Posts Tagged ‘Molecular Gastronomy’

Five Reasons Why “Modernist Cuisine” is The Most Important Culinary Book of the Decade

Posted 28 Feb 2011 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

The Five Reasons Why “Modernist Cuisine” is The Most Important Culinary Book of the Decade

Chef Maxime Bilet and Nathan Myhrvold plating a course

I am trailing a small group of people including food writers, professional chefs, and culinary educators, being led by Nathan Myhrvold through the varying nooks and crannies of his IVF laboratories in Bellevue, Washington.  Myhrvold, dressed in dark slacks and a stark white short-sleeved chef coat, is animated his voice pitching up an octave from time to time as he gets excited. He is showing us The Cooking Lab with all its technology, tools, and toys. It dawns on me that he is Willy Wonka and I am a very lucky Charlie Bucket. There are fourteen of us here tonight, each with a golden ticket. Our purpose is to experience a 28 course menu prepared by Myhrvold’s team in celebration of the release of Modernist Cuisine; a book authored by Myrvold and chefs Chris Young and Maxime Bilet. Myhrvold is showing us around the lab as a warm up to what will be a dinner of the century later in the evening. In the first room he shows us a microwave oven that he cut in half, magnetron tube and all, so it could be photographed for the book. Next, pink cheeks aglow and smiling with excitement, he shows us the electric plasma cutter he used to slice other pieces of equipment in half and a high powered water jet cutter where he custom fabricates all sorts of matter.  Why? Because he can!

Myhrvold shaves Sea Urchin “bottarga” for Pim Techamuanvivit while Chef David Kinch looks on.

I find him energized, brilliant, and immediately likeable, and intellectually one of the smartest (if not the smartest) person I have ever met. Myhrvold has invited a diverse group to this dinner and is completely aware of how amazed (and jealous I must admit) we are by his laboratory. Chef Sam Mason, former pastry chef at WD50 is to my left, tattoos bursting with color (he radiates cool), and the shy, extremely talented and kind David Kinch of Manresa is to my right, dapper in a blue sweater and knit scarf. Ahead of me, the legendary and statesmanlike Harold McGhee, the original curious cook, is peering at an electron microscope as global food expert and rock-star blogger Pim Techamuanvivit (Chez Pim)takes photos. In 2010 Fast Company called her one of the most influential women in technology. How the hell was I lucky enough to get on this list? Myhrvold passes by an electron microscope and a large printed image of what appears to be the roundworm Trichinella spiralisis taken using the device while researching content for Modernist Cuisine. I am floored that these folks have their own electron microscope and notice that Myhrvold is smiling at us. What fun!

Chef Sam Mason downs a glass of Foie Gras Egg Nog, Myhrvold to his right, Chef Chris Young to his left.

We turn another corner in the lab and make a loop back to the IVF kitchen where two tables of eight have been set for our dinner. Myhrvold wraps on a blue apron, explains that we will enjoy 28 courses that are intended to show the range of techniques and recipes featured in Modernist Cuisine rather than a menu focused on a logical progression of flavor (although that was a consideration too I am sure). We all sit excited with anticipation, and fasten our seat belts. It’s 6:45 P.M. PST and our first course is placed on the table: Asian pear, Watermelon and Spicy Pickle Chips. The pears, watermelon and pickles are sliced, coated with modified starch slurry, compressed in vacuum bags, removed from compression, patted dry and fried. I have never had crispy watermelon before and it’s delicious. The pickles are even better. My mind drifts for a moment as I look around at the other guests and realize we are in for a night.

Chef Maxime Bilet with centrifuged pea juice

The rest of the meal ebbs and flows from extremely simple items like the fourth course of grilled chicken skin glazed with pineapple and Sansho pepper (cooked sous vide for 12 hours prior to grilling, powerful chicken flavor, crisp, deeply savory, addictive) to the incredibly beautiful and complex thirteenth course of rare beef stew (an extraction of beef broth kept rare through separation in a commercial centrifuge poured over the most beautiful three Michelin star composition of garniture).

