Sophomore efforts usually suck... plain and simple. Bands usually make crappy 2nd albums. Movie sequels are cheesey. Everyone either thinks too much or doesn't think enough on the 2nd effort. I can honestly say that our 2nd run of Paradigm does not fall into this category. We held true to our initial goals of making things fun, simple, challenging, and simply good to eat. Was it perfect? Hell, no. But that's not what Paradigm was meant to be. It is, after all, the test kitchen. If we learned something, and the guests had a good experience, then we succeeded. I believe that is the road we took. Not all things worked, but we took an unusual approach at allowing the guests to peer into our mishaps and failed expectations at certain elements... and interjected our love for it wherever appropriate.
Here are some highlights (or at least those of them that photographed decently)...
The oyster 'block'efeller. Slicing the oyster block was easier than I anticipated. Chef K achieved a beautiful texture with the foam. After sampling the 2 together, I believe that the dish was fantastic. The oyster is not hindered at all texturally by the Activa. Very simple and truly rich like a Rockefeller.
Scallop with spiced milk skin, cocoa bubbles, and braised honshemiji. Again the scallops were seared beautifully with MyCryo by Marianne. The milk skin was spiced with saffron and cardamom creating a look of scrambled egg... but, with an unexpected flavor of raw pecan. The cocoa bubbles made from a cocoa nib brew were set to build up tableside in a large glass vase, but... no bubble action. For the 3 courses before we watched the bubbles form and explode. We're not sure why at this moment. The rectification was to take some of the liquid with a fresh dose of soy lecithin, and froth the hell of it tableside with a rather noisy immersion blender. Conflict and resolution at the table... guests commented on how cool it was that they felt part of the action. Honestly, this happens at every dinner in almost every restaurant I'm sure. They only difference is that it usually all happens behind the scenes.
Sous-vide shrimp, clear mole fluid gel, kokumi roja tortilla crumbs, celery seed tuille. This one went pretty much on target. The shrimp texture (cooked 20 minutes at 48ºC) was incredible. The mole was made by creating a mole flavored broth, clarifying it, setting it with agar, then blending it to break the agar with shear pressure. Was this entire process worth it... maybe not in this case, but creating a clear yet flavorful fluid gel is definitely still in my agenda.
Red. If this sounds a little Will Goldfarbish, then it kind of is... at least the concept of it. It's a good exercise for any chef. Fabian played out the 'flavors of red' in his mind with incarnations such as beet sorbet (which was incredible), watermelon compressed with chambord, strawberry spun sugar, pomegranate 'rocks,' and pink peppercorn streusel. I love the abstraction of the presentation. Every element to this dish that I tasted was amazingly good.
Ok... now, for the lessons learned.
Duck candy. The goal: to create a 'film' of orange gastrique and wrap small wads of duck rillette with it to create a sweet/sour/salty and texturally fun sensation in the mouth delivered all in one bite. The problem: South Florida heat and humidity after being brushed by hurricane Ike. Not sure why we didn't consider this beforehand when every surface around us is wet with a digusting film of beach air wetness. It was fun nonetheless... except that the gastrique kept sticking to everyone's candy wrapper and every other physical object in the known universe... lesson learned.
Fried mayonnaise. It seems so long ago that Wylie Dufresne threw out an incredible fried mayonnaise on one of his dishes. We had remembered reading an article some time back that claimed he merely froze mayo, cubed and breaded it, and fried it. Could it be that simple? No, it isn't. The process involves the utilization of a blend of gums and starch to create a pseudo mayo that won't break down in the hot fryer. It was close, but no cigar. The flavor and texture were still good.