Paradigm - The Test Kitchen Chowdown
On Friday 10/24 myself and several fellow ‘hounds had a Chowdown at Paradigm – The Test Kitchen, the “restaurant within a restaurant” in the Trump Hotel in Sunny Isles. It was a great experience to meet in person several of the folks who have “gotten to know each other” virtually here, and I thought Chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano and the rest of their crew put together a great meal for us.
I described my experience at the inaugural Paradigm dinner here ->
To paraphrase, the basic idea is to present a 10 course tasting menu to a communal table of 10 (though they were good enough to squeeze in an extra seat for Mrs. F, a late-hour confirmation) using some more contemporary techniques and concepts to turn out great food.
Chef Chad gives a rundown of the dishes from our dinner on his blog here, with lots of pix ->
In my usual brief fashion, here is one ‘hound’s take on the meal. I’m very eager to hear from the rest of the group as to their thoughts and impressions.
lox – one of Paradigm’s ongoing themes in each menu has been “breakfast for dinner,” here is this menu’s version. A smoked salmon gel film is used as a ravioli wrapper to encase a chive cream cheese gel, topped w/ a sprig of fresh dill and a caper salt (capers dried and pulsed in spice grinder w/ salt). Interesting to have the wrapper carry the flavor of the salmon, and the flavors (very traditional ones, just presented in a new format) worked. The caper salt could have used more caper flavor to it. I would have followed the theme by adding some “everything bagel” sprinkles (sesame / poppy / dried onion / salt crystals / caraway seed etc.) to add a little more flavor and crunch.
foie ‘suzette’ – a twist on a classic dish, another ongoing theme. A foie gras “crepe” is made by firming a foie mousse w/ methylcellulose (?), spreading thin and cutting rounds, the process having the added benefit (some of us would say anyway) of holding in all the foie’s rich fat even as you warm it (otherwise a bunch leaks out as you sear or otherwise heat foie), wrapped around lightly warmed and dried satsumas, w/ a blood orange gel and a flambé of Venezuelan orange rum; topped w/ a transparent black pepper sugar tuile (glucose? isomalt?). Again, a neat concept to have the protein component serve as the wrapper. When tasted on its own, the crepe distinctly carried the foie flavor (though not the texture, which is one of the greatest joys of foie), but with the other elements it tended to get lost. The black pepper tuile was very cool, but overwhelmingly peppery in the context of the dish. I thought the flavor combinations here were excellent, pairing the foie with the varieties of orange, but the balance was somewhat out of whack and would have liked the foie more forward in the flavor hierarchy (and I missed its texture).
banana pho – a knockout dish. The presentation starts with a little squeeze bottle holding some liquid set before each diner, labeled “noodles.” Then a bowl holding a dark green gel disk, together with a strip of beef tendon, on top of which are a few bean sprouts and fresh cilantro. Tableside, the servers pour into the bowl a clear broth simultaneously redolent of Vietnamese pho aromas (star anise, ginger, fish sauce) and … banana? Yup. And it works. Beautifully. As the broth warms the dish, the green disk (a gel of Vietnamese basil) melts into the broth, adding its flavor and aroma. The broth is clarified using gelatin, somehow rendering a clear consommé out of a soup made with bananas. Oh, and the little squeeze bottle? You squirt it into the broth, and voila, it makes nuoc mam –flavored noodles. A tribute / take-off on a technique that Wylie Dufresne has done at wd~50 in NY, which works perfectly in the context of this dish. I liked everything about this dish. The flavors were outstanding, the presentation was both fun and functional. Loved it. Only thing that could have made it better would be a couple more pieces of beef tendon, maybe some tripe …
hamachi cucumber tartare – another winner. A dice of hamachi and cucumber perked up with a little sriracha (?) is topped with a thin translucent sheet of ponzu gel, accompanied by soy caviar done using the “cold oil” technique w/ sesame oil, a little toasted peanut oil, some toasted shiso seeds that give a little pungent crunch, micro shiso and micro wasabi. Mostly traditional sushi flavors, with some effective twists on the presentation. I’ve now seen them do a couple different variations on the concepts in this dish and they’ve all been great, though this was my favorite so far.