I provide detailed descriptions of the meal and with photos at

It’s 10:34 PM now and I am chewing on the last of 28 courses: fresh made olive oil, vanilla, and thyme gummy worms. Myhrvold, radiating with positive energy, holds up the fish lure molds he used to make the gummy worms and explains the recipe to make them (for more buy the book). They are the best damn gummy worms I have ever had. I close my eyes for a second to soak in the moment and consider how blessed I am to be here. Every once in a while life comes to a complete stop and I realize that I am experiencing first hand significant moments in the evolution of our profession. Tonight is one of those nights and Myhrvold, Young, and Bilet, have sent us crashing through a glass ceiling of culinary practice. I hover in mid-air over his lab in Bellevue Washington looking down on the city below. My golden ticket still in hand, it is clear that the culinary profession will be profoundly changed by the tremendous gift Myhrvold and his team has given to the profession.

I offer below five simple reasons why Modernist Cuisine is the most important book of the decade. Note that I feel the five reasons listed are a gross understatement of the real value and importance of Modernist Cuisine.

The Modernist Cuisine team at The Cooking Lab

Reason 1: The Perspective and Intellect of Nathan Myhrvold

Myhrvold’s intellect is of a level and type unique in the world. He is one part Thomas Edison and another Auguste Escoffier. That food and cooking caught his attention and that Modernist Cuisine is the result is an enduring gift to the culinary profession. His perspective and intellect inform the many discoveries, schema, and taxonomy that appear in the book. Without Myhrvold’s mind as a lens, the new discoveries and syntheses of prior practice would not have achieved the level of innovation documented in the book. Nathan Myhrvold is the first reason why Modernist Cuisine is the culinary book of the decade and we should thank him for sharing his intellect, curiosity, and resources (he funded this work himself).

Reason 2: Modernist Cuisine Places Modern Cooking into the Context of Traditional Cooking

Modernist Cuisine is not about molecular gastronomy, it’s about linking modern cooking with traditional cooking in an evolutionary and, subsequently, revolutionary way. Just as Escoffier (and others) codified classical cuisine in the late 19th and early 20thcentury, Myhrvold and his team have done the same from a modernist perspective. Historically, something of this magnitude tends to happen once a century. The influence of Modernist Cuisine will be nothing short of Le Guide Culinaire and will probably exceed it from a historical perspective. Basic scientific method was used to unpack the science behind cooking and food without any sacrifice to the aesthetic or emotion to food or dining. Myrvold, Young, and Bilet took this scientific knowledge and polished it with a solid understanding of the aesthetics and creativity that underlie a great dining experience. In turn they discovered many new and tantalizing facts and techniques. Modernist Cuisine is about using scientific principles to inform food preparation in pursuit of making food and a dining experience better. Through it all, Myhrvold and his team repeatedly state that in order to understand modern cooking you must start with a firm understanding of traditional cooking from which to build.  I am reassured by the notion that Modernist Cuisine is rooted, in part, in the traditional. The baby wasn’t thrown out with the bathwater; instead the water was tossed and replaced with fresh water precisely heated with a thermal circulator.

Reason 3: Modernist Cuisine is Incredibly Thorough and a Great Value

The breadthand depth of topics covered in the book, all 2438 pages worth, is expansive. Myhrvold must have spent a fortune unpacking each of the topics he covers and there are few organizations or individuals on the planet that could have matched the effort, passion, and completeness of his coverage. There are five volumes in the set including: 1)History & Fundamentals, 2) Techniques and Equipment, 3) Animals and Plants, 4) Ingredients & Preparations, and 5) Plated Dish Recipes. Although priced at $625 per set, Modernist Cuisine represents a tremendous value when you consider its content. $625 is a small price to pay.

Reason 4: Modernist Cuisine is Advanced Professional Cooking and is Approachable

The book is written in easy to understand language. Myhrvold, Young, and Bilet were thoughtful about keeping the narrative easy to read. They offer thousands of photos, illustrations, and diagrams including  innovative models like a periodic table of essential oils and a table of egg custards. The “parametric” recipe format used is virtually foolproof as long as you can precisely measure. The team has produced a volume that is within reach of most cooks young or old, professional or not.

Reason #5: Modernist Cuisine Throws Convention on its Head

I thought, after 30 years of professional cooking, I knew what I was doing. Myhrvold proved me wrong and demonstrates that we barely know anything about the real science of cooking and food. While sitting in his IVF conference room, Myhrvold had an assistant place a vitimix on the conference table. She proceeded to pour a 750ml bottle of red wine into the blender and then she fired it up, pulsing for four or five times. Then she poured the wine into glasses and we did a side by side comparison of the aerated wine and the same wine straight from the bottle. We all tasted and the aerated wine was wonderful. Point made: wine can be aerated in seconds using a blender. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before (my oenology friends are probably squirming)? This is just one example of how Myhrvold throws convention on its head. The point of this isn’t to raise the dander on sommeliers across the country, it’s to prove that much of what we practice in our profession is handed down from generation to generation without any regard for the science behind what we practice or concern for improving practice based on this science. Modernist Cuisine will shift us in the right direction.

Dinner at The Cooking Lab: 28 Courses of Modernist Cuisine

Posted 28 Feb 2011 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends

Dinner at The Cooking Lab: An Evening of Modernist Cuisine

This is a posting of thirty photos from a recent dinner at Nathan Myhrvold’s cooking lab in Bellevue, Washington. The dinner was a celebration of modernist cuisine and the release of Myhrvold, Young, and Bilet’s new book by the same name. (to purchase Modernist Cuisine visit A more detailed description of this gathering of professional chefs, writers, can be found at

Note: I prefer to post the photos of each course served in this format so each can be viewed with a detailed description and in the order served. The notations made under each item are taken from guidelines distributed during the dinner. Special thanks to Dr. Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet and the rest of the The Cooking Lab team along with the esteemed guests I had the pleasure of meeting and dining with.

Modernist Cuisine

#1: Asian Pear, Watermelon, and Spicy Pickle Chips (starch compression)

Asian pear, watermelon and spicy pickles that have been thinly sliced, coated with modified starch slurry and fried at a medium high temperature until crispy.


#2: Roasted Corn Elote (freeze drier, N-Zorbit powder)

Freeze dried yellow corn kernels with brown butter powder, spicy mayonnaise, cilantro blossoms, Lime and Ash Powder.


#3: Cheese Soufflé (constructed, re-heatable, soufflé, N-Zorbit crumble)

Delicate gruyere cheese soufflé steamed and baked with a cheese crumble. The soufflé is a mixture of intense cheese water, egg yolks, albumin powder and corn maltodextrin. The crumble is made from grated cheese blended with N-Zorbit. After steaming, the soufflés are topped with the cheese crumble, baked and served.


#4: Grilled Chicken Skin (sous vide skin gelatinizing)

Sous vide cooked, fried and grilled chicken skin, glazed with pineapple and seasoned with sansho pepper. The chicken skin is cooked sous vide for 12 hours so the skin doesn’t recoil when fried.


#5: Foie Gras Egg Nog (warm constructed cream)

Warm emulsified soup of pressure rendered foie gras fat and roasted shallot juice spiked with Calvados. The cream is equal parts foie fat and shallot juice emulsified with a rotor stator homogenizer.


#6: Green Apple and Fresh Wasabi Snow Ball (vacuum aerated sorbet, frozen fluid gel powder)

Aerated green apple juice sorbet with frozen fresh wasabi powder. The apple juice is slightly thickened with glucose, albumin and gelatin and transferred to a whipping siphon. It is famed into a mason jar inside a vacuum chamber to hold the vacuum. The jars are deep frozen…how cool is that!


#7: Foie Gras Rocher (frozen, molded foie gras)

Foie gras parfait with a hazelnut core, coated in rich hazelnut praline and rolled in hazelnut crumble, garnished with a sliver of Meyer lemon. The foie parfait is molded, deep frozen and dipped, then very carefully halved on a band saw while frozen.


#8: Chickpea Tajine (sous vide chickpeas, pressure cooked pine nuts)

Sous vide chickpeas and pressure cooked pinenuts braised in a preserved lemon tajine jus. Garnished with a salad of Cara Cara orange, beldi olives, black caraway, argan oil, pickled dried fig and mint, finished with a roasted sesame yoghurt.




 #9: Oyster Cocktail (liquid nitrogen shucking)

Preparation 1: Shigoku Oyster with chufa nut horchata and finger lime droplets

Preparation 2: Shingoku Oyster with ponzu, hazelnut oil and smoked char roe


#10: Ankimo, Yuzu, Enoki, Pear (sous vide torchon, centrifuged juice)

Ankimo (Monkfish liver) torchon, centrifuged pear juice seasoned with honey vinegar, fresh yuzu and white soy, enoki salad dressed with macadamia oil, ficoide glaciale, Asian pear.


