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Molecular gastrotomy: where to experience it?

After watching a nifty show on the topic, hubby wanted to go a restaurant that employs some of the techniques. What's Boston's equivalent to El Bulli, or WD-50?

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  1. Clio sometimes does versions.

    But IMO, the best place to experience it is in the year 2002.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Bostonbob3

      2002 is a *little* unfair, but I agree that Clio is pretty much the only place in town that even comes close.

      NYC is your best and closest bet.

    2. soon the trend will catch on in Boston. Clio falls pretty flat.

      1. Gargoyles on the Square's Jason Santos likes to play with molecular gastronomy. I've seen technique with sodium alginate/calcium ions, foams, and gelee there. He's not "all about that," but he likes to add an element to it, particularly to desserts.

        Otherwise, yeah, Clio.

        14 Replies
        1. re: enhF94

          I would say take a trip to Chicago. Thats where all the molecular gastronomy is really happenning. More advanced than NYC, except maybe wylie dufresne. Gargoyles is not a good example. Clio is better.

          1. re: admiralackbar

            Agreed, Gargoyle's is not a good example. I once ordered a foamed foie gras dish there (I believe he called it "foie gras cappucino") and it was awful, a complete waste of one of the most sublime foods on the planet.

            1. re: BobB

              Did Gargoyles' cappuccino monstrosity ever last on the menu, or was it just sort of a trial?

              1. re: Prav

                I never saw it again, but I don't go there that often.

                1. re: BobB

                  I had it. It was far and away the most disgusting thing I have ever tried. We go there quite often, and IIRC (since I usually order whatever foie gras prep is on the menu) it was there for a whole menu cycle. Blecchhhhh!!

                2. re: Prav

                  Had it, didn't like it. Also had high hopes for the "root beer gelee" with "Dr. Pepper sauce" on a foie prep he put together, but gelees tend to really minimize flavors, so it was well-nigh-to-tasteless. But he'll get better with time.

                  1. re: Prav

                    I think that also made a cameo in the last days of Dedo, and yeah, disaster.

                    It's funny because it ought to be: foie and espresso can go really well together.

                    1. re: sailormouth

                      Don't forget about the foie brulee that came inside a hollowed out egg shell - that (again IIRC) was another part of the same trio that included the capuccino. It was awful as well. One of Jason's 'flights of foie fantasy" that I really liked included flash fried olives and gold leaf with some grain - I am forgetting what - in a schmear - trying hard to remember - can see it, but am forgetting exactly what it was - along with bluebeery (I think) sauce.... that one was good....

                      1. re: Small Plates

                        I had a foie trio at Sandrine's in Harvard Square last summer and it included a brulee - served room temperature with the bruleed crust. It was delicious but so rich that just a couple of bites was more than enough. La Voile also serves a foie brulee, iirc.

                        1. re: heathermb

                          I have had the Sandrine's bruleed foie - which is delicious!! The Gargoyle's version is not as good. I really loved that Sandrine's one, BTW! Thanks for reminding me!! :)

                          1. re: Small Plates

                            I recall a brûléed foie gras pâté at T.W. Food that I thought was pretty much a failure: an already custardy pâté, a lot of added sweetness with the caramelized sugar crust, not enough acid counterweight provided by a few thin sliced of green apple. Not one of my favorites there.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I think they have a foie brulee at La Voile too, though I haven't tried it. I do remember the folks there (maybe the owners) being surprised that other local restaurants had such a thing when my friend told them that Sandrine's had a version on their menu.

                              1. re: lissy

                                i've had sandrines version on the "assiette gourmand" that was a trio of foie gras, honestly it was inedible to me. The foie gras base had very little f.g. flavor, and its texture was very fluffy, almost grainy.

                                1. re: that_reeks_ugly

                                  That's so interesting, it sounds so different from when I had it - the texture was incredibly richh, thick and creamy. The FG flavor was not super strong, but definitely there. I guess I got lucky the night I went!

            2. Pino Maffeo was doing a lot of this at Restaurant L..not sure if he carried over any of the dishes to Boston Public..but worth checking

              1 Reply
              1. re: 9lives

                boston public is way more mainstream. Most chefs that were doing more avant garde cuisine like maffeo gave it up because there is simply not a strong enough market for it.

              2. I was at TW Food recently in sleepy Huron Village Cambridge. There was some incredibly intense foam served with several of the dishes in the tasting menu. These cats are playing at a very high level. I don't know how it stacks up in the MG world, but it is a must-visit in any case.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jajjguy

                  Aw, TW food is lovely! They play a little with foams, and a little with perfumes, but are not specialists. (They're probably the future of the cuisine, with the best techniques going mainstream and integrated into canon.)

                  Dare I say it? Yes: If you're looking for a serious MG primer, and you have the money, spend the $100 each and fly to either NYC (and visit WD-50) or DC (and visit Minibar) for the night. Wow, even typing it leaves a bad taste in my mouth...

