Simon Majumdar is one of the great diners of this world and his friend Sybil is equally delightful. If you haven’t checked out his site, please do here:
Simon had arranged an incredible dinner at St John’s for me with his pals in London a number of years ago and when I heard he was coming to Los Angeles, I picked what I think is one of LA’s best restaurants, Providence. Michelin obviously agrees with me as they just awarded Providence a second star.
We had booked the chef’s table for the four of us and it is truly a special and unique experience. Many times, Chef Mike brought out the dishes himself like a proud papa and proud he should be. He is a very gifted chef who knows not to “muck” up great ingredients.
Sipping a glass of 1985 Krug, we started the evening with their signature amuse.
From left to right – Mojito, Gin and Tonic with Lime and Greyhound Vodka
BYO wine – 1994 Corton Charlemagne
Shiro Ebi, Cauliflower Mousse, White Truffle, Buckwheat – Donato had sent us an email that the white truffles this year were perfect. Just from the little bit I tasted, I can see what he means. I am craving a dish with scrambled eggs and white truffles that will be on the menu! The menu said ebi, but my notes say Japanese scallops with cauliflower mousseline. In any case, just delicious and the surprise part of the dish was the crunchy buckwheat that added great texture and taste.
Second Course -Uni, Konbu-dashi, caviar, crème fraiche, crispy rice cracker – the gelee of konbu with the Santa Barbara uni was unctuous and again Chef Mike added texture with the crispy rice cracker. The caviar added a salty element and the crème fraiche seemed to unify the flavors – a wonderful and sensuous dish.
Third Course – Live Santa Barbara Spot Prawns, spot prawn roe, orange oil, vermouth, tarragon – We watched one of the chefs remove the live, squiggly prawn from the fish tank. She was cut open, quickly grilled and served with just a hint of saucing. I made a huge mistake by not picking her up and sucking every last bit of roe – simple and perfect. For the record, Chef Mike chose females for us as he knows I am a huge fan of roe.
Fourth Course – Oyster Plant Veloute, Almond, Espellette, Glidden Point Oyster, Frizzy fried shallots – As Simon couldn’t have oysters, Chef Mike used lobster for Simon’s dish and his comment on the dish was fair. With the oyster, it was a much better preparation, but I do have a preference for Mike’s oyster dishes that highlight the oyster in a more pristine state i.e. Kushi Oyster with Tabasco “Caviar”, Tabasco/Horseradish Gelee or Maine Oyster with yuzu lime foam and zest, seaweed nectar and julienne of red onion.
Fifth Course -Iwashi – Japanese sardine, basil, saffron, tomato reduction, nicoise olive – this had a south of France feel with each ingredient complimenting each other. The sardine was cooked to perfection and I loved the crispy skin.
Sixth Course – Local Abalone cooked with a classic meuniere sauce (browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon), baby artichokes, garlic, and fava beans. The abalone was perfect with just the right amount of chew. The only off note were the favas that just didn’t seem to complement the abalone.
Seventh Course – Salmon, Matsutake Mushroom, Sake foam, Rosemary with bits of crispy salmon skin. The salmon was cooked using the C-Vap system. A google searched produced this information from Jean-Georges.
“The C-Vap, which stands for “Controlled Vapor,” was developed for Kentucky Fried Chicken by the same company that invented its fryers. It’s basically a food warmer that uses warm water vapor—much cooler than steam—to keep KFC’s chicken crispy on the outside but warm and moist on the inside. (Or at least that’s the idea.) But I don’t use it to hold cooked foods, I cook with it.”
“My technique is a lot like sous vide, but without the bag—I can put the ingredients in a skillet or saucepan and stick it right into the machine. Right now in the restaurant, I’m using the C-Vap to cook a sea bass fillet topped with honshimeji mushrooms. The fish stays firm, while the mushroom flavor seeps into the flesh. And it’s ready to serve within 15 minutes or so.”
Eighth Course – A5 Kobe rib, Musque de Provence Pumpkin, turnip slices with their greens, Summer truffle Jus. I am always wary of the “this is Kobe beef” line as most of the time you are getting Australian wagyu. However, we were presented with a certificate that this was indeed real Japanese Wagyu from Kagashima prefecture with his nose print and date of birth – 4/09/06. The beef was served simply so that the highlight was the beef itself instead of a cloying, overly rich sauce.
Ninth Course – Cheese – Our server chose the cheese. It was an uninspired selection and we had one or two bites. This could have been the result of his inexperience and lack of knowledge about cheese.
I didn’t taste the lollipop so…..
This was an excellent meal with excellent company, definitely Michelin 2 star. I think Providence delivers one of the best tasting menus in Los Angeles – it is intelligent, it is focused, it is very ingredient-driven and it is executed with precision. What more could one ask for?