Restaurants & Bars

Paradigm - The Test Kitchen Chowdown

Frodnesor | Oct 26, 200808:17 PM     12

On Friday 10/24 myself and several fellow ‘hounds had a Chowdown at Paradigm – The Test Kitchen, the “restaurant within a restaurant” in the Trump Hotel in Sunny Isles. It was a great experience to meet in person several of the folks who have “gotten to know each other” virtually here, and I thought Chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano and the rest of their crew put together a great meal for us.

I described my experience at the inaugural Paradigm dinner here ->
To paraphrase, the basic idea is to present a 10 course tasting menu to a communal table of 10 (though they were good enough to squeeze in an extra seat for Mrs. F, a late-hour confirmation) using some more contemporary techniques and concepts to turn out great food.

Chef Chad gives a rundown of the dishes from our dinner on his blog here, with lots of pix ->

In my usual brief fashion, here is one ‘hound’s take on the meal. I’m very eager to hear from the rest of the group as to their thoughts and impressions.

lox – one of Paradigm’s ongoing themes in each menu has been “breakfast for dinner,” here is this menu’s version. A smoked salmon gel film is used as a ravioli wrapper to encase a chive cream cheese gel, topped w/ a sprig of fresh dill and a caper salt (capers dried and pulsed in spice grinder w/ salt). Interesting to have the wrapper carry the flavor of the salmon, and the flavors (very traditional ones, just presented in a new format) worked. The caper salt could have used more caper flavor to it. I would have followed the theme by adding some “everything bagel” sprinkles (sesame / poppy / dried onion / salt crystals / caraway seed etc.) to add a little more flavor and crunch.

foie ‘suzette’ – a twist on a classic dish, another ongoing theme. A foie gras “crepe” is made by firming a foie mousse w/ methylcellulose (?), spreading thin and cutting rounds, the process having the added benefit (some of us would say anyway) of holding in all the foie’s rich fat even as you warm it (otherwise a bunch leaks out as you sear or otherwise heat foie), wrapped around lightly warmed and dried satsumas, w/ a blood orange gel and a flambé of Venezuelan orange rum; topped w/ a transparent black pepper sugar tuile (glucose? isomalt?). Again, a neat concept to have the protein component serve as the wrapper. When tasted on its own, the crepe distinctly carried the foie flavor (though not the texture, which is one of the greatest joys of foie), but with the other elements it tended to get lost. The black pepper tuile was very cool, but overwhelmingly peppery in the context of the dish. I thought the flavor combinations here were excellent, pairing the foie with the varieties of orange, but the balance was somewhat out of whack and would have liked the foie more forward in the flavor hierarchy (and I missed its texture).

banana pho – a knockout dish. The presentation starts with a little squeeze bottle holding some liquid set before each diner, labeled “noodles.” Then a bowl holding a dark green gel disk, together with a strip of beef tendon, on top of which are a few bean sprouts and fresh cilantro. Tableside, the servers pour into the bowl a clear broth simultaneously redolent of Vietnamese pho aromas (star anise, ginger, fish sauce) and … banana? Yup. And it works. Beautifully. As the broth warms the dish, the green disk (a gel of Vietnamese basil) melts into the broth, adding its flavor and aroma. The broth is clarified using gelatin, somehow rendering a clear consommé out of a soup made with bananas. Oh, and the little squeeze bottle? You squirt it into the broth, and voila, it makes nuoc mam –flavored noodles. A tribute / take-off on a technique that Wylie Dufresne has done at wd~50 in NY, which works perfectly in the context of this dish. I liked everything about this dish. The flavors were outstanding, the presentation was both fun and functional. Loved it. Only thing that could have made it better would be a couple more pieces of beef tendon, maybe some tripe …

hamachi cucumber tartare – another winner. A dice of hamachi and cucumber perked up with a little sriracha (?) is topped with a thin translucent sheet of ponzu gel, accompanied by soy caviar done using the “cold oil” technique w/ sesame oil, a little toasted peanut oil, some toasted shiso seeds that give a little pungent crunch, micro shiso and micro wasabi. Mostly traditional sushi flavors, with some effective twists on the presentation. I’ve now seen them do a couple different variations on the concepts in this dish and they’ve all been great, though this was my favorite so far.