#11: Spaghetti Vongole (centrifuged broth)

Goeduck clam “noodles” dressed with garlic confit oil, bagna cauda broth, sea beans, goeduck belly, maitake and walnut marmalade, dried miso powder. The Goeduck siphons are split, sliced into sheets and pounded in sous vide bags to allow them to be cut into noodles.


#12: Squash Soup (pressure cooker and baking soda)

Caramelized squash soup, sunchoke ice cream, chaat masala, flash pickled Fuji apples. The baking soda increases the pH allowing for deeper browning and intense aroma and flavor. 


#13: Beef Stew (low temperature extraction, cured, sous vide marrow)

Rare beef broth, sous vide cooked small root vegetables, curd marrow, pressure cooked barley, chard leaves. Beef cubes are cooked sous vide at 53C for 4 hours. They are pressed with a wine press and the resulting juice is then centrifuged.


#14: Shellfish Bisque (sous vide stock, centrifuged carotene, enzyme peeled citrus)

Shellfish broth with coconut cream powder, carrots cooked in carotene butter, young coconut noodles, mandarin and lemon verbena.


#15: Mushroom Cappuccino (sous vide infusion, siphon foam)

Intense mushroom broth with warm bacon Chantilly


#16: Raw Egg Shooter (reverse spherification)

Raw “quail egg” of passion fruit yolk, lemongrass white and a few drops of chili oil. A reverse spherification is used; the setting bath has alginate and the set liquid has calcium to provide a finer membrane. The white is given its texture with a combination of xanthan gum and locust bean gum


#17: Polenta Marinara (pressure cooker and mason jars)

Grits cooked in corn juice with a quince, Bartlett pear “marinara” toasted corn husk consommé, ricotta salata and basil


#18: Kelp with Sea Urchin (gluten enforced fresh pasta, constructed bottarga)

Cocoa pasta sheets dressed in cocoa butter, sea urchin tongues, sea urchin butter, salted candied grapefruit, tarragon and a shaving of sea urchin bottarga.


#19: Mushroom Omelet (constructed egg stripes, combi-oven steam)

Black trumpet mushroom and egg striped with aerated scrambled egg based, mushroom marmalade and fines herbs. The egg stripes are created using a pastry comb on a silicone baking sheet.


#20: Marble Salmon with Spiced Butter (ultra stable beurre blanc)

Sous vide salmon with butter composed of coriander seed, sesame seed, roasted hazelnut, white poppy, ginger and chamomile. It is served with a beurre blanc of sake, white soy, shiro miso and lime and garnished with shiitake, bok choy and sorrel.


#21: Roast Chicken, Jus Gras

(combi oven roast program for chicken, heat stable jus gras, pressure cooked vegetables confit)

Roasted chicken with a rich emulsified gravy of dark chicken just and pressure rendered chicken fat. Accompanied by vegetables that are pressure cooked in mason jars with chicken fat. These are garnished with an herb salad dressed with quince vinegar vinaigrette. The chicken roast program includes injecting the chicken with brine and hanging it for three days refrigerated to desiccate the skin. The chicken is cooked in dry heat at 60C until it reaches temperature, rested for 30 minutes. Prior to service it is brushed with oil and roasted at 300C for 6-7 minutes until deeply roasted and crisp.


#22: Pastrami and Sauerkraut

(72 hour sous vide, precise curing and brining, fermentation, dehydrated bread)

Short rib pastrami, house-made sauerkraut with sweet onions, Brussels sprout leaves with fish sauce butter, cognac mustard with pickled mustard seeds, black bread crisps. The ribs are brined, smoked, dry rubbed and cooked sous vide for 72 hours.


#23: “BBQ” (high tech smoking, sous vide, centrifuged sauce, ultrasonic fries)

Hot smoked spareribs, cold smoked flat iron, Kansas City, South Carolina and MC Barbecue sauces served with ultrasonic fries. The ultrasonic fries are made by cooking large fries sous vide until tender. They are cavitated in an ultrasonic bath while warm to create lots of invisible fissures. The final product is deep fried resulting in fries that are furry with a crispy outer texture.


