Monday, August 31, 2009

Divine Providence

Ever since I heard him sing the praises of Korean supermarkets at this Zocalo event, I've been a fan of Chef Michael Cimarusti. I'd never even eaten his food, but I was impressed that he beat Chef Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef and earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant, Providence.
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Recently, Chef Cimarusti was a most gracious competitor on Top Chef Masters, handily winning the quickfire challenge and making the best of the seafood-less box of ingredients that meanie Chef Jonathan Waxman gave him. Despite Chef Waxman's cowardly move, Chef Cimarusti was a beacon of good cheer and sportsmanship. Chef Cimarusti even taught his competitors, including Chef Waxman, how to use a pressure cooker during the challenge.

Do you love this guy yet? You should. We do.

Providence is all about the sea, from the tablescape to the barnacles on the walls.
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I started with a Martini Fresca ($14).
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This pineapple-infused Appleton rum, limoncello, St. Germain, fresh-squeezed lemon, and mint danced in my mouth. Tart and refreshing.

The chef's menu ($160) was the perfect way to cap off our third anniversary celebration.

Greyhound, mojito, gin and tonic.
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This is how fancy people do cocktails, my friends. Squeeze the lime onto the cube for the mojito. Pop the wobbly sacs into your mouth for the greyhound and gin and tonic -- neatest shots ever.

White soy/wasabi marshmallow, cured trout, gougeres, carrot soup/vadouvan.
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Eat this left to right. Start with salty fish, follow it with a mildly spicy marshmallow and a warm cheesy puff, and finish with orange glory in a teeny-tiny mug. Yum x 4!

Hokkaido scallop, nasturtium blossoms, fresh-grated wasabi, crispy rice cracker.
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Not sure if I was supposed to eat this in one bite, but I did. It was a really big bite. Maybe I should've taken two bites. The cold slipperiness of the scallop, kick of wasabi, and crunch of the rice played well together.

Kanpachi sashimi, endive, summer truffle vinaigrette, soy crème fraîche.
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This kanpachi was firmer than I'm used to, but it was so wonderfully fresh and lovely.

Santa Barbara sea urchin served in a farm fresh egg, champagne beurre blanc, fines herbes, and American Transmontanus caviar.
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Everything is better when it's served in an eggshell. I liked dipping my spoon all the way down and ensuring I got all the flavors. And there were a lot of flavors -- flavors that you might not think would mesh, but they were one happy family in this little egg home.

Santa Barbara spot prawns grilled over Japanese binchotan charcoal served simply with French olive oil and lemon.
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So simple. So good. So mmm. That's really all that needs to be said about this.

Now here's where I get a little confused. According to the handy-dandy menu that was sent home with us in a sealed envelope, the next course was eel.

Well, it wasn't.

And, having been told that we'd get a menu at the end of the meal, I didn't bother taking notes. But I do know that the next dish was a scallop dish. I think those were chanterelles accompanying it, and I'm pretty sure that was fried burdock on top.
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Perhaps a mistake in service, as we already had scallops? Maybe. A delicious mistake nonetheless. The scallop was perfectly seared. The sauce was beautiful and the burdock an excellent crunchy contrast.

I can't lie, though. When I saw we were supposed to have eel when I got home, I was a little sad. I love me some unagi.

Wild French turbot, matsusake, sake, rosemary.
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Our server said, "tur-BOH." It's actually "TUR-butt." But who am I to correct someone who works at Providence, the L.A. seafood Mecca? And who cares when it tastes awesome? You could call this "ugly flatfish," and I'd still be thrilled. And how cute are those dots?!

Niman Ranch pork belly, carrot-orange purée, pickled ramps, mizuna, carrot-ginger butter.
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I've never met a pork belly I didn't like. Why, hello there. Get in my belly, belly.

Klamath River wild king salmon, kumquat, peas, Jurançon.
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Neither of us *loves* salmon, but we enjoyed this very much. The fish was beautifully tender, and the skin was super deliciously crispy. One of my favorite things about fine dining is having my mind changed. That's how powerful good cooking can be.

