Drop #107: Insane Food Weekend, Part 2
January 31, 2013 4 Comments
Click here for Part 1
‘Sure. So I show up and it looks like nothing’s there. But I ring a bell and this Japanese guy lets me in and takes me through to the back, where Al is waiting in this modest, dimly lit room with one low table in the middle and cushions around it. I take off my shoes and join him on the floor. I ask him about the place and he says it’s a Japanese private kitchen. They serve a maximum of three tables a night and it’s a set menu.’
‘If you say so. The chef doesn’t speak much English. Al told me he was one of the best sushi chefs in Japan when he lived there but just wanted to create something perfect without worrying about a restaurant and its problems. The place was super underground.’
‘That sounds amazing! Japanese is my favorite cuisine, especially when it’s kaiseki style, like that.’
‘Yeah. I think Al must have had someone else in mind to eat with when he set it up but now I was there. Go figure. So the food started coming and it didn’t stop for three hours. The presentation was clean and detailed, each dish more delicate than the next: sashimi, sushi, all incredibly fresh and seasonal—I swear, I’d never heard of half the fish. Then there was tartar of kobe beef with quail egg; intense fish broth with shrimp heads, cold cured eggplant cut so thin you could hardly see it; snow crab and sea urchin tempura; sea eel wrapped asparagus with fatty tuna dipping sauce; miso crusted pork chops. It just kept coming!’
‘Wow. That’s insane.’
‘I told you it was an insane food weekend! And that was only Saturday.’
‘Sure. Sunday was the craziest of all.’
‘I’m not near done with Saturday, but tell me about Sunday?’
He asked if I wanted another beer and I said maybe later, but accepted, when he told me he was buying. He ordered, then said he’d got a call Sunday afternoon from a man called Hal Freely, who he’d met at the Italian joint Friday. He’d hardly even remembered talking to the guy, being a bit drunk on all the good wine.
‘You know him?’
Of course I didn’t know him, but I knew of him. He was voted best up and coming young chef last year by Food and Wine Magazine and represented the US at the Bocuse D’or two years ago.’
‘He’s a nice guy,’ Bill said, casually. ‘Apparently I’d convinced him I was a web design genius and he wanted to talk to me about doing some work for him, so he invites me to dinner too, with some of his business partners I’d also be working with if we struck a deal. Turns out most of them are chefs or restaurant owners.’
‘To this place, Honeyrose.’
‘Oh, man. It’s supposed to be amazing.’
‘Yeah, but we didn’t eat downstairs in the main dining area. We went upstairs to this private room.’
‘You’re shitting me!’
He assured me he wasn’t. They’d dined in this cozy, separate room where a table was set up for six.
‘Who were the other four?’ The beers came and we both drank before he answered.
‘One was Sergio, Honeyrose’s owner.’
‘Sergio King, himself! Incredible!’
‘The other three were called Cynthia, Jacob and Marlene.’
‘Oh my God. Cynthia Carr, Jacob Lutz and Marlene Estefano.’
‘Sounds about right.’
‘Dude, there’s like five Michelin stars between those three alone. I only ate at Marlene’s restaurant, The Top Hat once and it was awesome. And you ate up there?’
‘Yup. After a few cocktails all sorts of food just started appearing.’
‘Probably all the stuff those great chefs love eating and don’t even serve regularly.’
And when I pressed for details he started listing dishes: whole goat’s head, eyeball and all; bone marrow; squid ink and sea urchin linguini, stopping to note how everyone was real chatty, talking about the food, what they liked about it and whether the wine went well with it.’
‘It’s a friggin wet dream!’
‘There was pork belly, and crayfish pancakes, and tuna cheek and baby octopus and double braised lamb shank. It was really too much food.’
‘Amazing. That’s the real deal. The behind-the-scenes, top-shelf stuff. Nobody get’s to eat like that!’
‘Well, I did, right? All we did was eat, really. We hardly even discussed the project.’
I asked if he was going to work with them and he said it didn’t look likely, after all.
‘Oh. Well, at last you got to eat a ridiculously good meal with them.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘And after everything else on Friday and Saturday too!’
I had fantasized about a food weekend like that many times but even in my fantasies I’d never come close to attending the opening of a place like Il Sorriso, eating the best Japanese omakase in a private kitchen for two, and certainly not sharing a meal in an exclusive upstairs room at Honeyrose with five of the countries best chefs, getting to know them, hearing their opinions, eating what they eat – being on the inside. Nothing had come close to what Bill had experienced for real.
‘It must have been your best food weekend ever,’ I said.
‘I don’t see how anything could beat it. In fact, it must have been one of your best weekends ever, period!’
‘Nah. I mean, it was all right, but I’m not that into food, really. Eating isn’t something that excites me much.’
By E.M. Vireo