Monday, December 21, 2009

Top Dining -- The Michael Voltaggio Show


On Saturday, we made the trek
To see this season's hot Top Chef.
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Our friends, The Cruisers, met us here.
Fine dining fun and much good cheer!

On every wall, there was a ship --
So strange 'cause Mikey V. is hip.
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A renovation's in the works.
Meanwhile, the contrast's just berserk.

We knew ahead what we would get.
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You know the tasting's the best bet.

Bread so good, you might fill up.
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Bacon, truffle, yup yup yup.

Amuse bouche -- almost holy,
Dehydrated guacamole!
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Loved these fancy chips and guac!
Made me smile! Man, they rocked!

I wish I could go on rhyming, but now it's time for the real show. Behold the art of Chef Michael Voltaggio! The Plating Picasso of Pasadena!

Japanese shima aji, pickled baby peach, sea sponge, bonito.
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This fresh firm fish topped with an aquatic marshmallow kicked things off beautifully. The sweet, tangy, and lightly crisp accompaniments paired well.

Langoustine, young fennel, lobster mushroom lasagna.
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Excellent. Meaty meaty langoustine. Rich and creamy lasagna. Great juxtaposition.

Foie gras, blood orange, salsify, aerated brioche.
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What's better than foie gras? Foie gras with fruit filling inside! Sublime.

Skate wing, brown butter, scrambled cauliflower, caper powder.
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Really really enjoyed this. I wish everything could be prepared in brown butter. The fish was absolutely delectable.

Pastrami pigeon, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, rye.
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I love pastrami, but I don't love squab (well, at least not as much as I love other tiny fowl). I didn't know how I'd react to this dish. The verdict? Pure joy! A salty juicy masterpiece! (That's what she said!)

Japanese Kuroge beef, marrow toast, matsutake, Bordelaise sauce.
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East meets West meets Awesome. The meat was luscious and the marrow decadent.

Nitro egg nog.
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This is how Dippin' Dots are done at The Dining Room, dude. Damn delish.

Fool's Gold, chocolate, salty hazelnut praline, milk sorbet.
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This was the ladies' dessert. Not sure why women are always given chocolate. I find this practice very...Cathy. I hate that stupid comic strip. But I digress. I only had a few nibbles of this because too much chocolate gives me hives, but what little I had was quite yummy.

Baba au rhum, exotic fruits.
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This was the gentlemen's dessert. Now this, dear readers, was something. Super dreamy. Ms. Cruiser said it best: "It tastes like vacation." I can't think of higher praise than that.

Chocolate pop rock suckers, lemon fennel mini macarons, fruit gelées.
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While most tiny things taste better than their large versions, mini macarons always disappoint me. These had a very interesting flavor -- tart and herby -- but the consistency of mini macarons never rises to the greatness of their regular-sized cousins. They sure are cute, though.

The gelées were gelées. Fine but nothing crazy. Of note, however, the wrappers were edible. We had a good time noshing on faux cellophane.
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The chocolate pop rock suckers were a hit with the boys. They had...a blast with them.

The whole night was a blast. It always is with The Cruisers. And it got even better when we all visited the kitchen and chatted with Chef Voltaggio.
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Don't believe all the TV editing. We found him to be quite nice. He asked us about our favorite dishes, was really excited about a visit to the restaurant by The Office writing staff a week before, and lamented about his long commute from Venice to Pasadena. Totally down-to-earth guy.

The one thing you should believe from TV is that Michael Voltaggio is an exceptional talent and is entirely deserving of the Top Chef title.

And, even if you think he is cocky, guess what? He can back it up and then some.

Go to The Dining Room and experience the magic for yourself. Not every chef can bring whimsy on a plate in a room full of old, framed 3D clipper ship dioramas.


  1. Whoo hoo! I agree with everything you said 100%. I will do just about anything to keep MV here in LA. T

  2. You are so lucky! I have been wanting to try Michael's dishes since the beginning of this season of Top Chef. Food looks like it was fantastic, glad it's living up to the hype! PS-don't tell my H, but I have a mini-crush on Michael V. Love his confidence!! :)

  3. OK, I need to move to LA because suddenly, just reading about your life and your food adventures isn't cutting it anymore. I had a lean cuisine for dinner last night, and you met the Top Chef. So jealous ...

  4. I've been waiting for this review (and the pictures of the food) since your facebook tease! Everything looks amazing!!


  5. I'm not sure how I feel about pastrami pigeon. The rest looks wonderful.

  6. Eeeeee! I'm so excited that you got to meet him!!! I'm seeing the ILs Friday - we're totally making reservations for after the New Year. :)

  7. "Pablo Picasso of Pasadena" indeed. The food looks like delicious art. What a beautiful dining experience! I want to go NOW!

  8. I don't watch Top Chef, but that all looks pretty awesome!

  9. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! I <3 him! So jealous that you got to meet the man, himself.

  10. Agree with you 100% about the food and the chef. I already want to go back.

  11. EEE! must. go. maybe after the clipper ship renovation?

  12. dippin' dots? edible wrappers? fruit filled foie gras? sounds like a great evening.

  13. I'm so excited his restaurant is in LA, hopefully, I'll be able to check it out soon!

  14. Wow. Very impressive! I love that you got to meet MV afterwards!

  15. I gave him a bit of a rough time in my Top Chef recaps, but I always suspected Bravo was doing some sneaky editing. I'm glad to hear that he really was the deserved victor, and it is certainly good to hear that he is a nice guy to boot.

  16. I was hoping you'd rhyme all the way through ;-)

    Dude, I hate Cathy too. She's soiled my name with nonsense.

  17. You are so freakin' lucky to have noshed on Michael's food!! I loved his creations while watching Top Chef this past season!!! So happy to hear that his restaurant is close by, too!!! All of his courses looked so yummy. :D

  18. Even this non-fish lover can say those dishes look gorgeous. How come fish always looks so much better than it tastes?

  19. HAHA i love Calcetines comment. [I'm feeling the same way]

  20. I haven't been there since before he took over.

    And, SO awesome you got to meet him!!

  21. Gotta say, loved the rhyming at the beginning.

    Now, since I live/work in Pasadena, it's almost a disservice of me not hitting up The Langham w/ Voltaggio sometime in 2010!

  22. i desperately want to get there before they shut down for the renovation. DESPERATELY.

  23. ::swoon:: I'm happy to hear he's a nice guy, the editing did make him look a little douche-y.


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