Loin of Colorado lamb, eggplant, artichoke, celebrity tomato.
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Lamb! Like the damn lamb that Chef Waxman bestowed upon Chef Cimarusti on Top Chef Masters! Well, the lamb was tasty, but it's clear that sea creatures are the specialty here. I really liked the eggplant in this dish, maybe even more than the lamb.

Cheese selection.
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Look at Mr. Monkey cut the cheese! Mr. Monkey is not a cheese fiend like I am, so I asked for my favorite genres -- soft and mild. You typically get a choice of three, but our cheese dude wanted us to compare and contrast an American goat cheese and a French goat cheese, so that's why there are two goat cheeses on the left. Both were delectable. The right was a cow's milk cheese that was very brie-like and our favorite. The center was a sheep's milk cheese that was a tad strong for Mr. Monkey, who said, "Eating this is like I'm right there in the petting corral."

Kalamansi gelée, white chocolate coconut soy milk soup, litchi-shiso sorbet.
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Mr. Monkey and I were split on this. He loooooved it. All of it. He even raved about it at the table. He doesn't do that often. I, on the other hand, found the combination of the very tart kalamansi gelée and the sweetness and milkiness of the other components of the dish very jarring. I liked everything in the bowl. I just didn't love them together.

Blackberry gelée, melon soup, lime granita, vanilla ice cream, mint.
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Perfect in-between cleanser on a hot night...like every night we've been having for the past week or so. I wish I could shoot these throughout the hot, hot day. Nice all at once, but the lime granita was my favorite part.

Harry's Strawberries, basil ice cream, balsamic marshmallows, pistachio.
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Of course, I Googled who "Harry" was. I'm hoping that "Harry's Strawberries" refers to this dude and not to these dudes. They were damn good, Harry. Thank you.

Milk chocolate-whiskey panna cotta, Bailey's ice cream, coconut raviolo.
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Yay! We made it through the meal and didn't burst! I clapped when this came out. Yes, I get that excited about food. The waitstaff seemed rather amused by my enthusiasm all night. I effing love those cute edible sacs and was delighted to end with another. It was a marvelous meal, and this was an amazing mellifluous conclusion.

Petit fours.
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I haven't been too impressed by mignardise anywhere for awhile. This was no exception. The truffles, gelées, and salt-and-pepper caramels were pleasant sweet treats, but nothing to write home about. In fact, I think I preferred Wan's bacon caramels over these.

At the end of our meal, our server took us to the kitchen for a peek.
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As if that weren't thrilling enough, in addition to having spoken with us briefly in the dining room during our meal, Chef Cimarusti took a short break from cooking and plating to chat with us a bit more in the kitchen.
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We even got this picture with him. [insert more clapping here]

Seriously nice guy. Seriously talented. Seriously go to Providence if you haven't already.

33 comments:

  1. If you saw my face right now...I don't know. I'm trying to think of something witty but I can only think of all that freakin food on this post. I don't even want to call it "food" because I feel that the word "food" is way to primitive for what you were served on every plate. Man.

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  2. I love the fancy cocktail, what a cool idea!

    and although I probably wouldn't have been miffed at the scallop swapped for eel situation, it seems very odd at such a high-end restaurant. you weren't eating at OG, FFS. ::snort::

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  3. wahh exciting! is there more anniversary dinners to come? great review. i may finally hv to get my butt down there. beautiful photos and helpful commentary.

    as for the boh/butt i certainly didn't know this before but I do now! did you know that coup de grace is pron. coup de grahss not grahh? apparently, it's a common phenom for us americans to try and make french words even more french. we're sad like that. hehe.

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  4. That is all just gorgeous food. And so cool that you got a kitchen tour on top of it!

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  5. I really need to stop reading your posts before lunchtime. It makes me want to go order a tasting menu for lunch.

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  6. wow, that's amazing you got a little tour and photo with chef cimarusti, iron chef winner!

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  7. happy three year anniversary!!! and. wow. the food. i want!

