At $8 a plate, this was one of the best and most memorable meals I've had in LA recently. Perhaps it was the novelty of recreating traditional deli foods in non-traditional ways that piqued my interest. Perhaps it was simply my love for good pastrami. All I know is, as my friend Denise and I shared our way through each of the 8 offerings, we were continually enthralled and delighted by the dishes placed before us.
It seemed appropriate that Saul Cooperstein, SBE's Managing Director Business Development, would now take a turn in the BreadBar kitchen. SBE's Restaurant division is responsible for bringing some of the biggest names in the culinary industry to Los Angeles. These include Michael Mina with XIV by Michael Mina and José Andrés with The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel--restaurants where I've had wonderful experiences. More than a third of the guests chefs previously featured in the BreadBar Hatchi series, including Michael Voltaggio, Marcel Vigneron, and Waylynn Lucas were veterans of The Bazaar. For more info and an interview with Saul, visit Food GPS.
With flavors closely associated to traditional Jewish delis, Saul created dishes that provided the comfort of deli foods while transforming them into something never seen before. This he dubbed Deli 2010. He drew obvious inspiration from his friends in the restaurant industry--from what I could tell, namely José Andrés with the spherifications and tomato-melon skewers (just to name a few).
Everything was executed perfectly. The level of attention that went into the event--from menu-planning to menu-printing--was obvious. The 8 dishes progressed from lighter fare to more robust and hearty dishes. I overheard the table next to us (people who worked with Saul) talking about how Saul went to a specific store to find the specific kind of paper he wanted to print his menu on...a little hardcore but the paper did feel nice :)
Saul Cooperstein Deli 2010
@ the BreadBar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
We had a 6PM reservation and was the first table seated thus it was still quiet and calm in the restaurant. While the ambiance of the BreadBar is nice, it does get a little loud once all the tables are full. The sun was still out when we began our meal and the lighting was perfect for taking pictures of the beautiful dishes. As the evening progressed, the tables started filling up in the blink of an eye (most of the patrons seemed to be acquaintances of Saul) and my pictures became a little less pristine by dessert.
Matzo Ball Soup
Clarified Chicken Stock, Smoked Matzo Ball, 'Chicken Noodles', Soup vegetables, Horseradish and Fresh Dill
A steaming hot bowl of matzo ball soup is not easy to photograph. My pictures don't do it justice. The glass soup bowl that the soup was served in was beautiful. I would love a set myself. The soup itself was just as good. Texturally, the 'chicken noodles' were exactly like noodles found in chicken noodle soup. Flavor-wise, it was simply the pure essence of chicken. Pretty pleasantly surprising. The matzo ball, however, was of the denser variety. The mini root vegetables in the soup were also delicious. Look how cute that baby radish is! or is it a baby turnip?
Bagel with Lox 'Nigiri'
Puffed Rice, House Cured and Smoked Wild King Salmon, Dill Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon Roe and Red Onion
This was another gorgeous dish served in an interesting plate. I couldn't stop snapping pictures of it. While it wasn't big on substance, it was big on flavor. My friend D looked at me and said, "This taste exactly like lox!" The smoked salmon wasn't excessively salty at all and the salmon roe provided nice pops of richness. I'm sure we could've both eaten like 10 of them and still craved more.
Japanese A-5 Wagyu Rib Cap Corned Beef (Saul's Corned Beef), Béchamel, Gruyere, Jalsberg, Sauerkraut and Toasted Caraway Seeds all Coated and Fried in Rye Bread Crumbs with Thousand Island
One of the richer courses we encountered, it was still very well-balanced. While it was deliciously creamy inside, the bread crumb crust still managed to be so delicately thin and crispy. The little dollop of thousand island dressing on top completed the reuben flavor profile.
Deboned Rack of Lamb, Cured and Smoked with Vadouvan and Traditional Spices, Toasted Pita, Cole Slaw 'Tzatziki'
--Served with a Melon and Pickled Tomato Skewer
The transition from the rich croquette to this lamb pita is a perfect example of how well thought out the menu was. The tzatziki was incredibly refreshing with the flavors of greek tzatziki but the texture of cole slaw. The vadouvan cured lamb was tender and slightly sweet. The toasted pita folded up into the perfect mode of transportation from plate to mouth. The pickled tomato and melon skewer completed the bright-tasting dish.
Sky High Sandwich
Warm Veal Pastrami Stacked High on Pumpernickel with Sweet and Hot Mustard
--Served with Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips
This pastrami sandwich was ridiculous! It was so good. I'm drooling just thinking about it right now. The veal was sliced so thin and spiced so wonderfully. It was sweet and juicy and perfectly salty. I've never had pastrami this orgasmic. Each bite of the tender meat almost brought tears to my eyes. The salt and vinegar chips, on the other hand, literally brought tears to my eyes--some were way too vinegary! However, they were interesting because the potatoes themselves were sliced so thin and fried to such a crisp that it was like eating salt and vinegar air.
Saul's Pastrami Sandwich
Japanese A-5 Wagyu Rib Cap Pastrami (Saul's Pastrami), Served Warm on Jewish Rye with Deli Brown Mustard
--Served with a Half Sour Pickle Spherification
Saul's Pastrami is cooked sous vide to medium rare instead of being steamed to well-done like traditional pastrami made from brisket. Although this is his signature dish, it was a little bit on the fatty side for me. Obviously the flavor is in the fat, but it was just a little too much. And had I not just inhaled the beauty and perfection of the veal pastrami minutes before, I might've enjoyed this sandwich more. Still, it was without a doubt, a formidable pastrami sandwich, and I didn't leave a single scrap behind--not even a sliver of fat. The sour pickle spherification tasted like a freshly-made pickle when eaten with the disk of cucumber underneath and was a nice foil to the richness of the sandwich. Obviously this was one part of the dish Denise and I couldn't share. Spherifications are meant for personal enjoyment ;) Thus, our server graciously brought out another one for us.
Cinnamon Babka French Toast, Vanilla Bourbon Maple Syrup, and Orange Blossom Ice Cream
By this point, we were more than ready for dessert. Traditional babka is a yeast dough baked in a loaf pan with cinnamon or chocolate and topped with streusel. This take on babka did not disappoint. It reminded me of bread pudding--but bread pudding to the hundredth power. It had crunchy edges of caramelized cinnamon sugar and a gooey, sticky sweet center. This was the best french toast/bread pudding I'd ever had. The orange blossom ice cream reminded us of a orange creamsicle but in a very good way. Our only wish was that the quenelle of ice cream had been larger!
Cream Cheese Ruguelach, Passion fruit "Apple Sauce" and Crispy Passion fruit Meringue
Sadly, the rugelach were unmemorable. Merely pieces of what tasted like puff pastry. At least they were warm. I love the flavor of passion fruit and meringues are one of my severe obsessions. I had such high expectation for this dessert. The passion fruit "apple sauce" was the only thing that made this dish worth eating. The meringues I prefer to pretend didn't exist on the plate. They were soggy and sticky--not anything like a meringue should be.
Even with a slightly disappointing parting dessert, Denise and I still left completely satisfied and raving about the food. I've said this before and I'll say it again--it is ALWAYS infinitely more enjoyable to eat with people who also enjoy food. Luckily, she was also very accommodating and didn't mind me snapping a few pictures :)
If Saul's approach for Deli 2010 was to have fun while presenting approachable deli flavors using both techniques and products that would not likely be found in your average corner deli, he more than succeeded. My craving for a veal pastrami is almost unbearable right now. Too bad the pastrami at the corner deli can't even compare.