One of the interesting topic surrounds sports was that if you can form a great team consists of the greatest players of its generation, would that be an easy domination for that great team? That's why there was a concept of "Dream Team" for Olympic Basketball with mixed success. This is a good idea if there is a chemistry that works well together ('92 and '08 Olympics), but disastrous if it was an incoherent mess ('04 Olympics).
Hence, the question relating to the foodie world would be if the kitchen was filled with 5 of the best chefs in town, will you get the best meal of your life? The 5x5 concept was an idea that was put in a bold experiment that was being provided with a beautiful restaurant (such as the Providence on Melrose) served as the Colosseum venue to please the audience. In that sense, it was the diners.
The idea of five different main courses prepared by five different chefs put images of a relay race of an Olympic race instantaneously. In order to have a good start, the first dish need to set a good tone. Then the rest of the dishes need to carry on in a consistent progression and with the final dish end in a spectacular final dash to the finish line. Appetizers and desserts are not required in this 5x5 Olympiad, but all of the five dishes of that 5 (courses) by 5 (chefs) will have to maintain its consistency. Team work and chemistry are essential and keys to that goal of winning that race (in this case, satisfying the whims of the customers who paid $150 thinking it will be the meal of a lifetime).
If you ever watched Top Chef, you will always see contests that required team work in the team competitions where the contestants often were not having communications among each other to carry out the progressions. Each dishes were treated like a baton being handing off from one dish to another. One dish can come off savory, but the next one would come off sweet, you do not want to see a mishap like that in an expensive $150 five course meal. Which was the big intrigue to see if any of the top chefs in this town can worked well together to bring out the best meal for the diners who are paying $150 per head on that night.
To start off, Michael Cimarusti (head chef/owner of the Providence) was providing us with a quartet of Amuse Bouche before the main courses comes out. Chef Cimarusti was sitting this one out as he graciously provided the venue and opened up his kitchen to five different chefs that will showcase their work that night in the fable 5x5 meal.
I don't know if was a tradition, but I guessed the host of the venue would always provide an amuse bouche or a quick starter for the guests to munch on before the dishes arrives. I went back to Providence 6 weeks later and enjoyed a wonderful meal with a different arrangement of edible one-biters as well by Chef Cimarusti.
Quartet of Amuse Bouche (Hokkido Scallop, Sea urchi Roe on Tomato, Greyhound cocktail Spherification, and Tasmanian sea trout over salmon skin)
The first one on the left was the Hokkido Scallop surrounded with puffed rice over bed of Sriracha and mayonnaise. The center two pieces of the amuse bouche were the sea urchin roe on top of tomato and the Greyhound cocktail spherification.
To start off the night in the right tone, sometimes it only takes one bite to realize you will have be in a treat for a wonderful meal. I always have various different amuse bouche at other fine dining places as well. In many ways, I have many one biters that are similar to what chef Cimarusti's amuse, but has always been impressed with his interpretation and playful look on a liquid nitrogen drink. The greyhound cocktail was something I never had before, but love how it held together in the liquid form and dissolved once it reached your taste bud.
Sea urchi Roe on Tomato and Greyhound cocktail Spherification
The last of the starter was the Tasmanian sea trout over salmon skin, with soy sauce crème fraîche. My impression about the sea trout, Hokkido scallop, and the sea urchin roe were wonderfully presented and have a great taste. Nicely throughout in terms of what to add appropriately and each of the seafood specialty was something I can imagine eating as a whole dish at Providence.
Overall, I had a great impression of what Providence was going to offer in the menu. Eventually I would make a visit here in the short immediate future to get some of his offerings in his 9 course tasting menu.
Hamachi Sashimi - Ton buri, Asian pear, red radish and fennel (by David LeFevre of Water Grill)
The first dish of the night was by a talented young chef from Water Grill, David LeFevre who gave us his interpretation of a Hamachi Sashimi. It had a nice little tonburi, which was seeds of fireweed that has texture and taste closely resemble a caviar. Truth to be told, I honestly thought it was caviar until I took good close look of it. The hamachi was fresh and very delicate where it just melt in your mouth once you took a bite. Very delicious from the start where the tempura with slices of sweet Asian pear was paired on the dish as side for contrast against the hamachi.
The tempura had a mixture of Dungeness crab wrapped in shiso leaf with a tart cream on top to give it a crispy bold taste. Adding a sweet pear underneath was an act of counter reduction against a little bitterness of the shiso. It worked well enough as a compliment pair against the hamachi and complete the overall dish much to my surprise as I initially thought the tempura was unnecessary.
Unexpected, but much to my amazement, it was one of the dishes I really liked that night.
