Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Modern at the Metropolitan

I heard that there was some very intriguing Mr. Wizard stuff going on behind the bar at the Metropolitan Café so I went to the Warehouse District to check it out. It seems they’ve begun to mess around chem lab style to create a line up of out-of-the-ordinary and over-the-top cocktails.

Consider the new deconstructed dirty martini. The drink starts out the usual way- a chilled pour of vodka, in this case Hangar One but then things get…well, unusual. It’s presented with a big spoonful of green “caviar” on the side. To make it, pureed olives and their juice are combined with agar agar, a natural gelling agent. The briny pulp forms soft tapioca-like pearls. To get down and dirty with this drink, sip and then slurp up a few the salty “eggs” before swallowing. The taste is really good, and the extra shot of tongue in cheek humor makes it even better.
A red version of the faux caviar uses cranberry juice. What looks a bit like pumped up salmon roe floats in a fizzy white lime vodka cosmo producing a lava lamp effect. (If you find yourself staring at the glass instead of sipping from it, you’ve had too many and its time to call a cab and go home). To carbonate the drink, a batch- sans roe- goes into an empty plastic liter soda bottle, a hose retrofitted with a tire valve is inserted in the top, and the alcohol gets a hit from a Co2 tank. Sort of a cross between soda and champagne, these go down way too easy. So does the pomegranate martini. It features a float of citrus foam on top. A combination of egg whites, simply syrup, and lemon and lime juice, the stuff looks just like whipped cream, and is produced the same way, with a nitrogen canister.

What’s going on here is officially called molecular mixology. That’s a fancy and somewhat pretentious phrase for what is basically playing around in a food science kind of way, and it’s all the rage in trendy big city watering holes. Great new things happening here with the food too. The peripatetic and skilled Michael Herschman has taken over as Executive Chef and it shows. He completely overhauled the menu and reading it makes clear that everything- including steaks, chops and seafood entrees- has been benefited from his experience and creativity. There’s an appealing selection of appetizers, salads, gourmet pizzas, and reinvented bar food standards. A seared rare tuna starter gets nice sweet heat from a sugared wasabi vinaigrette. The pizza topped with wild mushrooms, parmesan, truffle oil and grapes (yes, grapes) is a mouthful of heaven with a wonderfully chewy crisp crust. For sheer indulgence- and something you’re not likely to make in your own kitchen- order a twin filet a la Oscar- two rounds of tender beef topped with roasted red pepper béarnaise and plated with butter poached blue crab.

I’m getting hungry and thirsty writing about all this. I may need to grab a seat at the Metropolitan again soon for more research.

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