There is no way to convey how incredible our experience was at Crudo Bar with Chef Sugie. Chef Rugelio had promised to arrange a special dinner with Chef Sugie and boy did both chefs deliver big time. It was extraordinary.
First off, Chef Noriyuki Sugie worked with one of our favorite chefs in France, Michel Trama in Puymirol. We immediately recognized some of Trama’s influence. His next stop was as chef de partie with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. The globe-trooting chef then moved half-way around the world to work for chef Tetsuya Wakuda in Sydney, before opening his own Restaurant VII with Harunobu Inukai, also in Sydney that was named “Best New Restaurant” by The Sydney Morning Herald. The next step was to become chef de cuisine for Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in New York. That is one incredible resume for this very talented chef.
Nori’s cuisine is a harmonious balance of flavors that reflects a subtle fusion of French and Japanese influences. He has an eye for minute details from seasonings, flavors, textures, to how a dish is plated and even to the serving dishes.
Only one other couple was sitting at the bar and they ordered one or two things. The few tables that were occupied opted for the standard fare. The Westfield Mall was busy with people gorging on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sundaes just outside the Breadbar. Little did they know we were experiencing a culinary journey of the highest level. Another huge plus was that Chef Sugie, as he was only cooking and serving just the two of us, chatted with us the entire evening. It was a foodie’s version of heaven on earth – great food plus stupendous conversation. We owe both Chef Rugelio and Chef Sugie a huge thank you for an unparalleled and unbelievable experience.
Amuse – a small dish of beets, olives, cucumber, carrots plus toasted walnuts and almonds.
First course – Blini with caviar – light as air blinis mounded with a generous serving of caviar – perfect with the champagne.
Second Course – Mirugai Ceviche with green papaya, mango, beets, fresh coconut, tapioca pearls, thai chili, coconut juice, Kaffir greens, ginger and lime juice. This might sound like a lot going one and a jumble of flavors, but it was exactly the opposite. It was so balanced and subtle with each flavor enhancing the mirugai, rather than detracting from it.
Third Course – Marinated Kanpachi, spicy jicama, taro roots, julienne of leeks, shiso, chili vinaigrette served with a tall glass of gazpacho dotted with basil seeds. The gazpacho was unlike any I have ever had – this was smooth and creamy without one note of acidity. The kanpachi dish was actually a bundle with the kanpachi functioning as the outer “wrapping” for the jicama, taro and leeks. This was a wondrous combination with just enough heat from the chili vinaigrette.
Fourth Course – This dish was a masterpiece – whimsical plus delicious. A potato had been cut into noodles using a Japanese turning vegetable slicer. On top of the potato noodles was a layer of tofu mousse, Japanese uni and mountain caviar. Bonito jelly ringed the plate. Again there was a wondrous layering of flavors and textures.
Fifth Course – Remember John, that scallop hating gentleman – he ate every bite of this scallop dish and loved it. Scallop “ravioli” with scallop mousse topped with crispy bacon bits. The scallop was thinly sliced and had been slowly poached to a barely cooked stage. The scallop and cauliflower mousse was raw and had been made in a robot coupe. (It definitely helps to have the chef in front of you, explaining everything in great detail.) We both inhaled this dish, wishing for more, but definitely of the Thomas Keller school of the law of diminishing returns.
Sixth Course – Mussels and thin slices of chorizo in a rich coconut broth with basil. This was very rich and as much as I wanted to slurp every bit of the broth, I was afraid to fill up as we had a lot more to go. I did eat every plump mussel and every slice of chorizo, though.
Seventh Course – Slow poached egg with warm dashi jelly, fried chick peas and fried sage. Once again Chef Sugie created a dish with great flavor and textural contrast – crunchy chickpeas with warm quivering jelly and runny yolk egg.
The runny yolk
Chefs Rugelio and Nori blowtorching the monkfish
Eighth Course – Medallions from a torchon of foie gras were artfully arranged next to identical rounds of monkfish liver, the foie gras of the sea. Japanese salted plum enhanced the flavor of the foie while pickled cherry was the accompaniment for the foie. Just perfect.
We were then presented with a basket of flat bread, seasoned with shichimi pepper, nori and white sesame seeds. We made a decision to stay away from the bread as we didn’t want anything but these wondrous courses from Chef Sugie.
Ninth Course – Pork Belly with sweet corn polenta – the pork belly was superbly done and polenta delicious.
Served side by side with this was the black cod slider – mizuna, pickles, wasabi tartar, spicy red chimichurri – this was just for us to try as it wasn’t really a part of the tasting menu. Since this will be on the Breadbar menu, after Chef Sugie leaves, I just had a bite.
Tenth Course – Flank steak with Portabella mushroom, Carrot Parisienne, Braised Kale and Asparagus – an excellent pairing with the wine and again just delcious.
Eleventh Course – Peanut Butter crème Brulee – John devoured this – I was getting full, so I didn’t do my part – intense peanut butter flavor and again executed perfectly.
We BYO’d wine from our cellar.
Krug NV This is a recent release of the NV Grand Cuvee. I enjoyed it but thought it was a bit softer with less bite than the previous Krug we have had. It is possible that I’m not discriminating enough with my palate as we have been drinking the 1985 and 1990 more than the Grand Cuvee. I’ll have to have my son try this and see what he thinks.
2002 Dageneau Silex This is always a spectacular wine. The minerality was absolutely perfect with the early dishes Chef Nori created. He got it right from the start.
2006 Le G de Chateau Giraud We don’t drink a lot of white Bordeaux. Rare wine had featured this second label from Ch. Giraud. I tried it because of our knowledge of Giraud. It is an excellent, dry Bordeaux that went very well with the second tranch of fish courses. We only drank 50% of the bottle. I’m sure the chefs enjoyed it after work.
1996 Charmes Chambertin, Arlaud This wine is showing perfectly. It is more cherries than raspberries. It was perfect with the foie and cherry dish the chef prepared. The wine is light but deep and very well balanced. It was also perfect with the pork and beef dish that were both small and well conceived.
1996 Ch. Giraud 350 ml [small bottle] I thought it would be fun to have the Sauternes along with the Le G I understand it to be the same grapes, but the G has no botritis so very little sugar. The “real thing” has been consistently excellent in the many vintages we have tasted. Fortunately, we have a good supply of ’88, ’89, ’96. Our friends have sold the Chateau, but we still remember visiting years ago.
This was a sensational experience from beginning to end. There are no words to express my gratitude to both Chef Rugelio and Chef Sugie.