Bryan Voltaggio was given the anchor role, and performed it brilliantly. I still thought the Monkfish was best, with this a close second. But some have told me this was a winner. That is neither here nor there. Because they were all truly awesome. The Lambchetta used every part of the lamb, except the head. It was very dense and packed with flavorful parts, yet surprisingly delicate. The cocoa and the butter just kicked this dish up to another level. Another dish I could eat over and over. A nice red blend was in order, to bring order to this dish. A Meritage Blend – Trilogy, Flora Springs Estate, Rutherford, CA 2009. Loved it. Loved it all.
The grand finale was brought to us by Ideas In Food. Blueberry Pancakes. But in the manor of Ideas. Deconstructed. A nice finish on the night. I could of used a bit sweeter. But I did not send any back. The dish was the microwaved bread that is very airy, with a scope of vanilla ice cream which was covered in caramel. Under all this was what I’m calling a graham cracker rock dusting, mixed with warm blueberries and some boba. Interesting mix of things, again, I ate it all. Very inventive and tasty. Poured with this was the most epic, most amazing, most fantastic desert wine, in my humble opinion. A Pedro Ximenez Oloroso. Ahhhhhhhhh Yaaaaaaaaaaa. If you’ve never had Oloroso, yet alone a Ximenez. Go to your local wine shop tomorrow and get one. You will like it.
There was even an appearence by Neal Fraser, the great Los Angeles chef who I got to see up close cooking at the Mammoth Food and Wine Experience this past July. Another talented chef. You know these other guys are doing something great if a chef of his caliber came out. We got to chat for a few, and I, for one am egerly awaiting his new place downtown. It’s much closer than BLD, and Grace. Ya, Grace is one of those places you actually miss since it’s been gone.
Well that was it. The last 5X5 dinner of the year. Look out for them next year. You will not be disappointed. And check out those amazing chefs restaurants if you want to see what flavor explosions they are working on next.
One of the rare occasions where all plates went back to the kitchen totally wiped clean.