Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Table Talk

Sometimes food pro’s like me get invited into restaurant kitchens for a look-see, or even a special sit down meal in sight of the stove, with the chef and his/her minions attending to our every need. At Table 45 in the Intercontinental Hotel the experience of dining where the cooking action happens is available to anyone who reserves the Chef’s Table. From a glassed in seating area that can accommodate up to eight, guests have a panoramic picture window view of dishes being assembled, fired and plated in the big main kitchen. It’s like watching your favorite food movie, only much much better because those appetizing morsels you see on the “screen” actually end up in your mouth.

I was recently seated there with some other media folks and their companions observing chefs Zach Bruell and Rick Argoso, who’s the day to day culinary point man here, prepping a seven course sampling of small plates. It was fun to see them working, but way more fun to eat it. Everything we tasted was a candidate for the new fall menu that kicks in this week. We began with naan- the Indian style bread freshly baked in the restaurant’s tandoori oven- and three dipping sauces; spicy aoli, Lebanese hummus, and goat cheese tapenade. This stuff is so good I could make a meal out of it. But before I could over indulge an amuse bouche of tempura oysters arrived. They were accompanied by dabs of four different salsas; red pepper, corn and black bean, pineapple, and a Morccan spiced tomato and olive combination. These two openers epitomized the global vision that defines the cuisine of Table 45. The rest of the menu, as evidenced below, followed suit. Everything was astonishingly good, flavored to the max without overwhelming or losing the balance between elements and ingredients. A fruity Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand was lovely with the shrimp, and a ruby pinot noir made by Kings Ridge of Oregon was just right with the rich vinegar and sugar braised pork.

But don’t just read about it. Head to Table 45 to taste-and see- what the kitchen’s got cooking for yourself.

1st course
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo with Fried Crawfish

2nd course
Grilled Japanese Shrimp Salad with Daikon Slaw,
Orange and Rice Wine Grastrique

3rd course
Indian Spiced Striped Bass with Spaghetti Squash,
Toasted Marcona Almonds, Lime Chardonnay Cream
Tomato Jam

4th course
Indian Spiced Pork Belly with Cumin Basmati Rice

5th course
Maple Glazed Venison Loin Wrapped with Applewood Smoked
Bacon, Pumpkin Spatzle and Rosemary Maple Demi

6th course
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie served with Blood Orange and Cassis Sorbet
Caption: view from the Chef's Table. Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group

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