                2. There's a fair number of foam fans in Boston kitchens still, but that hardly seems worthy of the MG title anymore. There's not a lot of novel-to-the-kitchen chemistry at work in Boston. Clio probably does the most on this score; Oringer likes to play with liquid nitrogen, for example. Santos at Gargoyles does a sous-vide short ribs dish, a 1970s-vintage technique that often gets lumped under the MG rubric. Maffeo was the last to build a menu around it at Restaurant L. He abandoned it for the far less interesting Boston Public menu because, in his words, the only people that seemed to like it were "other chefs, and food writers." I'm still in the camp that thinks MG isn't just a stupid novelty, but its appeal is certainly limited (partly by its cost), and we're not the most adventurous diners here. Unless you're a plutocrat with connections, you're unlikely to get a reservation at El Bulli. I'd look to Chicago, New York, or DC if you're curious.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Restaurant L's MG menu did not work because Restaurant L did not work. Nothing to do with the lack of interest in this cooking technique in Boston. Every week on CH, people come and ask where they can experience MG in Boston. There is a market for it, just no good chef to take it past the gimmick that it can turn into if prepared poorly. And understand that you do not need a huge market like Legal Seafoods to be successful at it. Alinea for example, still only appeals to a very very small portion of food goers. It's not like they are threatening Pizzeria Uno.

                    I agree in Boston, Clio is your best bet but it's really only barely & sometimes scratching the surface when it comes to MG.

                    1. re: joebelt

                      I can't say I agree with this assessment of interest in MG in Boston. Consider Chowhound, which regularly attracts an audience it's fair to say is more adventurous and open-minded (on the whole) than the average diner. Search this board for "molecular gastronomy", and you don't get a query every week, but a mere six posts in the last year. In the U.S., cities much larger than Boston can support only one or two of this kind of restaurant, and many have none at all. I don't think the problem is in our chefs, but in ourselves.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Speaking for myself, I think it's more of a "been there, done that" in terms of MG.

                        For instance, the first time at WD-50 is quite fascinating. The second time, you start to realize the taste of the food itself is good but not great.

                        The third time is just to take guests from out of town.

                  2. Growing though Boston's restaurant scene may be ... this city has not yet past the saturation-levels as NY and CHI have done. Some cities have a dining-as-experience culture while most have a dining-as-(hopefully)-good food culture.

                    As sophisticated as Boston's collective palate may be, the percentage of customers really searching for the MG food-beyond-recognition thing is still pretty small. I, for one, hope it remains that way....most of the 'innovations' produced by these MG-pushers have been around for years, keeping your cheetos crispy and increasing the shelf-life of your chewing gum. I would always rather 'real food'.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: baudolino

                      I agree that Boston is too small to support an Alinea-style MG restaurant.

                      I understand some of the visceral objections to MG: the not-unfounded suspicion of "food chemistry" and the justifiable revulsion when gimmickry tries to cover for lack of traditional cooking skills. But I also believe that some genuinely innovative techniques will emerge from this movement and become far more widely adopted. Many cavemen probably objected to cooking with fire at first: "Oog prefer meat raw -- raw meat more real."

                      The strange doesn't take that long to become familiar. My great-grandfather would find my kitchen full of bizarre wonders that might offend and repel him, like the factory-made XLB in my freezer, or the coffee that comes out of my pump-drive electric espresso machine. But I grew up with them, so they not only don't bother me, I'm really glad to have them. I wonder if our great-grandchildren will find the anti-MG sentiments of our generation quaint and faintly comical.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        True, but Oogs basics will always have a hold on the base satisfaction of food. While the MG movement is sure to produce a few lasting techniques, I would bet that foam and pop-rocks amuses eventually go to the same trend-graveyard as jello-molds, 'sexy scallions' and reduced balsamic syrup...

                        And again, many of these new 'strange' techniques have been used by Nabisco and the like in industrially-processed foods for years. This is just their worming their way into the 'craftmanship' of restaurant kitchens.

                        Oh, and sorry BB3, but Igh actually deserves credit for the wheel.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I agree, there is certainly a core group of folks who are interested in MG in Boston. I've been to El Bulli (via the lottery last year!), Alinea, Moto and WD-50. I've never managed to get a seat MiniBar in DC (though have been to the main restaurant Cafe Atlantico), but it sounds like they have a good model. 5 seats at the "minibar" get a MG meal -- in an otherwise very good, mid-priced restaurant. You don't need a lot of patrons to support it (although you may not be able to afford some of the more major equipment).

                      2. Such quantities of exciting offerings might not be regularly available on the menu, but Ken Oringer's recent menu for famed MG chef Ferran Adria shows he's got the chops.


                        1. First, Boston Public has been closed for months so do not try to go. Boston does not have any of the restaurants that fit your goal. Have been to Moto in Chicago and it is worth the trip.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: stradacouple

                            Boston Public has re-opened with Marc Orfaly at the helm. Rather different menu than its prior incarnation, which wasn't MG-focused either.

                          2. A few weeks ago there was an article in the Chicago Tribune. The reporter tried to make a dish from Grant Achatz cookbook Alinea and documented her odyssey. Here's the link:

                              1. I don't think Boston has an equivalent of El Bulli or WD50.

                                Another option is to hire a private chef. Chris Chung...1 of the top chefs to ever work at Uni is doing this and can be very creative.

                                Worth checking out..the overall orientation is Japanese but Chris can be very creative.


                                1. Oringer is the only one with actual El Bulli experience and Clio is, in fact, where Ferran Adria, owner of El Bulli, dined during his recent visit to Harvard.