#24: Goat Milk Ricotta (fresh ricotta, centrifuged pea puree layers, essential oil)

Fresh goat milk ricotta with pea juice, pickled lemons, cinnamon, walnut and pea butter toast. The peas are centrifuged yielding pea juice and pea “fat” which has the same intense pea flavor with the texture of butter.


#25: Pistachio Gelato (frozen constructed cream)

Dairyless, eggless pistachio gelato with cocoa nibs, candied black olives, and Arlettes. The cream is made with pistachio butter, pistachio oil, water, sugar and an emulsifier, all churned in a Pacojet.


#26: Pots de Crème (combi oven steam, cold infusion, vacuum reduction, acid coagulation)

The first cream (L to R)is a cold infused coffee egg custard finished with a smoked egg yolk curd. The second is a vacuum reduced whisky sabayon on top of centrifuged banana juice fluid gel. The third is a cold infused earl grey posset garnished with sous vide lemon curd.


#27: Caramel Mou (sweet, savory caramel, edible film)

Gruyere cheese caramel, cheese water film. Grated cheese and cheese water are added to a basic caramel base. The cheese film is set with agar and gelatin.


#28: Gummy Worms (oil gel, fish lure molds)

Olive oil, vanilla, and thyme gummy worms made with 200 bloom gelatin, gum Arabic.

Stella New Orleans

Posted 23 Dec 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service


It’s 7:00 pm in New Orleans and I am in a cab headed to Stella restaurant over on Chartres Street. Darkness has settled over the French quarter and I am sensing a deep, mysterious vibe. There’s a mixed feeling and voice at night that penetrates these damp, gas-lit cobblestone streets.  It’s one part raw unbridled lust, another part window into the soul, one part history like you find in a cemetery and a final dose of voodoo draped over like grey Spanish moss. The city, with all its wonder and complexity has aspects I deeply admire and corners that I can do without.

My eyes are wide shut as I exit a rather dangerous taxi ride and try to find traction on the slippery smooth cobblestones beneath me, my eyeglasses fogging over with condensation. It’s hot and damp and I wear the humidity heavy like a wet woolen sweater.  My left foot partially slips into a puddle along the curb, acrid water splashing onto my cuff, and for a split second I can feel the quarter pulsating up through my shoes. The city is groaning in the dark; dripping wet foot, I am not sure whether it just licked me or spit at me. This is exactly why I love New Orleans; it has an edge like no other. The city is sentient with a complicated heart, thriving mind, and primeval soul. It reacts to my presence like an old friend and fights back if taken for granted. It can make you disappear, permanently if not careful, but it can also save you and shroud you in grace.  This isn’t a passive city on the decline it’s a living breathing entity that thrives despite its bouts with disaster. It’s like a person who has aged, been to hell and back more than once, hardened to a sinewy core, and used the experience to focus on what’s important. I sense all these emotions in a flash as I step up onto the curb.

On the sidewalk now with eyes open, my vision tightens into focus like the aperture of a camera lens. Stella is literally within arm’s reach, its soft second story lanterns misting light down to the street below.  If I go one block over and turn the corner onto Bourbon Street, the wave of energy there, both good and bad, would drown me. But here on Chartres Street, I am in a balanced part of the quarter where the vices are offset with virtue in both commercial and human form. Stella stands as an oasis; a safe port of call out of earshot of the same ancient sirens, now on Bourbon Street, that nearly drove Odysseus to insanity while lashed to the mast. The sirens on Bourbon Street I can do without, instead I take safe haven in Stella in the care of chef Scott Boswell. My reason for being here is food, another vice of sorts but one balanced with great virtue as well.

Stella is located in a historic looking two story brick building that looks like it was once a warehouse or a hiding place for pirates. There’s a wide balcony on the second floor that runs the perimeter of the restaurant and a series of six over six windows that run along the lower level. The main entrance has a double French door leading to a maitre d’ station just inside and a wooden box outside with glass front displaying the menu.

Entering, I notice exposed thick beams showing through the ceiling lending a rustic feel to an otherwise classically decorated formal dining room. With high-back chairs upholstered in cream colored leather, marble topped side tables with gold colored rococo legs. The dining room is well appointed and refined.

Of all the restaurants I visit on this trip, Stella is the one that I planned ahead and called for a reservation. Chef Scott Boswell is popular now and his other restaurant Stanley is getting some good press too. After a minute or two I am seated and a server approaches and hands me the menu. I order a tequila Mojito and study the menu while my server runs to the bar. He’s an affable guy in his late twenties. He knows the menu, has a great table-side manner and sets a tone of relaxation and care. My first impression is that Boswell is smart about how he hires his servers. We are off to a good start.

