eli from top chef to cook at solo
Has there ever been a molecular gastronomy focused (or even inspired) kosher menu anywhere? While I'm definitely interested, I'm skeptical that there's a kosher market for it, because the average kosher consumer is lamentably unadventurous. 'Utilizing the techniques of molecular gastronomy' leaves them some wiggle room, so we'll see whether they mean 'dot some lavender air on the plate as a garnish' or something more like Alinea's 'Nicoise olive, saffron, dried cherry, olive oil' (totally do-able kosher!) from here: http://alineaathome.typepad.com/aline...
I called to make reservations already - I'm psyched to see what he can do with the challenges cooking Kosher offers. From what I understand he's going to be doing a special tasting menu that will be offered in addition to the regular Solo menu (for those lamentably unadventurous folks out there). They wouldn't tell me anything specific about his menu (truth is, I'd rather be surprised) but I'm betting on the sous-vide technique making an appearance!
here's what wikipedia says about it
on top chef, when they do molecular gastronomy, it's kind of using modern techniques to manipulate food. someone did a parsnip foam, and there was an 'olive' that was really a liquid inside a shell that looked like an olive. cooking sous-vide is sealing say a piece of meat in a vaccum bag and cooking it in a bath of water at a specific temperature.
the whole idea seems very interesting.. but i don't know if i would want to eat a whole menu of foods cooked in that manner.
Dear Patrons and Friends;
Chef Eli Kirshtein of Top Chef will be a guest chef at Solo, sister restaurant to New York City’s acclaimed Prime Grill Steakhouse, where he will be preparing a tasting menu utilizing the techniques of molecular gastronomy. His month long stint will begin Sunday, January 17th.
Join Solo in conjunction with the Kosher Wine Society for a truly spectacular event. On Saturday night, January 23rd, meet Top Chef Alum, Eli Kirshtein for an exclusive culinary adventure of exotic food and wine.
Tickets for this event are limited, so please purchase your tickets online at through The Kosher Wine Society’s website:
email from kosherwinesociety
note to remind you that on January 23rd 2010 the Kosher Wine Society is pairing up with Top Chef's Eli Kirshtein at Solo restaurant to create an exclusive Food & Wine Adventure.
Our walk-around setting will provide a unique opportunity to sample Chef Eli's offering, and to taste each one of our hand-picked wines. The price of admission includes all food and wine, tax and tip.
Chef Kirshtein appeared on Bravo TV's Emmy award-nominated show "Top Chef" in 2009, competing superbly among high-caliber chefs. With his strong background in both classical and experimental cuisines, Chef Eli has rapidly become one of the prominent young chefs in the local landscape. As guest chef at Solo, sister restaurant to New York City's famous Prime Grill, he will prepare an exclusive culinary adventure utilizing the techniques of Molecular Gastronomy, also known as New Cuisine and "Avant-Garde Cuisine." The Kosher Wine Society will contribute a truly special selection of wines to provide the perfect accompaniment to Chef Eli's exciting menu.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Does anyone know more about this? I asked both the restaurant and kws and they were very vague about it. I asked if we could show up hungry and neither answered that q. 70$ is a lot if it won't be a meal. I know it is not a sit-down event, but will be fed? Does tasting really mean just a sampling> Either way, do post reviews of the experience if you go...
Generally, a tasting menu means a menu determined by the chef (ie you don't order particular dishes) of many smaller courses (eg 5, 7, 9, etc. - they all seem to be odd numbers) rather than, say, an appetizer/main/dessert combo. This way, you get many tastes of different foods rather than lots of a few. In my limited experience, they add up to plenty of food. That said, from what I've read about molecular gastronomy, it's more about the experience, amazing flavors, and making you think about familiar things in a new way, rather than purely being about making you full, so I'm not sure how this menu would be.
I, too, would love to read a review.
I went to Solo on Monday night, eager to sample Chef Eli's cooking. Unfortunately, in order to sample Chef Eli's creation, you had to agree to an entire 3 or 5 course tasting menu. You could not just order a dish prepared by him - rather, you had to agree to go with the entire tasting menu. In addition, I was also informed (though I found this somewhat incredulous) that all parties at the table had to agree to go with the tasting menu, in order for anyone at the table to try it.