“refresh” – Pastry Chef Fabian makes an early appearance - a demitasse-sized kabosu crème brulee (kabosu being a citrus fruit similar to yuzu), topped w/ a dab of tomato marmalade and a spoon of lemon sorbet w/ a sprig of micro basil. Absolutely delicious. Another knockout dish. The concept is similar to the old-school tradition of serving a light sorbet as a “palate-cleanser” in the middle of a meal, and one that is followed as well by contemporary places such as Alinea, where around the middle of a lengthy multi-course tasting menu, the flavor notes will shift a bit into the sweeter realm of things before turning back to the savory. You see a lot of bending barriers between sweet and savory in much "experimental" cooking and this is a nice example.
sweet bread nuggets – a “Fall” dish (if it’s occasionally below 80 degrees, it’s fall in Miami), a nub of sweetbread coated in crushed pepitas and toasted oats, over a shmear of a simultaneously tart and rich tamarillo “espagnole” (I always thought tamarillo was South American in origin, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, it originates from New Zealand) made from tamarillo puree and a little glace, a pickled ginger flower (had no idea these were edible), and a delicious, potent espuma of chanterelle mushroom squirted tableside. I liked each of the elements of this dish and liked them together, quite a bit.
cod a la mode – black cod done sous vide (or, as I recently saw it misspelled, “suveed” – I like that, not all Frenchified) at 50C, topped with a wafer of crispy fish skin, and paired with a spoon of chorizo ice cream (yes – chorizo ice cream). The chorizo ice cream is a Latin American spin on a “contemporary classic,” Heston Blumenthal’s (from the Fat Duck restaurant in England) bacon and egg ice cream. Somehow, it absolutely works, both on its own and together with the fish. The black cod was the best sous vide fish I’ve had, retaining all the moisture of the fish and not losing any of the unctuous texture. The difficulty I’ve had with some other sous vide fish I’ve tried is that the texture gets compacted and all tight, and can be somehow reminiscent of canned cat food. Don’t know if it’s because of the fish or the temperature or the time, but this one maintained all its glory. I think this dish was another of the big hits of the night.
duck, duck, goose – duck #1 – breast, brined and cooked sous vide (see, this is why I like “suveed” – instead of “cooked sous vide”, I could just say “suveed” – it’s a verb!) and remaining a nice rosy pink throughout. I thought the texture was great, though Mrs. F thought a traditional pan-searing method, when done right, is more effective in rendering out the subcutaneous fat, leaving just meat and crisp (I would have to agree); duck #2 – rillettes, pureed with some extra butter (because, according to Chef K, duck rillettes don’t have enough fat on their own!), and then plated as a shmear on the plate. I liked the rillette flavor but think this may have served better as a topping for a canapé; goose – gooseberry, 3 versions, actually, a block of custard, a couple meringue crackers, and a couple dried gooseberry raisins (too dry – as Chad notes on his blog, these could and should have been macerated in something to soften and plump them).
goat cheese – a goat cheese “cream” (almost like a flan in texture) paired with a pumpkin seed and olive oil cake (I thought this was delicious), a yogurt espuma over the top and a drizzle of a balsamic caramel reduction. Nice textures, but too one-dimensional in flavor for me (“creamy” without much else). I thought this could really use some fruit element or something else to contrast.
horchata – a ribbon of a horchata gel (I thought this could have used bolder flavors), a nice square of chocolate sacher (a spongy cake), a quenelle of pomelo roso gelato (I got the sense not everyone liked this, though I did), a little drizzle of a transparent vanilla gel around it (neat) and a delicious “milk candy wrapper” on top.
A little lollipop with a green tea shell and a Chambord filling (did I get these right?) was given as a final sendoff.
I thought each of the dishes succeeded, but the real standouts to me were the banana pho, the hamachi tartare, the kabosu brulee and the black cod “a la mode.”
The restaurant offered a nice series of wine pairings to go along, which we supplemented with a few brought from home. I unfortunately did not catch the labels on everything that was poured (including a white burgundy L2M brought and a nice cabernet someone else provided), the ones I brought were ->
2004 Radio Coteau Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – one of my favorite producers and one of my favorite wines, from a vineyard in Anderson Valley (in Mendocino County about an hour north of the northen tip of the Sonoma Valley).
2004 Ponzi Vino Gelato – a blend of Riesling and Muscat, the grapes are frozen before fermentation to artificially induce an icewine style (I thought this was really singing).