Boswell is known, as New Orleans is as well, for the eclectic range of ethnic cuisines that influence his cuisine. It’s easy to spot Southeast Asian, Cajun, Italian, American, and Spanish influences on the menu woven with modernist cooking techniques. Somehow this range of flavors and options works well together; a compliment to Boswells talent. I place my order and finish my Mojito settling into the comforting and sophisticated dining room.

Stella attracts a distinguished clientele of two-tops and foursomes in proper evening attire with many men in suit coats and slacks. Women are properly dressed in classic attire as well although not overly formal. I like the old-school feel of a smartly dressed dining room. As I am studying the dining room, food starts to arrive.

The first course is a Pressed Melon Amuse Bouche with shavings of honeydew, cantaloupe and two small squares of sliced watermelon. Boswell sprinkles coarse sea salt, a drizzle of vinegar and dried Miso powder onto the plate. A simple combination of sweet (the melon), salty with umami (the Miso) and sour (vinegar). Delicious!

Pressed Melon Amuse

The next course is a delicate little piece of fried green tomato with house made remoulade sauce. The sliver of crispy tomato is served on a cocktail fork placed inside a tiny bowl lined with a dollop of sauce and shaved chive.

Fried Green Tomato bite with Remoulade

Lobster, egg and Caviar: Canadian lobster, local farm egg and American paddlefish caviar $24

The lobster and egg with caviar is a surprising presentation with lightly scrambled egg with lobster placed into an eggshell and topped with caviar and chive. Although the chive is redundant and unnecessary the egg and lobster is sublime, beautifully cooked, tender, rich and delicious and the salty pungent flavor of the paddlefish roe a nice contrast. Pricey, but worth it.

Roasted potato and Parmesan gnocchi with Andouille sausage, tomato confit, sweet corn and caramelized maitake mushrooms $18

A hot dish of gnocchi is a favorite so long as the gnocchi are perfect and Stella’s gnocchi were good but not the best I have had. They were perfectly shaped, wonderfully sauced, and the presentation was outstanding but the gnocchi themselves were not as light as I like them.

 A composition of Heirloom Carrots ~ Confit of baby carrots, carrot sorbets, carrot spheres, carrot cake crumbles, traditional carrot salad, petite carrot greens and sweet carrot cloud $15

This dish was a mind-blower, a Pablo Picasso like study of carrots in multiple forms. I also love the fact that Boswell uses custom china for certain presentations like this one. The plate looks like a ceramic silk napkin spread out loosely on the table with peaks and valleys undulating across its surface. Varying types of carrot preparations are placed around each ridge, filling each crater.

Soup, Salad and Sandwich ~ Iberico ham grilled cheese sandwich, truffle potato puree and arugula, baby beet salad and 25 year aged balsamic $18

 Pan Seared Georges Bank Dry Scallops and Shrimp with Truffle Andouille New Potato Hash and Caviar Butter $33


When I talked with Boswell about this dish, he described it as a signiture item that has never left the menu. Every restaurant has a dish like this; one that is mature and representative of the cuisine and philosophy of the overall restaurant. The dish was outstanding.

Miso and Sake Glazed Japanese Mero Sea Bass with Udon, Green Tea and Soba Noodles, Canadian Lobster, Blue Crab and Shrimp Broth $38

Bread Pudding with Crispy Banana

 Composition of Chocolate

With a spread on Oysters soon to be published in Art Culinaire magazine, restaurant Stanley gaining popularity and the city of New Orleans undergoing a true rebirth, Scott Boswell is on the verge of being a nationally known chef. Stella is an outstanding dining destination and is representative of the “new” post Katrina New Orleans. Check it out.


1032 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70116-3202
(504) 587-0091

Clio Restaurant ~ Boston

Posted 05 May 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

When I travel through Boston, there are a few restaurants I like to visit even if it’s just for an appetizer or dessert. Clio, owned by Chef Ken Oringer is one of these restaurants and I have eaten there many times over the years. Ken is one of the leading chefs in New England and his restaurants, all of which are in Boston, include Clio, Uni, Toro, KO Prime, La Verdad. Of these, Clio is my favorite.