Although my dining companion and I saw one or two dishes on the tasting menu that we would like to have tried, the 3/5 choices we would have been forced to go with did not appeal to us, so we instead ordered off of Solo's regular menu (which, in all fairness, was quite good). I found it quite bizarre that Solo would go to the trouble of hiring Chef Eli, but not allowing diners to more readily sample his cooking.
I managed to obtain a copy of the current tasting menu being offered, so will post it here for review/consideration:
* 3 Course $45 (items on the 3 course tasting menu are indicated by a star)
5 Course $65
*Persimmon - Cocoa Nibs/Truffle/Yuzu/Marcona Almond
Beef Tartare - Egg Yolk/Thai Peppercorn/Gribeche
Amber Jack - Tobiko Gremolata/Turnips
*Duck Breast - Aromatic Emulsion/ "Chicharrones"/Sunchokes/Bitter Green
*Root Beer Tart - Cashew/Tarragon
Those requirements are pretty standard for a tasting menu - everybody at the table needs to order it (it throws off the pacing of the meal, otherwise), and that it gets ordered as a package rather than a la carte. The idea is that you're placing yourself in the hands of the chef, who in turn tries for a virtuoso display of more adventurous cooking. (Of course, it doesn't always work out that way.)
The ingredient/ingredient/ingredient way of giving over the menu, without further explanation, is very Alinea (major center of molecular gastronomy, in Chicago). I think there, everything is tasting menus, and you get the menu listing the dishes of the evening _after_ you've eaten.
Thanks for the report!
And not to criticize your tastes, beacuse they are your tastes, after all, but the point of the tasting menu is to explore things beyond your usual comfort zone. For Kosher dining it's extra-special in that most chefs don't want to bother with stretching someone's boundaries, so it's nice to have an "outsider" find a way to reinvent his tastes/visions to the constraints of Kashruth.
We went last night and not ONE of the items on the tasting menu you posted was on the menu we were offered. I was able to order off Chef Eli's menu a la carte, and my family ordered off both Chef Eli's and the regular menu, mixing and matching to their liking. If we wanted the tasting menu, it would have had to encompass the whole table.
My full report, plus pics, will be sent to the ladies at the alltopchef blog...not totally overwhelmed with the food, but I left satisfied. The chef, unfortunately (even tho' he was told I was blogging), was busy "entertaining" the executive chef from Prime Grill...
We were unfortunately sampled chef Eli's tasting menu. The verdict was that the meal was mostly completely unplatable, with the exception of one course. The first course, a persimmon dish was vile. The truffle oil reacted with the fruit, the result being a most off-putting aftertaste. The Steak tartare was so chewy that it was almost imossible to swallow. The sauce the dish was adorned with consisted of egg yolks that had congealed and formed a skin. This was supposed to be an example of a new technique produced with the aid of molecular technology. It was simply awful. The amberjack fish which was poached was unremarkable. The duck breast cooked I believe, sous vide was the only dish that was successful - moist and delicate, and the sunchoke puree that accompanied it was velvety and rich. The dessert was utterly awful. It was a tart with a cloyingly sweet filling, that we all (myself and my companions) pushed around our plates awkwardly. It was served with the most revolting rootbeer ice cream. All in all a total letdown. We had sampled chef Hung's cuisine when he did a guest stint at solo. The difference between the two chefs is incredible.
re: gourmet girl
i was at solo last night. i have been to solo several times before and have been very disappointed. I went 3 times in 2 weeks when Hung was there. My meals were mediocre to terrible (i had to make dinner when i got home 2x my food was so horrible and the portions were quite small). In addition being a HUGE TC fan i hoped to meet Hung. in the 3 times i was there i was unable to meet him once. moving on to my review of Eli.
It was a completely different experience. I was with an old friend who is NOT adventurous when it comes to eating but i somehow convinced him to do the tasting menu with me. pardon me for not taking pictures or remembering exactly everything from the menu - but i will do my best. The only thing that REALLY bothered me was paying $70 for the tasting menu and i literally had to beg the waiter to explain what the various flavors/sauces on the plate were. the service left a lot to be desired.
