’Scuse me while I taste the sky

Pasatiempo - - Restaurant Review - Su­san Mead­ows

Some great chefs cre­ate ex­quis­ite ar­chi­tec­ture where fla­vors build upon one an­other to some heady al­ti­tude. Oth­ers ground their cook­ing in es­sen­tial fla­vors and then com­bine them in ways that even as they sur­prise seem like clas­sics you just haven’t dis­cov­ered yet. The cook­ing of chef Martín Rios of Restau­rant Martín re­minds me of James Tur­rell’s sculp­tures — the ones made only with light that nev­er­the­less seem to have weight and sub­stance.

Rios’ fla­vor pro­file is like a stained-glass win­dow — in­tense washes of translu­cent color an­chored with the oc­ca­sional opaque con­trast: an earthy con­fit gar­lic in the mid­dle of a bright ap­ple juli­enne and wa­ter­cress salad. Or nuggets of Point Reyes Farm­stead blue cheese that cast a funky shadow in the lemon bright­ness of a swath of Meyer lemon foam high­light­ing a Chiog­gia beet and piñon salad.

In the tex­ture realm, he is fond of pastes and foams to vary­ing ef­fects. A tar­ragon foam with Maine diver sea scal­lops mostly tasted like air, but a crus­tacean foam with jumbo blue lump crab was a breath of the sea — a shock­ingly pure taste of shell­fish that al­most makes you gasp like hav­ing cold air in the lungs and then im­me­di­ately dis­ap­pears into, well, thin air. The pep­pered gnoc­chi ac­com­pa­ni­ment, how­ever, was too pasty for me — even if the word “pasta” trans­lates di­rectly as “paste.” A thick pen­cil of chocolate-fla­vored cream on a crunchy co­coa cracker as part of a wildly ex­trav­a­gant dessert worked bet­ter — like a kid’s dream of chocolate tooth­paste, though this kid wanted the chocolate to be more in­tense.

Pre­ci­sion in such del­i­cate kitchen chem­istry is key, so per­fectly pan-roasted or­ganic chicken or an enor­mous Kurobuta (re­lated to Berk­shire) pork chop seems nat­u­ral — and the fla­vor div­i­dend richly re­wards or­der­ing these seem­ingly ba­nal main cour­ses. A rich and salty duck breast gets a wake-up call from a parsnip purée so that to­gether they cre­ate a sen­sa­tion. The truf­fle oil-drenched orzo mac and cheese with the roasted chicken, though, is a sur­pris­ing ex­am­ple of a tired food fad that needs to fade. This is sur­pris­ing be­cause Rios usu­ally makes his own fads, and they are rarely short of spec­tac­u­lar. The mac and cheese also lacked any dis­cernible cheese. The sort of creamy cheesi­ness we as­so­ciate with that com­fort food is not his taste, any­way. His style is mas­car­pone whipped into a risotto with Nan­tucket Bay scal­lops in which the slight sweet­ness of the scal­lops and the cheese play so well to­gether you don’t want them to stop. I was also sur­prised by a slip-up with the pop­u­lar bit­ter­sweet truf­fle cake, which is sup­posed to be what the French call a moelleux au cho­co­lat — a warm cake with a molten chocolate cen­ter. I’ve never en­joyed the molten cen­ter, how­ever, though I have tan­ta­liz­ingly spied it across the room. When fully cooked it’s just chocolate cake.

For spring, Rios is cre­at­ing desserts that are like play­grounds for Lil­liputians and re­quire a dic­tio­nary of ge­o­met­ri­cal ob­jects to de­scribe. A fan­tasy of straw­berry pyra­mids con­served in honey are mortared by a tangy cream to a yo­gurt cake stand­ing on one end of a berry sauce pond across from a mon­u­men­tal cylin­der of red grape and pectin (de­scribed as “chewy”) sor­bet. The above-men­tioned co­coa cracker plank rested on an ap­par­ently egg­less, al­most clear chocolate “flan” near a mound of hazel­nut ice cream and across an­other lake of berry sauce from a log of more chocolate cream, or paste, or some­thing in be­tween. All of which was mostly more in­ter­est­ing, beau­ti­ful, and cre­ative than fun­da­men­tally de­li­cious — ex­cept the lus­cious­ness of the yo­gurt cake and cream. Such in­ven­tion is a re­ward in it­self.

Rios’ purist strain trans­lates to the min­i­mal­ist dé­cor and a well-se­lected wine list. The Schloss Voll­rads Ries­ling is fruity up front and fin­ishes with bright lemon, a good foil for seafood. The Château des Tu­quets Bordeaux has good tan­nins, to­bacco and smoke, and other darkly in­ter­est­ing un­der­cur­rents. Seek­ers of pu­rity, of rev­e­la­tions of fla­vor, will bask in the light of Restau­rant Martín.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.