2004 Bonny Doon Recioto of Barbera – barbera grapes from B.D.’s Ca’ del Solo vineyard are left out in the vineyard to dry and raisin after picking, concentrating the flavors and sugars before fermenting (still not sure how I feel about this one). More info here ->
My thanks again to Chefs Kurtis and Chad, the rest of the kitchen and FOH staff at Neomi’s, and to all the chowhounds who came out. I’d love to hear what the rest of the group thought.
If anyone is interested in future chowdowns, please join the Miami Chowdown Google Group, and we’ll figure out the next one.
Paradigm - The Test Kitchen
18001 Collins Ave, North Miami Beach, FL 33160
This was a great kickoff to something that'll hopefully turn into a recurring thing. Thanks to Frod for putting it together. Here's my take on the night's festivities (and the food too):
lox - great, light amuse but the cream cheese component was the dominant taste, so much so that the salmon and capers (as ravioli and powdered in this dish) that normally dominate a "fully loaded" bagel were left a distant second. A little more caper salt or possibly a thicker salmon "pasta" may have helped.
foie suzette - definitely more suzette than foie. I enjoyed all of the components sans the foie. I agree the texture of foie gras is one of its best attributes (if not the best attribute) but both the texture and strong flavor of foie were lost.
banana pho - I hate bananas. When I saw the banana on the menu I cringed. When I saw it was pho and figured it'd be a sweet, savory, salty, etc. dish I looked forward to it. After two tepid dishes this one upped my spirits. It was fun and delicious. Some more beef tendon or even a suveeded (I'm trying to spread the word Frod) brisket would have been good.
hamachi tartar - it's been covered well in other posts and I enjoyed it as well.
refresh - the Argentines creations were my favorite part of this meal and this particular dish my favorite of the night. I think it may have been a little too sweet as an "intermezzo" but delicious nonetheless. Was hoping it'd make an appearance at the end of the meal!
sweetbread nuggets - probably the most disappointing dish since I'm a sweetbread fanatic. The pepita/oat crust wasn't as crunchy as I'd hoped but I enjoyed the other components of the dish.
cod a la mode - one of my favorites of the night. Suveeded cod, crunchy cod skin were winners. Adding a chorizo component to make the dish redolent of a fish and chorizo stew (which I usually make with monkfish) was good. Making an ice cream out of the chorizo was absurdly good.
duck duck goose - funny, but what I remember from the dish was the goose part as the gooseberry "flan" or custard. The rillete for me was overly salted and the duck breast sliced too thick. It would've been nice to have thin slices of duck (maybe smoked) to melt on your tongue. Just a thought.
goat cheese - Fabian was back and this dessert was delicious. I was thinking about the same thing regarding needed some type of fruity, raisiny or other sweet accompaniment.
horchata - at this point the wine had kicked in big time and I don't remember it very well. I remember looking forward to it having grown up with horchata in LA but I can't recall the dish in my head. Again I think it's the fault of the wine.
The service was spot on and the intros by the chefs definitely upped the interactivity factor (a la minibar). I can imagine those guys rushing like maniacs in the kitchen only to compose themselves seconds before coming out. Don't know how they did it, but they did it well.
As for the wine, I gotta give big ups to Frod for adding another dimension to the meal. The Radio Coteau was excellent (I'm on their list but the pinots are out!) but the Ponzi blew everyone away. Frod must have some shares in this place because he probably sold a good portion of us on this dessert wine. But best of all was obviously the company. Sharing a meal like this with persons of the same mindset (though not necessarily the same opinion) upped the experience to another level.
Thanks again to Frod and the team at Paradigm for a great event.
MD - not sure what the point of your post was. An oyster can definitely be considered a course during a long tasting menu like this. If you wanted sustenance then Christine's Roti Shop was right down 163rd. But then again, she probably ripped off her recipe from some "greatest hits" of roti cookbook.
Frod - you were able to eat after minibar? Not only were we stuffed but I think our tastebuds were so tuckered out that had you offered me some of the L'Atelier de J.R. potato puree I actually would've passed on it!
I guess the point of my post was that while I certainly enjoyed the meal and the conviviality, the food did not work for me as a meal. I also dabble in the visual arts (I'm the co-founder of an arts non-profit), and when the artist has to explain to me what their piece means, etc., etc., it is usually because the piece does not stand on its own. Food ought to be delicious, gruel included. Looking back again on the experience, perhaps I was a little hard on my gracious host, Frod. Of course if you invite a critic.....But I did not think the 'meal' worked as 'food'; or that the food worked as a meal; and the wine-pairings seemed haphazard. Again, I ate at Paradigm on a previous occasion, not this specific meal.
