Suckling pig, pistachio beans, onions, OJ, coriander
Michael Voltaggio embodies brave, bold cooking. There is no doubt that at the other end of the meal, your palate will have changed, been expanded and ultimately a different palate than before. It will be one more open to new ideas.
Just a glance at the tasting menu I had the privilege of enjoying blows my mind – even now. The media dinner was held at The Dining Room inside the Langham Pasadena, which can boast being the only hotel-operated restaurant with a Michelin Star. Also present were TaraMetBlog, FoodGPS, EatingLA, My Last Bite, Lindsay and Julie of LAist – all of whom helped make this dinner such a rollicking good time. By then, Chef Voltaggio’s tenure as Chef de Cuisine was only 3 weeks old. It was here where he felt he’d be given the freedom to express his creativity however he should choose. And it’s quite the setting in which to do so. The Dining Room isn’t an oceanfront restaurant, nor is it in a mecca of food experimentation. My guess is that it aims to fill that niche inside Pasadena.
In about a month, The Dining room will undergo a renovation which should at least help to bring it up to speed with the modernity of the cuisine that is now served inside it. Voltaggio is also accompanied by a very confident sommelier, Matthew Lathan, whom I thought did an excellent job with the pairings.
But the food. Pastrami pigeon? Octopus over a bed of buttered popcorn paste? Pacific yellowtail over soy-watermelon? What??!!
Japanese tomato tartare, green almonds, parmesan “overeasy,” tapenade powders
It was H.C. of LAOCFoodie who secured the reservation and I jumped on the Twitter call to secure my spot in the Hatchi craze that was – this time – Top Chef and James Beard Award finalist Michael Voltaggio. Other foodie counterparts present included Kung Food Panda, Pepsi Monster, Christine of Folie Ã Choi Sauce, Hey Hey Scenesters, Follow PK plus many more inside. Kevin Eats, My Last Bite, Betty Hallock of the LA Times – all of which I had the pleasure of finally meeting for the first time (unfortunately not inclusive of Oishii Eats) – had dining room spots. And so did Tony. Yes, they were all seated in the inside of the restaurant while our table of 7 was banished to the outside. As indicative of the service quality bar set for the night – things were so slow that they set us up at a table in the Century City mall. For a temporary post at BreadBar, there were all the excuses available for the service to be slow and disorganized – but I think to the extent that it interfered with guests’ enjoyment of Voltaggio’s art, the service model should be reexamined.
It was a packed night, for sure. If you were so much as paying attention, you’d have realized that you had the chance to enjoy modern cooking or, if you will, “molecular gastronomy” for $8 a pop, 8 times over. Voltaggio, I’ve learned, is my age. Or rather – I am his age? The menu for the night was entitled “An Experience of Texture and Flavor” and I figured – I’ve never been afraid of either.
The plates featured cooking so modern that the egg you see above isn’t even actually an egg. It’s a consistency made from parmesan and sure as heck tasted like egg. The tartare stack tasted delicious. That gooey consistency was heavenly (besides – over-easy is how I prefer my eggs) and the overall dish was light and refreshing.