Course 1 - Salmon with pineapple cauliflower potato and a mustard sauce. this was phenomenal. i would never think to pair salmon and pineapple but it worked and tasted so refreshing. a perfect appetizer
course 2 - poached egg with potato puree and salmon roe. i loved the pairing of a poached egg and potato, and the salmon roe was the perfect pop to this dish. my friend literally would not eat it, which is truly a shame.
course 3 - Pho. I love trying new foods and i recently watched Anthony bourdain in Thailand (i think) and pho was one of those dishes i never thought i would eat. the radish and the meat and the broth with the lime. i could eat this as a meal. was very satisfying and tasted very light.
course 4 - BBQ rack of lamb on top of collard greens. the meat melted in your mouth and i wanted to pick up the ribs to really chew on them, but no can do when fine dining! the collard greens were paired beautifully with the lamb. only complaint would be too much BBQ sauce.
course 5 - choc fudge cake with olives. with this choch fudge cake were sprinklings of rice crispies, dehydrated corn and olives, and fresh mango and fresh mint leaves. there was a red wine olive reduction that i did not care for. the rest of the plate was magnificent. did not taste parve either.
Eli came out and we spoke b4 my friend arrived. I am a huge fan of his and i hope to return for another tasting menu. I hope we have a better informed waiter the next time.
Went last night. Here is my review:
Aside from the typical menu, you can get a 3 or 5 course tasting menu crafted entirely by Eli that changes more or less daily. All 4 of us had to get it or was no go... Thankfully we came to dine on Eli's grub.
Artic Char Carpaccio with Pineapple and Potato Topping, Artichoke Puree, and Whip
It was a good opener, light, easy to go down. Not a ton of flavor, but I love my arctic char any day of the week. The puree was quite flavorful. The whip was one of those small emulsified, egg white whips you often saw on Top Chef.
Smoked beef soup with a puree red beet, sunchoke soup and cilantro green puree and carmelized onion.
This was the clear highlight of the night for all of us. Was the first time on the menu as we learned while leaving that night and speaking to the woman who seated us. The beef was soft, flavorful. I don't love smokey flavors usually, but this was really smooth and full-bodied warming you through and through while being balanced by the light, colorful, and homey flavors infused from the beets and sunchokes. The presentation was amazing. Super colorful and delightful just to look at. A swirl of red from the beets and light beige frmo the sunchokes and as you worked through got down to the full-bodied beef. The greens also mixed around the edge of the bowl. Sadly, I forgot my camera so no photos of this or the rest of the meal....
Buffalo Chicken with Jalapeno "Creme"
Essentially this was buffalo wings done up. It was amazing chicken. Perfectly done with full flavors, soft, tender and melted in your mouth. The skin was left on with a smooth, yet perfectly hot and spiced buffalo flavor. The skin was soft and mildly crisped at the same time. The "creme" was a mayonaise spread mostly mixed with jalapeno chop and some spices. Strong and brought good full heat. The best aspect of the dish was the single slice of jalapeno on the plate. EAting that with the buffalo chicken and creme all in one bite had full-body flavor that lingered with the heat you love and a nice bite. It kicked on the heat, while also lingered with flavor. It was amazing and nearly as good as the soup.
Mango Puree Frozen Pancake
As we were eating the chicken a table was being set up beside our table. So when we finished, Eli came out and gaev some shpiel. Basically was "bored in the kitchen and wanted to come out and meet us and cook for us table-side." So while doing that, they had a metal pan they were pouring liquid nitrogen into and he was pouring the mango puree into the cooled pan and instantly it froze like a mini-pancake. We each had one. Great way to cleanse the palate. Simple. Like a sorbet.
It was quite funny to me all the while knowing this pork lover was now cooking in a Kosher restaurant. I was able to ask him, "Eli, you loved your pork on the show and Southern roots and now you're here first gig out doing Kosher, what's up?"