The first time I met Ken Oringer from Clio restaurant was at Charlie Trotters in Chicago. The two of us wound up at the bar just inside the restaurants entryway at the end of a gala dinner Trotter hosted for his foundation. It was a great meal and even nicer to hang back at the end of the meal after everyone had left to have a few drinks with Ken, Charlie and a group of other chefs and industry veterans. Ken, as a guest chef, had prepared one of the courses served that night to raving acclaim. It was a good night for him. However, his intensity was still quite high while we chatted at the bar. I found this unusual particularly at the end of what must have been a very busy day. Most chefs would have settled in, enjoyed a few drinks and laughs and lightened up a bit. Curious, I asked him about his background, where he had trained (he’s a CIA grad, worked for David Burke, Joanne and George at Al Forno and with Jean Georges Vongerichten) and what inspired him. Ken started to provide some details when Charlie, who was listening at the time, interrupted and stated that Ken was the leading American avant garde chef of his generation. Ken smiled with approval and at that moment I got it. Oringer as a person and as a chef occupies the edge rather than the center. He’s inventive, creative and travels his own path, a path of his own choosing and inspiration. He’s a chef to be reckoned with, as bold as the flavors he creates. Follow or get out of his way.   

Bold, however, is not the first word I would use to describe Clio. Oringer’s flagship restaurant is refined, comfortable and smoothly running. The flavors of some dishes are bold, on others subtle and refined. The service matches the food. Ken selects his service staff wisely, after a dozen meals I have never had bad service. When I arrived this past weekend it was 6:00PM on a busy Saturday night. Within a couple of minutes my table was ready and I was seated. My favorite place to sit is along the windows on the Massachusetts Avenue side of the dining room. The windows provide adequate natural lighting for my camera (I rarely use flash) and I like being able to see the entire dining room.

Once seated my first surprise wasn’t food related it was the water. My server proudly announced that the restaurant was serving Poland Spring water due to a major water main rupture west of the city. There was a mandatory boil water order issued by the department of health yet the restaurant didn’t miss a beat. It takes a well oiled restaurant to run “business as usual” when the unexpected happens. It was also reassuring to know that the commercial dish machine in the place was properly working!

And then the food started to arrive!


Foie Gras “Terrine”

Marcona Almond Crème, Rhubarb, Violet Artichokes, Nasturtium ($20) 

I love a good foie gras dish and this was memorable. This was served with a crispy eggplan, cocoa nibs, parisienne of apple and a mini frizee salad on the side.


Cassolette of Sea Urchin and Lobster

Parsnip Emulsion, Crispy Shallots, Candied Lemon ($17)

This was an outstanding dish loaded with generous portions of lobster and sea urchin. The urchin was cooked perfectly and melted into the dish when split with a spoon. Notes of lemon and chive finish this dish as the lobster and urchin linger. Garnishes included spicy dried chili threads and minced chives. I love the “O” Luna bowl this is served in although the bowl looks a bit like a commode.


 Wild Alaskan Ivory King Salmon Confit

Sun chokes, Mandarin Orange, Black Gnocchi, Pain D’ Epice Emulsion ($38)

This dish was excellent. The fish is as ivory as the description in color and buttery smooth due to the sous vide cooking method used. Although the mandarin orange was a bit overpowering, in moderation it complimented the overall dish.


Seared Diver Scallops

Artichoke Chutney, Black Bean Sprouts, Thai Brown Butter, Young Coconut Jus ($35)

This dish was deep in umami and wonderfully complex in flavor. Rich but balanced and totally free of dairy, the flavors were outstanding. Good balance of salt, sweet, acid and umami.


Miso Dark Chocolate Cremeux

with Banana Ice Cream, Golden Miso & Cashew Butter ($11)

The Asian inspiration continued with this item. This dark chocolate cream was more of a dense ganache with mild notes of miso. The flavor combination worked very well (the salt of the miso complimented the chocolate).


A Taste of Summer

with Coconut Tapioca, Guava Sorbet, Peanuts & Fresh Passion Fruit ($11)

Another dairy free item of wonderful proportions and excellent flavor. The coconut tapioca was wrapped in a paper thin white chocolate cylinder, it oozed out when cut with a spoon.


370A Commonwealth Ave

Boston, Massachusetts 02215