y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: 2011

In Celebration of Providence Chef's Table

Since I've been a bit nostalgic in recent posts, and it's the last day of the year, I thought one more recap would appropriately tie up things for 2011.

My life has been full of fine dining and amazing experience trying foods in various countries, states and cities. So many extraordinary food memories pop out, like Christmas dinner in Paris, but it was before I took food photos. The earlier experiences live on in my memory, and in some cases, travel journals.

One of the tastiest, exciting and elegant meals I've had - probably 'ever' - goes back two years ago. The Chef's Table at the two-Michelin star rated, James Beard Award winning Providence in Hollywood takes the prize with flawless food and service.

I took over 100 photos of that meal, which lasted over 6 hours (till past 2:00 a.m. on a Monday night!). After returning to the restaurant earlier this year, the sommelier still recognized and remembered me! I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.

Let me share some of the highlights of the 16-course tasting menu meal in photos.

Chef Michael Cimarusti and team
The chef's table had a view of the kitchen, with a glass partition. Chef Michael Cimarusti normally takes Mondays off in this kitchen, but to our surprise and delight, he was there that day for a special group dining (beside us...ha ha).

We met and chatted earlier that year at Jonathan's Gold Union Station Speakeasy Cocktail Party, and he actually remembered that too, which impressed me even more than his stellar cooking talent and laid back demeanor.

Amuse bouche - trio of cocktails - greyhound, gin and tonic, mojito. They suggested what order to try these.

Amuse bouche - Cured Tasmanian smoked sea trout, a gruyere gougère, wasabi pea encrusted soy marshmallow and carrot soup with vadouvan whipped cream. Eaten from left to right.

Trio of breads. Bacon brioche, nori (roasted seaweed) focaccia, and white. Cold unsalted butter with coarse sea salt was served chilled along with the bread.

Tartar of Hokkaido scallop with nasturtium blossoms and grated wasabi, with crispy rice crackers.

Amberjack (kanpachi) sashimi, smoked sesame seeds, avocado, slices of summer truffle, soy crème fraîche and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil from Provence.

I didn't take many notes during the meal, wanting to take quick photos and devour the food, but my dining companion spent about as much time writing as he did eating.

Santa Barbara sea urchin served in a farm fresh brown egg with champagne beurre blanc, fines herbes, toasted brioche bits, and American transmontanus caviar.

The warm yoke sat on the bottom of the shell. The lovely bird's nest holder elevated this gorgeous dish's presentation even further.

The movie star handsome sommelier, Drew Langley paired the wines with our courses.

We took advantage of the no corkage on Monday nights and brought multiple bottles of wine to accompany the meal.

General Manager Donato Poto, gracefully and expertly preparing the next course.

Santa Barbara spot prawns grilled over Japanese binchotan charcoal with prawn roe, rosemary, cold pressed olive oil and lemon wedges.

The prawns arrived on a rolling cart, drowning in a sea of 400 degree salt and rosemary sprigs.

I absolutely love tableside dining, and it does not get any better than this.

Unagi (eel) over summer truffle carnaroli risotto, fried quail egg, eel jus, and  seaweed. The crispy barbequed eel skin really enhanced this dish.

Wild John Dory grilled over binchotan with burdock two ways, tomato confit, shiso, and lemon buerre blanc. The burdock was both fried and pickled.

At some point, Donato brought in a dish of seasonal white truffles, delicately perched on a bed of rice. The indescribable intoxicating aroma enticed us.

But this item was not part of our tasting meal. We had an option to add on a course of risotto made with these truffles, but chose not to since our meal was already quite decadent.

Niman Ranch pork belly, cured 24 hours and cooked sous vide 7 hours, with carrot-orange purée, pickled ramps, mizuna, and carrot-ginger butter.

Chef Cimarusti performing finishing touches.

Wild French turbot with matsutake mushroom, rosemary, butter, and chervil. The sauce consisted of the turbot's braising liquid, sake and butter.

Saddle and tenderloin of Colorado lamb cooked sous vide and seared, cauliflower florets, tomato compote infused with vadouvan, biryani masala, chic pea panisses and fried parsley.

Our cheese course did not disappoint. Our cheese sommelier rolled in the cheese cart of well over 20 cheeses and made brilliant recommendations.

Cheese accoutrements of fresh figs, bread, walnuts and chutneys.

Among the cheeses we sampled were:
  • Ossau-Iraty-Brebris, a French sheep's milk cheese
  • Hooligan from Cato Corner Farm, a cow cheese
  • Sofia from Capriole Farmstead, a goat cheese
  • Tomme de chèvre, another goat cheese
  • Rogue River Blue, a cow cheese, beautifully wrapped in grape leaves.

Let me also throw in the cheese plate from another meal at Providence, containing a spoon of Époisses de Burgundy, a rather strong-smelling, funky classic cow's milk cheese. It's not for the faint of heart!

Coffee service with desserts began.

Calamansi gelée with white chocolate coconut soy milk soup and lychee-shiso sorbet.

Melon soup with blackberries, lime granita, vanilla ice cream and mint.

Banana Cream Pie. Compressed bananas with lemon fleur de sel, chantilly foam, banana bread streusel, graham cracker ice cream.

This deconstructed, modern looking dish tasted of the tried and true comfort of the banana cream pie, my favorite type of pie. Perfect.

Milk chocolate-whiskey panna cotta, Bailey's ice cream, chocolate streusel and coconut raviolo.

Again, familiar flavors presented in a very modern way. The coconut milk spherification worked really well with these other creamy flavors, as did the salty sweet flavors.

Petits fours of coconut shortbread cookies, baby's breath jelly cubes, and house made caramel Tootsie Rolls.

Even after four dessert courses, we were offered more house made sweets.

A sweet ending to a remarkable and unforgettable meal. So much so that I felt compelled to blog about it 2 years after it happened. Even if I should never engage in fine dining again, I know I had a supreme experience.

With that, let everyone's year end, and the new one begin, with similarly delightful experiences.

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