My write-up on Chef Voltaggio’s Hatchi series here:
It is with great sadness that I can’t recommend the Dining Room at Langham. There are three reasons for this feeling – the lack of internal harmony in the tasting menu, the lack of editing of what is served and finally the main protein was sometimes being executed poorly in favor of the bells and whistles of the accompaniments.
We were shown menus, but told that Chef Voltaggio had orchestrated a special tasting menu. I have a definite bias about tasting menus. There has to be a rhyme and reason to a tasting menu and not just a collection of dishes, even wow dishes. For me, a great tasting menu tells a story, has an internal structure that flows from one dish to the next. In fact, a great tasting menu doesn’t have one A+ dish after another – I think I would be exhausted after that type of meal. It would be like watching a play that was a series of climaxes. My favorite restaurants for a tasting menu are Manresa, FL and Urasawa. There is a subtle progression of tastes, textures, style, a story. For example, one of our meals at FL ended with matsutake mushrooms with small thin slices of kobe beef in a matsutake bouillon broth. This was our final savory course – it was so satisfying – a denouement instead of a climax. We had a lot of rich courses and this was more a Japanese soup ending course that warmed the soul and didn’t overwhelm. Basically, I hate a tasting menu of the chef’s greatest hits. It would be like reading the greatest sentences from numerous sources – “to be or not to be” followed by it was ‘the best of times and the worst of times.”
Chef Voltaggio essentially sent out dishes listed on the menu – one prep for me and one for John – he included every fish dish on the menu, the 2 foie preparations and 4 meat courses – there was no story, no internal harmony.
The Langham used to be a Ritz Carlton. It is set on 23 acres and the grounds are beautiful.
The Japanese garden
The Dining room – in a couple of months this will be refurbished – as of now, it is stuffy and stodgy
Josh Goldman – their excellent sommelier
We had brought quite a bit of wine as this was a birthday celebration and Josh had thoughtfully orchestrated everything.
Amuse - Powdered parfait of bagels and lox – the white was the cream cheese, the salmon color the salmon and the brown the bagel – this was clever, but not exactly satisfying.
Sourdough and a Bacon Roll – excellent
From left to right echire butter from France, Goat cheese butter and butter from Vermont
Langoustine, White Asparagus, Calamari Crackers, Squid Ink, Bouillbaisse bisque, Tiny Eggs – Chef Michael needs an editor – too many components in one dish. This was to be a recurrent theme throughout the evening. The bisque was exquisite and I could have eaten a full soup bowl of that with some shellfish – just too much going on.
Japanese Shima Aji, Jamon Iberico, Sea Sponge. Borage Flowers, Wasabi, Finger Lime – In retrospect I should have eaaten the Shima Aji with the wasabi and lime and then the sea sponge with the ham – eaten as a one bite, the ingredients became lost.
Truffle Brioche to be eaten with the goat’s milk butter
Foie Gras Frito – the foie had been deep fried in hot oil and served with celery puree, Medjool date and mustard sabayon – this was a definite winner.
Another absolute winner. In fact the two foie dishes were the stars of the evening – Foie gras terrine, minus 8 vinegar, wild strawberries, wild rice, strawberry espelette, arugula garnish – the texture contrasts were exquisite plus the foie was handled perfectly.
BYO White Wine
Skate wing, scrambled cauliflower, chives, brown butter powder and sauce, caper powder – so much effort seemed to be put into the accoutrements that the main protein i.e. the skate was executed poorly – dry and basically inedible.
Braised Octopus, Buttered popcorn puree, Piquillo confetti, cilantro – what could have been a good dish was destroyed by the octopus being as tough as rubber.
Tasmanian Sea Trout, Hibiscus Air, Porcini crisp, mushrooms, pink peppercorns – edit, edit, edit
Mediterranean Sea Bass, mussel billi-bi sauce, quinoa, seaweed mashed potatoes – this was a very clever way of introducing the sauce – it was in the deep-fried ball in the middle
BYO Red Wine
Kurobuta Pork Belly, Bok Choy “Kim Chi”, Kabocha Squash Preserves, Pumpkin seed oil, ground peanut – again a lot going on with the main protein, the pork belly being not crisp and as a result overly fatty
Church and State’s cassoulet with perfect pork belly
Pastrami Pigeon, sauerkraut gelee, gruyere cheese crisp, mustard greens, rye sauce – I was really looking forward to this dish but the heaviness of the “tasting menu” was overwhelming
Lamb shoulder confit, tomato and coconut milk, chickpea cake, blossom leaf, Coffee cardamom soil – another case of must editing with the lamb getting lost in a sea of ingredients.
Milk-Fed sliced Veal breasts, veal rib eye, dried broccoli, broccoli puree, tagliatelle – tasteless veal
At this point, we decided to call it quits. I don’t know if Chef Mike had decided on more meat so we would end up eating everything from the menu. I just couldn’t do it. I was sadly disappointed that more care hadn’t been devised for a tasting menu and that more care hadn’t been addressed to execution, particularly with regard to the main protein.