Danny-ody - "Is this a meal or a lifestyle?" It's a cult - get on your nikes and sweatsuit, put a $5 bill and 3 quarters in your pocket and join us. Honestly, I don't even know what that means, much less how to answer it.
I have found some courses tasty and others silly at every one of these types of meals I've had, some of which have been at places with pretty lofty reputations. As for them "working as sustenance"? If sustenance is your goal then you need look no further than a hearty home-made bowl of gruel. Any time you are dining out for more than, say, a dollar meal, you are clearly seeking something other than sustenance. I did not find the amount of food to be too small - and this is coming from someone who, after doing 25 courses at minibar, went around the corner to Jaleo for some jamon and fideus (of course the fact that I only had one night in DC, and that it *was* right around the corner, had something to do with it too). But if you really are hungry afterwards, there's an El Rey de Chivito right across the street.
As for your "greatest hits of other chefs" comment, I think that's way off the mark. Simply using an idea or a technique of another chef in your own dish (which happens all the time and for which the Paradigm chefs are incredibly eager to give credit) is something quite different from just outright copying another chef's dish en toto. One of the things I find so interesting and positive about "contemporary cooking" (or "molecular gastronomy" or whatever else you choose to call it) is the "open source" nature of so much of it these days. All over the interwebs chefs are sharing ideas for dishes and the techniques and recipes for making them. One day I'm reading a blog where someone asks "What about combining marrow and bananas?" and a week later I'm eating the combination at Talula. Grant Achatz comes up with a monster book with 100 recipes from Alinea (probably more like 500 all told when you include the sub-components to the dishes) and puts it out for $50, and creates an online forum for an ongoing discussion.
(Incidentally for those who are confused, MD is talking about a meal from a couple months ago, not the one this past Friday).
Chowfather - I'm on the Radio Coteau mailing list. I believe Wolfe's in the Gables gets their Neblina Pinot Noir. The Atlantico brunch menu looks very cool, glad to hear you enjoyed it.
Great reports. Wish I was in town, sounds like I missed a great meal and time. Hopefully, there will be another one in the near future. On a side note, I think the you guys will appreciate this. I was up in DC and did the nuevo latino dim sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico (minibar)-outstanding and I highly recommend it if you are ever up there.
Frod- Can you find the Radio Coteau locally or is that mail order only?
Another thorough recap, Frod. Here are my thoughts on the dishes...
lox – I went into this dish expecting a dull salmon flavor and was very surprised how much was actually packed into that smoked salmon gel film. The cheese complimented nicely and I will agree w/ the group that more caper salt, or any salt for that matter, was needed.
foie ‘suzette’ – I was curious about this one when I read the working menu during Friday afternoon. I must admit, it didnt do it for me. I thought the foie had a really odd (Im recalling bitter for some reason) taste to it for some reason BUT when eaten w/ the satsumas and blood orange gel it erased that oddness. For me, the foie was in the background of this dish and Id hoped it would be on center stage. I think Im probably the only one who liked the spicy ka-pow of the black pepper tuile too.
banana pho – agreed that this was the first knockout dish. The whole concept was really cool and everything worked. I also really dug the interactivity of this dish. It showed that food can be delicious and fun at the same time. Also agreed that the dish couldve used a little more in the beef department, whether it be tendon or another form.
hamachi cucumber tartare – went in thinking "been there, done that" and was actually surprised a bit thanks to the soy spheres and ponzu film. I liked how you were able to control your soy intake with each bite. The greens and seeds were a nice compliment too.
“refresh” – This one ruled. A nice timeout to prepare for the next dish. Then again, Id eat anything "brulee'd" haha.
sweet bread nuggets – a downer for me, the sweetbreads anyhow. Tasted like a cafeteria chicken nugget. I know thats harsh but I couldnt think of another way to describe it. I think the coating of crushed pepitas and toasted oats is where things went awry. They just didnt fry well and left a somewhat soggy texture. I like my sweetbreads nice n crispy. The shmear of tamarillo espagnole, pickled ginger flower, and the espuma of chanterelle mushroom were great, especially the espuma (another cool presentation too). To me, however, it was like Led Zeppelin without Robert Plant (the espuma obviously being Jimmy Page here)
cod a la mode – Yes, I wish it was spelled "suveed" too. Wouldve prevented me from calling it "vee-day". Big thanks to whoever corrected me (Mightve been Chef K or Chef C) and prevented me from sounding like a jackass in the future :) This one kicked major ass. The cod was tender and moist which made it easy for me to separate each section of the fish and pair it with a little skin and some chorizo gelato. The chorizo gelato totally blew me away. I went from, "hold on taste buds, this may get ugly..." to "no dude, dont put that much on the fork with this next bite so you can finish with a nice spoonful at the end!" I think this was my favorite dish of the night.
