Today marks another Dine LA Quickfire Challenge – this time, featuring cold noodles. Starry Kitchen, one of the hot spots to hit for Pan-Asian dishes will be hosting, and it’ll be Chef Octavio Beccera from Palate Food & Wine and Chef Brendan Collins from Waterloo & City going head-to-head.
Of course, there will be a surprise ingredient the chefs will have to incorporate in their dish. It’s Starry Kitchen so it’s only fitting that that ingredient will be either Oyster Sauce, Hoisin Sauce or Coconut Milk. Judging this Quickfire will be Thi Tran, Starry Kitchen Executive Chef, Jeff Miller of Thrillst and Krista Simmons from L.A. Times’ Brand X. And, as a prize, the winning dish will be featured on Starry Kitchen’s regular menu throughout Fall 2010 dineLA Restaurant Week.
During the challenge, $5 bites will allow attendees to preview Starry Kitchen’s Dine LA menu:
Crispy Tofu Balls
Young Banana and Tapioca in Caramel Coconut Milk
And if you’re still up for more, the official after-party is just across the plaza at CASA Cocina y Cantina with complimentary passed appetizers to preview their own Dine LA menu, including Turduckenizo Albondigas, Tamale de Elote, and Mini Tacos de Camarones Fritos. Drink specials will also be offered.
Last Thursday, merely the day after Blogger Prom, I joined Josh Lurie of Food GPS and Chef Ben Bailly of Petrossian West Hollywood in judging the second of four Quickfire Challenges hosted by Dine LA in promotion for their upcoming restaurant weeks.
The challenge was cold soup, and it was a contest of the Italian and French schools of culinary arts. Fifteen minutes were allowed and the “surprise” ingredient was Alverta President caviar – a premier, new American strain of caviar. Chef Akira Hirose prepared a potato leek soup that had much of its treasures buried at the bottom. We, the judges, were instructed to go to the bottom to scoop up the essence of everything that was in the cold soup. And, so we did. The salmon was perfectly smoked, the yuzuÂ packed a refreshing citrus punch, the hazelnut and potato leek carried weight, and the thick soup had great complexities overall. The piquillo pepper that dotted the soup was a nice touch, spicing up the soup a tad.
Alas, it was then time to try Chef Celestino Drago’s creation. True to form, it was a cold gazpacho incorporating the juices of fresh, yellow and red heirloom tomatoes. Cucumber juice provided a bit of green color and rounded out the sweetness of the tomatoes. The juices enveloped a bit of guacamole – the weight in this soup – along with orange zest and yuzu in the martini glasses, which further brightened the concoction. Then came the caviar and diced cucumber. Basil oil was drizzled and croutons were floated atop the cold soup. Though this was not as unique as Chef Hirose’s soup, Chef Drago’s was the winner in my camp. I really enjoyed the flavors all the different juices – and even caviar – brought to the table, and while gazpacho is a common menu item in Italian menus, I thought this was a well-executed dish.
But the beauty of having three judges is that if not unanimous, a winner would be determined by two, and I was ultimately outvoted by Chef Ben and Josh. They favored Chef Hirose’s cold potato leek because of its complexity. There was speculation that Celestino was outnumbered by those from the French camp. Me – I was content to be outnumbered and stood by my decision. I myself skewed toward the lighter soup since I prefer my cold dishes without a ton of weight, but also thoroughly enjoyed Chef Drago’s gazpacho.
And so continues the Dine LA Quickfire Challenges… Stay tuned for today’s rendition: Cold Noodles. It also comes complete with sneak preview of Starry Kitchen Dine LA dishes for $5 a pop and an after-party at CASA.
Quickfire Challenges don’t only happen on Top Chef. And in celebration of the upcoming Dine LA weeks, there are themed challenges happening all over the city. Yesterday, Mark Peel of Tar Pit and Campanile defeated Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station) and David LeFevre (Water Grill) with a Guinea Hen dish. Fortunately, there are three more challenges and I will have the honor of being a judge of the “cold soup” Quickfire Challenge to take place tomorrow at Petrossian – the caviar boutique and restaurant in West Hollywood on Robertson. The other judges will be Chef Ben Bailly, Petrossian’s chef and Josh Lurie of Food GPS.
In this challenge, we’ll see Chef Akira Hirose, Maison Akira Owner/Executive Chef go up against Chef Celestino Drago, Chef Drago Restaurant Group Owner/Executive Chef. The winner will go up against the other three winners of the other challenges in early October in a finale (TBD).
Of course, it’s not good enough to just watch. You’ll get to participate, too, by taking advantage of some great happy hour prices of Petrossian specialties: