Sunday, November 29, 2009
If you know the Los Angeles dining scene and/or a fan of the Top Chef Show, you've more than likely heard of Chef Michael Voltaggio. After weeks of competition, he's currently part of the final four contestants which includes his brother, Chef Bryan Voltaggio. The finale hasn't aired yet, so we are all waiting with bated breath to see who's going to end up on top, but before becoming a part of the reality tv world, Chef Voltaggio was Executive Chef of the Bazaar and is now the current Chef de Cuisine in the Dining Room at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena.
Last August, I was invited to check out Chef Voltaggio's food via a Media Dinner hosted by the Langham Hotel in Pasadena and put together by their PR company, Weber Shandwick. At the time, Top Chef hadn't aired yet, so I really didn't know what to expect. Once we were all served the amuse bouche, which was Blue Fin, Hibiscus Air and Porcini Mushroom, I knew it was going to be an interesting meal. Each course was paired with wine, except for one that was paired with beer. Since I'm not much of a drinker, while I will tell you what the pairings are, I'm going to focus just on the food.
After our amuse bouche, which had subtle tart and earthy flavors, we went straight into our first course which was the Pacific Yellowtail, Sashimi Style with Compressed Soy-Watermelon, Sea Sponge and Smoked Egg Yolk. It was paired with a glass of 2008 Crios de Susana Balbo, Torrontes, Cafayate. The yellowtail was wonderfully fresh and I liked how the sweetness of the watermelon played against the smokiness of the smoky egg yolk puree.
Our second course was an Octopus dish and was paired with a 2005 Peter Howland Maxwell Vineyard Chardonnay. The octopus itself was a little chewier than I would have liked but it came with some very interesting ingredients. First, it sat on a buttered popcorn puree and than it was topped with a Piquillo Confetti and Cilantro. I wasn't too sure about the popcorn puree, but I loved it. The saltiness of it went well with the tartness of the piquillo and the spiciness of the Cilantro. By the way, the piquillo confetti had the texture of a fruit roll up.
The Pastrami Pigeon with a Rye-Infused Jus, Brussels-Kraut and Puffed Gruyere Cheese was our third course. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite dish of the entire meal. I enjoyed the light crispiness of the puffed gruyere cheese, but I found the pigeon too gamey for my taste. As for the pairing, it was matched up with a Unibroue 17 Strong Dark Ale. This was the one course that the only way I could tolerate this dish was when it was washed down with a sip or two of the ale.
My favorite course of the night was the Turbot and the ingredients of this dish included Artichoke, Tomato Granola with Olive Oil and Champagne Vinegar. It was paired with 2007 Saleway Henkenberg GG Pinot Noir. This was the only dish that was modified from the printed menu. Originally, the dish was flavored with lime and vanilla, but was replaced by olive oil and champagne vinegar. The flavors were subtle, but I really liked the delicate, mildness of the fish and the grainy texture and tartness of the tomato granola.
Next was the Suckling Pig with Pistachio Beans, Onions and an Orange Juice and Coriander Reduction. The pork was sous vide in duck fat for 40 hours, which made it quite tender and I really liked dipping it into the OJ and Coriander Reduction which added a nice spiced citrusy flavor to the meat. Paired with the Suckling Pig was the 2000 August Kesseler Pinot Noir.
The last savory dish of the evening was the Lamb Confit which had Lamb as well the Pickled Tongue with Vadouvan, an Eggplant-Raisin Puree and Fresh Hummus. This dish didn't really make an impression on me, good or bad, so I don't have much to say about it and unfortunately, my photo of it came off quite blurry, too. It was paired with a 2006 Villa Creek Avenger Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache.
Next came dessert and the first to arrive was a dessert amuse bouche which was a Jasmine Rice Sorbet with Sake Gelatin. This dessert was a total hit with me. It was cool and refreshing and after all the meat in the previous courses, it was nice to have something light.
The last course was Chef Voltaggio's take on Coffee Cake and consisted of Baked Honey, Espresso Mousse, which was made with liquid nitrogen and Lemon Curd. That baked honey was really awesome and was like a thin wafer. What I liked was that the Espresso Mousse wasn't that sweet, but got its sweetness when it was eaten with the baked honey.
We thought our meal was over until we were served one last treat, a plate that included Chocolate Bark with Pop Rocks and Passion Fruit Gelees. I wasn't sure if I had room but the little kid in me couldn't resist Pop Rocks and Chocolate.
Overall, except for one miss and one so-so dish, I really enjoyed Chef Voltaggio's food at the Dining Room. Since this meal, I've been avidly watching him on Top Chef and have found him to be crazily creative when it comes to his food. I certainly got a preview of that from this particular meal. Come on. Butter Popcorn Puree? Tomato Granola? You'd have to have an interesting culinary mind to come up with that kind of stuff. Based on this meal and what I've seen from this show, I am definitely looking forward to enjoying even more of his food in the future.
For those of you who have yet to visit the Dining Room, you may want do so soon. They will be closing for renovation in January 2010, so you may not have very many opportunities left to enjoy Chef Voltaggio's cooking at least at the Dining Room.
The Dining Room
The Langham Hotel and Spa
1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue
Pasadena,, CA 91106
Click here to read about my previous Dining Room experience.
Click here to read about the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Langham.