duck, duck, goose – Loved the duck breast and its texture. Tender like butter. The rillettes didnt really do anything for me, nothing that I can remember anyways. I loved 2/3 of the goose presentations. The block of custard and meringue crackers (I could see these making a kickass ice cream sandwich) were great and went well with the dish. The dried gooseberries were a whiff. Yes, macerated and brought back to life wouldve done the trick because they were way too chewy, kinda like that dried out fruit you get in a cereal box (before it hits the milk).
goat cheese – I loved this one. Wouldnt change one thing. If the previous dishes were sex, than this was the cigarette afterwards.
horchata – Loved this one too. However, the chocolate sacher was a whiff for me. It was very dry and kinda tart. Then again, Im not a real fan of chocolate to begin with so this mightve been right in the wheelhouse for the other chocolate fans at the table. I disagree about the horchata gel needing bolder flavors though as this was my favorite part of the dish. I couldve eaten a whole plate of this. The vanilla gel and candy were a nice touch too.
Overall, I felt the meal was a total success and it achieved this on a few levels. First, the food was delicious and the dishes consisted of more hits than misses. Second, the chefs succeeded in dropping some knowledge on us as to the story behind each dish, its influences, etc, along with their personalities and I thought that was a great takeaway that cant be quantified in the price of the meal. The creative outlet that this weekly meal provides the chefs has got to be cool on their end too and it totally shows. And finally, the meal successfully brought together a group of individuals who are passionate about food and enjoy exploring its many nooks and crannies to find that next piece of culinary euphoria that got us all hooked in the first place. An enjoyable experience for all and one that will hopefully occur again in the future.
re: Blind Mind
So thorough... so very thorough. :) Brilliant.
And good to mention the chef involvement... I'm sure it must have been annoying for them- to work their tushes off and then have to "present" to a bunch of yappy diners. :) But, it was worth it. Big time. Made a huge difference in the entire experience. It was nice for them to tell me what I was eating... and it was mah-velous for them to come out at the end. That kind of attention, that is likely so hard to give, was beyond appreciated. Good call on sending kudos to the chefs...
Loverly summary Frod.
My vote is "thumbs up" on almost everything after the banana pho.
We didn't get as much salmon out of the salmon ravioi... we got more cream cheese. That was cool too- though, if it is all about the cream cheese, I would have liked the entire dish to be colder.
We had the same complaints (as you) with the foie gras... it was lost in the crepe thing, under all the fresh fruit. But that pepper was AMAZINGLY cool.
I thought the duck was loverly, but some folks around us suggested that the cut be a bit thinner... ??? everyone was surpised to have duck served like that- though, with all the wine, I can't really remember their quandries word-for-word. LAX to MIA might know.
The rest were brilliant... the noodles were a bit WD-50ish, but they were cool there and they were cool here too. The chorizo ice cream was a surprisingly delicious stunner- we WILL be working on that at home (though I have no idea how). That olive oil cake was also a great blend of supposed-to-be-sweet and not-really.
Thanks for putting it all together Frod!
Is this a meal or a lifestyle? I found some courses of the meal I ate here last month tasty and others just silly. The experiments were just that, didn't seem to be fully thought through, and were rarely fulfilling or worked as sustenance. I love experimentations, but what they are doing here is simply the greatest hits of other chefs, out of their cookbooks, for the most part. Odd that that would be considered bold. Also, the hamachi was destroyed and barely edible. Loved the olive streusel, though. Very little food for the price, and it is not like there are all these luxe ingredients to make up for the small portions. (One oyster ought not be condidered a 'course'. ) You will need a burger or a pizza after this. But I recommend trying it, and perhaps when they really get their act togethere, it may be worth the $85. In all fairness, I ate there for free. And they seemed like very pleasant guys. Kind of a crappy room, too.