He laughed and said he didn't cook a ton of pork on Top Chef - I clarified and said, yea, it was more Kevin. But any rate - he said he can cook the pork at home, but that certainly cooking Kosher here changes his thinking a bit. He focuses a lot more on Asian and Mediterranean dishes and ensuring he keeps to his style of fresh flavors and natural flavors and avoiding substitutes.
Braised Short Rib Beef with Collard Greens
My first bites were wonderful. Succulent, tender, fall off and melt in your mouth. It was a bit too overpowered by the glaze throughout the beef. But me and my buddy noticed over time the meat was overcooked. My final bites for more than 1/2 of my piece were too tough for a braise and quite overdone. Still full flavored, but a bit of a let down following the two prior courses. It was good I could taste melt-in-your mouth red meat, but unfortunately not through the entire piece. Also the greens were not as flavorful as could be. There was an orange slice on the beef though that with the greens and beef all in one bite did provide a great bite of acidity complementing the dish well.
Chocolate Ganache and Black Olive Torte with dried puffed rice and corn
Never would have imagined black olives in a dessert. The dish was the torte in quarters spread across a slate plate and spread around the plate was the dried corned and puffed rice. It was a hearty and fun close to a very solid meal. I am not sure I would eat the dessert a lot over time, but certainly a new twist on chocolate ganache. Gave more body and deeper richness to the chocolate than I would have imagined.
The entire meal came with a wine sampler that we also enjoyed.
Arctic Char: White semi-dry chardonnay (forget most of the labels)
Soup: Rose (I hate rose's but this stood up)
(Dalton was the only label I recall). I don't love Merlot's but this was perfect complement. Warm, full body, but not heavy and acidic like many I haev tasted before
Dessert: Chenin Blanc
As we were nearing dessert we demanded Eli come out and answer some more questions. He was great and did. Hung out an dchatted with us a bit longer. He said he refuses to use fake margarines or creams as substitutes and does his best to find ways to use natural flavors and ingredients. The "creme" was a mayonaise.
It was fun to dine and feel like we were Padma or Tom and judging each dish. Surely you can see how flavors play off one another and how bites are meant to be one taste unto itself or all flavors should go in your mouth at once like the jalapeno, creme, and chicken. It was amazing to experience that and understood more fully what the judges look for while on the show.
Its obvious that he has some incentive based contract because he was clearly in the first and second time at our table selling himself a bit and asking how much we liked it. He said something like he doesn't make money if we don't order his menu. He said that his whole goal is to provide flavors and dishes to this market that normally can't eat and find such high profile foods given dietary restrictions, but to do it in a way as to appeal to anyone and get you to overcome thinking its Kosher. He surely succeeded.
The meal was crazy $$$ when all said and done. But we were well liquored and stuffed. We had a great time chatting with Eli. Very solid and fun guy. Highly recommend it and hopefully we will be able to go back.
We dined at Solo last night for Valentine's Day and had Eli's tasting menu. I'll be doing a full report soon but we were incredibly disappointed.
1) some courses were practically inedible. the arctic char was not fresh at all. The pineapple was a poor flavor combination with it. the rice krispies in the hamachi dish were silly and added nothing positive to the dish.
2) it really was NOT a tasting menu for many reasons. the first two courses were insultingly meager. I order carpaccio all the time and a sliver of arctic char does not make a course on a tasting menu. It was more like an amuse-bouche. Though the fish was so gross I couldn't finish that one slice anyway. The chicken and steak 3rd and fourth courses were much larger and out of place with the rest of the dishes. The meal had no synergy. Plus, why serve hot buffalo chicken with jalapeno in the middle of a tasting menu? It blew out our palates!
3) The steak course with the collard greens was insultingly unrefined. I get that Eli is from the South but the regular menu at Solo is far more creative than that. This was basically slices of steak, slathered in BBQ sauce on top of some limp collard greens. Nothing 'molecular gastronomy' or even elegant about it.
I've been to Solo twice and had far better meals than Eli's menu. I wish we had stuck with the regular food. Unfortunately he was the only reason we chose to go there on V-Day.
Is this seriously Eli's best? Either he's dumbing his cooking down for an audience he may unfairly judge as less sophisticated, or he's just incompetent.