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  8. I also thought Cimarusti was adorable on Top Chef Masters, but I don't see myself dining at Providence ever...

    Now, I don't do a lot of fish pronunciation, but if the Turbot is French, then why is the final t pronounced?

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  9. What an AMAZING experience! I would even try Sea Urchin again if it was cooked by him, and that's saying a LOT!

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  10. "Turbot" isn't a French word. It's derived from Old Swedish and evolved through Middle English and Anglo-French.

    [/nerd]

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  11. beautiful. so need to go. i still can't convince the bear it'll be worth it considering we're major seafood lovers.

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  12. meet & greet with chef?! so freakin' awesome.

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  13. I love that you guys celebrate your anniversary multiple times! Providence was a VERY good call. I love that place. And your photos are outrageously good! Can't wait for my DSLR to arrive in the mail ;-)

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  14. I love this post. Dinner at Providence is going to be part of Eddie's birthday gift this year. He's been fascinated with Chef Cimarusti for a while now.

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  15. everything looks delicious -- jealous!

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  16. How fucking awesome was the "mojito??" I think that was seriously my favorite part of the meal. :)

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  17. Wow, what a fun dinner! The food pics look amazing, but that cocktail looks so, so delish!!!

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  18. I still haven't gone. lol I want to try their 7 course dessert tasting menu.

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  19. he was so gracious and eloquent on the show...i'm glad that it was real and not some "fakery" that he put on for show.

    i saw that you usually take notes during your meals, do you bring a pen and notepad with you :-)?

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  20. I almost never take notes. Usually, I'll commit things to memory and/or take a snapshot of the menu. I only pull out pen and paper when there is no menu.

    There is no menu for the chef's menu at Providence unless you request it as a guide or memento. :)

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  21. Hi weezermonkey,

    Very nice review. :) One of the things I really appreciate about Providence is that their Tasting Menus always change. Your visit here looks completely different from my last visit and the one before that, etc. :)

    Great pictures once again. :)

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  22. I'm so, so, so, so jealous that you got a tour of the kitchen! Providence was one of the best meals I ever had in my life. Looks like you guys had a great time celebrating your anniversary :)

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  23. That's RAD that you got to go in the kitchen and meet the chef!

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  24. We were just there for dinner this weekend for the Mr.'s birthday. It was amazing! I loved the sea urchin egg. I dream about its deliciousness. We had the scallop and it was also to die for. It was his favorite and my second.

    When we made the reservation I searched your blog for a review because I thought you had to have gone there. Glad to see that you captured all the details.

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  25. Those are 3 of my favorite drinks -- I have a feeling I'd LOVE this place!

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  26. Fabulous! He was so cute on Top Chef Masters - in fact, I think that group was my favorite of the first four weeks. I love that you got a picture with him!! :D

    I vote TFL for your 4th anniversary celebration. ;)

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  27. Sounds like you had the same great meal I just had Sunday. I, however, did not get a menu to take home. But I did get the Unagi, so maybe I'll call it even. Wondering if you could do me a favor. I got the wine pairings as well, I'm trying to remember the wine I had paired with the Turbot. I'm hoping your menu has the recommended pairings printed on it as well. Would appreciate it tons if you could check your menu and let me know, thanks.

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  28. I love your enthusiasm for food. Makes me feel less ebarassed about my own. ;)

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  29. oh my goodness, i think even i might be tempted to order those shots.

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  30. Christopher, the turbot was paired with Anjou, "Les Pepinieres" Domaine Jo Pithon 2005.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  31. I can't even imagine going to a place like this for a meal. I would feel totally out of my element. But I like having the inside scoop from reading this. My boss actually went there last night, he's big into the Michelin starred restaurants too, French Laundry being his favorite. Great pictures once again!

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  32. Wow great pictures! Looked like you guys had a fantastic time. I was also thinking about getting my dad the "Chef's Special", knowing him and how stingy he is with money, if you gave him an ala cart menu, he would probably order only one thing! Thanks for this review

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