Shellfish "Printanière" - Santa Barbara prawns, abalone, Japanese sword squid, clams, lemongrass-shellfish emulsion (by Josiah Citrin of Mélisse)
My favorite dish of the night was from my favorite chef of the moment, Josiah Citrin of the restaurant Melisse. For this shellfish dish to include bits and pieces of albone, a Japanese sword squid, claims, and some Santa Barabara Prawns to go along in one harmonious way, the dish turns out to be a divine classic.
Truly, a remarkable dish that made me a believer and a big fan of chef Citrin. In fact, after the dish, I told chef Citrin I would be visiting him very soon. At this Spring discovery menu dinner that night one month after this 5x5 dinner, he came up to our table and indeed remembered our conversation of about my intended visit to Melisse.
If I have one dish to remember my evening, it would be this dish of chef Citrin's Shellfish Printanière.
Sautéed Wild Striped Bass - white carrot purée, nettles, fava beans, fennel pollen (by Neal Fraser of Grace)
Next dish was very highly anticipated by yours truly was from Grace's Neal Fraser. A beautiful wild striped bass that had a sidekick of a white carrot puree. The thing that bothers at first was the look of the carrot puree because I thought the color was not very pleasing to look at. However, I find it very refreshing to have a carrot puree to have this sweeter taste than the usual potato puree that usually accompanied a fish dish.
The nettles and fava beans that was sided with the striped bass offered an interesting contrast. Not necessary for the benefit of the fish because it didn't enhanced the flavor profile of the bass, but it does a contrast to counter reduce the savory rich complex taste of this bass. Helpful because it made the rich flavor of the fish stands out. Luckily the fish did not have any unnecessary tangy, fishy smell. One of the great ingredient to increase the enhancement was add a Lemon, it increases the smell, but masked the flavor. For us, the big favor the chef did for all of us was let the fish standout by itself with the bass being sauteed enough to give crisper outside and tender inside of the skin.
A competent contemporary dish that was aimed to please, was able to handle off the baton of progression to the next dish with comfortable room of lead.
The fourth main course of the night was a favorite of a few of my dining mates. Essentially on how this dish is to come out was that it was a barley risotto layered inside of a wrapped spinach with a hint of foie gras and a tomato on top of the spinach.
The main component on this dish to me was the barley layered with the other vegetables. The barley was wonderfully cooked to almost perfection. The vegetables of spinach and tomato complimented the barely very well. The mushroom sauce also helped enhanced the flavor of the dish. The foie gras was the side addition rather the main component of this dish, actually is better off as the supporting cast as the barley was rightfully the highlight of this entire plate.
The hammer of the night and the main guest chef in this 5x5 course was an out of town special guest, Alex Stratta who is the head chef of his namesake restaurant in Las Vegas called "Alex". The much acclaimed chef garnered the impressive Mobil Five Diamonds rating for his restaurant Alex and have won acclaims for Best Chef in Southwest from the James Beard Foundation.
Chef Stratta presented his dish of Roasted Duck "Apicius". The aforementioned word of Apicius was often attributed to classic European fusion cooking that dated all the way back to the Roman times. It was often suggested that Roman Emperor Marcus Apicius were credited for the collection of Greek recipes that would attributed to the fabulous feast that was hosted by the Roman foodie Emperor. Over the centuries, many of the classic cooking and recipes from the Apicius era were the influences of many different types of European fine cuisines.
The roasted duck on that night had some interesting spices and celery roots that gave an arousing aroma that heightened the intricate taste of this well rested roast duck. It was cut at the right time as it was able to maintain the juiciness without drying out the texture of the meat. The sauce with a hint of a few sweet ingredients in the sauce that can offer enhancement in the flavor profile while adding the richness to the juicy duck.
Excellent way to end the main course of this example of a great fine dining. I think it started it off in a fast and ferocious way, maintain in the middle , and ended in a full sprint. Relating to a sport race, it's a blowout race.
The deserts was an added treat for us later on after this meal. It was often cited that Adrian Vasquez, pastry chef of Providence serves the best deserts in Los Angeles. For many, deserts is often the closer to a fine meal where it could complete tone of any epic meal. On this was no exceptions.
The canele and ice cream parfait were well composed and these delicious sweet creamy deserts that were badly needed to end the parade of fine savory dishes. The mignardises candies were also very welcome as well.
In retrospect, to find out each of these fine dining establishments and asked them to provide you with one of their better dishes to help showcase their work was a great idea. For $150 that was the price tag, it was worth it. Part of the proceeds of the $150 tab goes to the Southern Chapter of the Special Olympics makes it much more worth while.
Even though this meal happened back in April 28, I have very fond memories of each of those dishes. Thanks to kevinEats for organizing this outing for us as Will & Brian from FoodDigger were able to join us, as well Kung Food Panda and Tangbro 1 from Only Eat What Feeds Your Soul!.
5 x 5 Restaurant participants
Providence (Host, amuse bouche, desert)
5955 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
544 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
7360 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2501
7313 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2534
3131 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109