“refresh” – Pastry Chef Fabian makes an early appearance - a demitasse-sized kabosu crème brulee (kabosu being a citrus fruit similar to yuzu), topped w/ a dab of tomato marmalade and a spoon of lemon sorbet w/ a sprig of micro basil. Absolutely delicious. Another knockout dish. The concept is similar to the old-school tradition of serving a light sorbet as a “palate-cleanser” in the middle of a meal, and one that is followed as well by contemporary places such as Alinea, where around the middle of a lengthy multi-course tasting menu, the flavor notes will shift a bit into the sweeter realm of things before turning back to the savory. You see a lot of bending barriers between sweet and savory in much "experimental" cooking and this is a nice example.

sweet bread nuggets – a “Fall” dish (if it’s occasionally below 80 degrees, it’s fall in Miami), a nub of sweetbread coated in crushed pepitas and toasted oats, over a shmear of a simultaneously tart and rich tamarillo “espagnole” (I always thought tamarillo was South American in origin, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, it originates from New Zealand) made from tamarillo puree and a little glace, a pickled ginger flower (had no idea these were edible), and a delicious, potent espuma of chanterelle mushroom squirted tableside. I liked each of the elements of this dish and liked them together, quite a bit.

cod a la mode – black cod done sous vide (or, as I recently saw it misspelled, “suveed” – I like that, not all Frenchified) at 50C, topped with a wafer of crispy fish skin, and paired with a spoon of chorizo ice cream (yes – chorizo ice cream). The chorizo ice cream is a Latin American spin on a “contemporary classic,” Heston Blumenthal’s (from the Fat Duck restaurant in England) bacon and egg ice cream. Somehow, it absolutely works, both on its own and together with the fish. The black cod was the best sous vide fish I’ve had, retaining all the moisture of the fish and not losing any of the unctuous texture. The difficulty I’ve had with some other sous vide fish I’ve tried is that the texture gets compacted and all tight, and can be somehow reminiscent of canned cat food. Don’t know if it’s because of the fish or the temperature or the time, but this one maintained all its glory. I think this dish was another of the big hits of the night.

duck, duck, goose – duck #1 – breast, brined and cooked sous vide (see, this is why I like “suveed” – instead of “cooked sous vide”, I could just say “suveed” – it’s a verb!) and remaining a nice rosy pink throughout. I thought the texture was great, though Mrs. F thought a traditional pan-searing method, when done right, is more effective in rendering out the subcutaneous fat, leaving just meat and crisp (I would have to agree); duck #2 – rillettes, pureed with some extra butter (because, according to Chef K, duck rillettes don’t have enough fat on their own!), and then plated as a shmear on the plate. I liked the rillette flavor but think this may have served better as a topping for a canapé; goose – gooseberry, 3 versions, actually, a block of custard, a couple meringue crackers, and a couple dried gooseberry raisins (too dry – as Chad notes on his blog, these could and should have been macerated in something to soften and plump them).

goat cheese – a goat cheese “cream” (almost like a flan in texture) paired with a pumpkin seed and olive oil cake (I thought this was delicious), a yogurt espuma over the top and a drizzle of a balsamic caramel reduction. Nice textures, but too one-dimensional in flavor for me (“creamy” without much else). I thought this could really use some fruit element or something else to contrast.

horchata – a ribbon of a horchata gel (I thought this could have used bolder flavors), a nice square of chocolate sacher (a spongy cake), a quenelle of pomelo roso gelato (I got the sense not everyone liked this, though I did), a little drizzle of a transparent vanilla gel around it (neat) and a delicious “milk candy wrapper” on top.

A little lollipop with a green tea shell and a Chambord filling (did I get these right?) was given as a final sendoff.

I thought each of the dishes succeeded, but the real standouts to me were the banana pho, the hamachi tartare, the kabosu brulee and the black cod “a la mode.”

The restaurant offered a nice series of wine pairings to go along, which we supplemented with a few brought from home. I unfortunately did not catch the labels on everything that was poured (including a white burgundy L2M brought and a nice cabernet someone else provided), the ones I brought were ->
2004 Radio Coteau Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – one of my favorite producers and one of my favorite wines, from a vineyard in Anderson Valley (in Mendocino County about an hour north of the northen tip of the Sonoma Valley).
2004 Ponzi Vino Gelato – a blend of Riesling and Muscat, the grapes are frozen before fermentation to artificially induce an icewine style (I thought this was really singing).
2004 Bonny Doon Recioto of Barbera – barbera grapes from B.D.’s Ca’ del Solo vineyard are left out in the vineyard to dry and raisin after picking, concentrating the flavors and sugars before fermenting (still not sure how I feel about this one). More info here ->

My thanks again to Chefs Kurtis and Chad, the rest of the kitchen and FOH staff at Neomi’s, and to all the chowhounds who came out. I’d love to hear what the rest of the group thought.

If anyone is interested in future chowdowns, please join the Miami Chowdown Google Group, and we’ll figure out the next one.

Paradigm - The Test Kitchen
18001 Collins Ave, North Miami Beach, FL 33160

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