For the past year, Top Chef-testant Leah Cohen [Season 5] was traveling all over SouthEast Asia [yep and she blogged about it too, woot!]b So for four nights, Chef is serving up a 5-course menu [with or without the cocktail pairings] here at L.T.O. [Limited Time Only]
A little bit about the restaurant… same space, same name, same servers but they constantly, and consistently, change up the chefs/restaurants that do pop-ups here. VERY cool concept – especially with the recent boomage/popularity of pop-up restaurants. Very clever….
I got there a few minutes early and sat at the bar with a glass of bubbly while I waited for Z to get there. I was asked by the bartender if I wanted “house sparkling” or “champagne”… I asked him which one was better, confused since I’ve never heard of ‘House Sparkling Wine’… I know there’s always House Red and House White, which unless is in Italy, usually isn’t too great, but not bubbles. He whispered “Champagne is better…” haha cute. And yes, it was tasty.
We were seated at a tiny little table in the back next to the DJ booth, but Z knew me too well and asked for the big booth with the nice squishy comfy seats for us. :] YAY! My butt is happy!
Steak Tartare with Truffle Oil on a Freshly Fried Taro Chip
And so it begins…. MMMMM… I LOVEEEE steak tartare… I LOOOOOVOEEE taro chips and, of course, I LOOOOOOVE truffles. The taro chip wasn’t greasy at all, perfectly fried [or maybe since it wasn’t greasy it was baked? Regardless, perfectly crunchy and flavorful] The steak was chunky and super tender. The crisp greens added another textural fresh element to the bite. And of course, the truffles were AMAZING. I did feel, however, that the truffle oil masked the natural flavors of the steak itself. It was an amazing bite, but I kind of missed the meaty taste of the beef itself.
Delicious concoction of Prosecco, lemon and vodka.
To be honest, I’ve been kind of scared of overly sweet cocktails since Luckyrice. While I do enjoy a cocktail once in awhile, I don’t think I had drunken so many cocktails in my life, COMBINED [college included] as I did that night. THIS drink looked evil but was delicious. Bubbly, light.. did not taste alcoholic at ALL – aka EVIL… – I could’ve drank these ALL night.
Bean Sprouts, Coriander, Sriracha
Adorably plated and executed. Reminded me of my favorite Taiwanese classic, 蚵仔煎 Oyster Pancakes.. The bottom of this omelet was a nice starchy fried crunchy “pancake” bottom. Despite the liquid surrounding the bottom from the cooked sprouts and mussels, it stayed crunchy. The egg itself was perfectly cooked – although I could’ve done with a few more mussels, when I did get a bite of mussel, it was delicious. I LOVED the crunchy fresh bean sprouts. It played perfectly with the creamy mussels, the fried egg and the “heavier” crunchy bottom… of course I love cilantro – always refreshing in any meal and when I did get some sriracha in my bites [more sprinkling of it please] I was in heaven. You definitely need some of each element to create the perfect bite.
Champagne Raspberry Cocktail
Watermelon, Crispy Skin, Lime Chili Dressing
My favorite dish of the night and the dish I was most looking forward to. Fatty fatty pork neck with melt in your mouth meat and a super crispy skin. The watermelon was slightly cooked and super refreshing. The lime chili dressing, i actually did not expect to like but it was SO delicious and perfectly balanced.
Separately I enjoyed the white wine but I actually found it not very complimenting to the next dish…perhaps it was because of the Chinese sausage…
Chinese Sausage, Cockles, Yuzu, Dashi, Thai Basil
COCKLES!!!!!!! And for once, a yuzu dish that isn’t overpoweringly yuzu tasting! Brilliant. I really liked the dish.. the cockles were cooked perfectly and the chinese sausage added a great spice and fatty element to the dish. It was diced really small, which I’m actually not used to as much.. because even my mommy’s fried rice with diced Chinese sausage has pretty huge chunks of the stuff… it was a very light sausage – also another thing I rarely see – and the cod, perfectly cooked, tender, and had a generous thick toasted rice topping. While, Z didn’t really find it good with the fish, I loved the play on the texture with the fish – I just found it hard to cut into.
Last savory dish of the night..and while very yummy, left me wanting more… #hungry
Star Fruit, Rice Noodles, Peanuts, Herbs
I loved the starfruit addition to the dish, Z did not. He thought it was weird, I thought it was brilliant. My dish was a bit sloppy but the servings were huge – which was funny because throughout the night I kept getting larger portions than Z did. The steak was cooked perfectly but I found it to be a bit too sweet. The rice noodles were cooked great but cut into small pieces so it was really hard to eat – not to mention I REALLY wanted some chopsticks to eat this dish with. I loved the addition of peanuts. Crunch crunch crunch – and of course the chili peppers and cilantro are always a plus for me.
Lastly there was dessert… that came with a very very slightly sweet dessert wine – which is great since usually they’re TOO sweet and overpowering compared TO the dessert, this was perfect, light and crisp.
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream, Bananas, Pecans, Bourbon Palm Sugar Syrup
To be honest, before I really dive into how amazing this dessert was – I didn’t think much of it. I love pain perdu – basically a dessert version of French Toast – it’s been done. BUT this just may be the best of the night. Ok, I lie I loved the pork neck, but this was Z’s favorite, in fact he STILL can’t stop talking about it. It was a good dessert though – simple, just sweet enough, texturally great, and just YUM! The crunch of the nuts, the silky smooth ice cream and the creamy, yes CREAMY, pain perdu…. with the sweet caramelized bananas – mmm I want bananas foster now – THIS was SUCH a great way to end the night, and one of the best desserts I’ve had in awhile. :] No lie.
Full, fat and happy…
After dinner, I was sad that Leah didn’t really come out to talk to any of the tables so I asked our waiter if I could meet the Chef… waiting patiently we saw her come out, make her way all around the room AND…….. skipped us!!!! SO SAD…. but then one of the servers pointed out that we were the ones who requested to meet her so happy Tiff Tiff again… we chatted for awhile asking about her dishes and her travels around Asia. HELLLLZ YEAH, she went to Taiwan, and loved it. She said she spent the majority of her trip in Thailand.. which was very apparent in her dishes that night. She was really sweet.. and when we went to take a picture together she freaked out about my height [haha] and asked if her eyes were closed in the pic. In which I promptly replied, “I’m the asian one, shouldn’t I be asking that?!” Hahaha… She also mentioned that while she wasn’t allowed to talk about it she was opening a restaurant soon which will also be based on SouthEast Asian flavors.. YUM! I can’t wait.