Brian Redzikowski Claustro
@ the BreadBar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
I've been trying to understand the underlying meaning behind the name "Claustro." Apparently, "Claustro" is Latin for "barrier" or "lock"--something Redzikowski is trying to eliminate in the restaurant dining experience. The idea is that there would be more of connection between the kitchen staff and the dining guests. Was this "barrier" overcome at Brian Redzikowski's recent night at the BreadBar's Hatchi event? While some dishes were "finished" at the table, was it really any more interactive than at any other restaurant? Not noticeably so to me...
I've noticed that Redzikowski's creations tend to start with classical French traditions but end with a slight Japanese influence--a cultural combination that seems to be popular. Currently executive chef at The Thompson, Redzikowski used this opportunity to be a little more technically daring and to experiment with dishes he'd want to serve when he opens his own restaurant. For more info, read this interview. With some more experimenting, this concept could be promising...
watermelon, tomato, pistachio, soy
The best part of this dish was the similar visual appearance of the cubed raw tuna and fresh water melon. The transparent cherry tomato water film and the tiny pieces of pistachio didn't really add much for me. What stood out was the contrast in texture and flavor between the sweet, crunchy watermelon and the soft tuna with "umami" droplets of soy sauce. The idea was smart and playful, though the flavor combination was nothing new.
uni, salsa verde
I really wanted to like this dish. I love fried stuff fried squash blossoms and I LOVE uni. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations. What stood out immediately was the creamy mouth-feel of the stuffing, then taste of oily fried batter, and finally at the end you get a slight hint of the uni flavor...and I mean slight. The salsa verde added a nice slightly spicy component to the dish.
fuji apple, foie gras, potato
This dish was interesting because I've never had unagi with potato. I have to say, it's a good idea. The potato made the eel taste creamier and even fattier. I've also never had shaved frozen foie gras. A large block of frozen foie was "zested" with a microplane onto the dish at the table. The little sprinkling of foie added another rich, unctuous layer of flavor when mixed with the creamy sauce underneath. I can't say I really noticed the thin slices of apple, though it was a nice idea.
rancho gordo beans, chive
I was not impressed by this offering of langoustine. In fact, I was pretty disappointed. The texture of langoustine was off--instead of sweet and snappy, it was more mushy than anything. Mushy is not a word you want associated with seafood. At first glance I thought the beans were boiled peanuts and I got excited. Turns out, they weren't peanuts and they weren't particularly exciting.
artichoke, hoji blanca
The halibut was severely under-seasoned and actually kind of dry. The olive oil three ways--powder, pudding, and foam--is the only thing worth noting in this dish. Even so, the powder had no flavor and the foam was just there, but thankfully, the strip of olive oil pudding was fairly interesting.
Beautiful presentation of marbled steak with dainty accompaniments of morel, asparagus, carrot spherification, a French onion soup chip, pearl onion, a cute miniature twine-tied bouquet garnis, and a giant clove of roasted garlic. We were instructed to break open the carrot spherification and use the carrot purée inside as a sauce. Sadly, the beef wasn't as tender or melt-in-my-mouth fatty as I was expecting, but the sweet caramelized onions hidden underneath beef were deliciously sweet. The whole dish had flavors of a French onion soup, and it's safe to say, the vegetables out-shined the meat.
Asahi, acacia honey
This beer float was hand-down, my favorite of the night. Frosty, light and refreshing, it was ridiculously addicting. I wanted an entire glass of it to myself. I imagine this would be perfect in the summertime while lounging by the pool. Now I just have to figure out how to recreate this...
The second dessert of the night was also very good. Redzikowski clearly excelled in the dessert department that night. The caramel panna cotta was delicious and reminded us of cereal milk. The popcorn foam and actual pieces of caramelized popcorn were very pleasant--thankfully, the popcorn wasn't soggy. The caramel powder stuck together and reformed into a sticky blob of sticky sweet goodness. The preserved cherries went surprisingly well with the rest of the flavors. I loved everything about this dessert.
My dining companion Helen and I both agreed that the desserts were better than the savory plates offered that night. Although I didn't enjoy some of the dishes, I still found the menu as a whole to be interesting. Also, I would love another one of those Asahi beer floats right now :)