Update! New chef. This menu and post may no longer apply.
Restaurant: Diva at the Met – Persian Tasting Menu Part 2/3
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest/International/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: March 15, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson/Downtown)
Address: 645 Howe Street (Inside Metropolitan Hotel)
Phone: (604) 602-7788
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Price Range: $30-50+ ($25-35 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 5 (based on this tasting menu)
- Executive Chef Hamid Salimian
- Pacific Northwest with Persian inspiration
- Innovative cuisine
- Modernist techniques
- Local and global ingredients
- Seasonal ingredients
- Seasonal menus
- Chef Tasting Menus
- Cocktail/wine program
- Bar/lounge seating
- Complimentary valet if dining at restaurant
- 7 days a week – 7am-12am
- My post for “Diva Snacks“
- My post for Diva at the Met’s regular Tasting Menu
**Recommendations: Tasting Menu. My favourites from his Persian Tasting Menu include: Diva Snacks, Halva, Ash-Reshteh, Koofteh, and Sholah Zard. Foie Gras Walnut, Mussel Coal, Albacore Tuna, Duo of Lamb, Pork Jowl were highlights from previous tasting menus that sometimes make a reappearance.
Finally. The man gets some well deserved attention. “Hamid Salimian may be the city’s most underrated chef… ” and is voted by industry as “Best Chef in Vancouver” for the 16th Annual Golden Plates awards by local entertainment newspaper The Georgia Straight (Thursday March 14, 2013). For those who have been rooting for Hamid all along, it has been a long time waiting. He already has at least 10 culinary championship titles (national and international), but this is a local award the general public will recognize and acknowledge in Vancouver.
I was introduced to Chef Hamid Salimian and his culinary talents in February 2011 (see my post here) back when he was at The Apron in Richmond, BC. He finished top of his class at Vancouver Community College in the 90’s and he’s been working in Vancouver and Victoria since graduating. It already took me long enough to discover him, but I was an instant fan as soon as I did. Now that he has returned to working in downtown Vancouver, he is getting the recognition and praise he deserves. The only thing is the majority of the praise is coming from industry and “insiders” rather than the public, and I wish it was from both.
I’ve written about his Chef’s Tasting Menu at The Apron here, his Persian New Years Dinner Menu at The Apron here, his desserts at The Apron here, his Tasting Menu at Diva at the Met here, his “Diva Snacks” here and now again here. There are two things consistent in all those posts and that is Hamid’s food and my “cheerleading”.
It is no secret I’ve been a supporter of him and his work since the day I tried his food. I have called him one of my favourite chefs in the city for years now, if not my favourite chef in the city period – and I don’t throw those comments around without weight. Yes, we are now friends, but it is not why I champion him and I still write about his food honestly and “critically”. I am not a “critic”, but I like to analyze and I have no shame supporting things I believe in.
Part of the reason Hamid and Diva at the Met are still relatively unknown is because of the somewhat stale room and ambiance which does not match the food. It recently underwent “big” renovations, but to be honest I couldn’t even tell what changed. If you are looking for an atmosphere and a restaurant “to be seen”, then there are better options, but if it is really about the food (which it is for me) then you must try it. It is truly about the food and not anything else, although a big shout out to Hamid’s kitchen crew, Pastry Chef Kate, the relatively new cocktail program led by bartender David Bain (trained by Vancouver’s “King bartender” David W.) and sommelier Corey Bauldry.
If you need excitement in your dining experience then I also recommend sitting at “Chef’s Table” which is the counter in front of the open kitchen. It’s not “romantic”, but the experience is personal. Don’t feel obligated to “rack up the bill” either and everyone and anyone is welcome to sit there. It is my favourite spot in any restaurant and it’s where all the action happens, but then again not everyone is looking for this kind of experience.
On this occasion I was invited to try Hamid’s “Persian inspired Tasting Menu” in celebration of Nowruz (Persian New Years) on Thursday March 21. This special tasting menu runs until March 29, and after the menu will return to Diva at the Met’s regular Chef’s Tasting Menu which is Pacific Northwest with Persian inspiration. I strongly recommend trying the regular Chef’s Tasting Menu as well because it is different although executed with the same labour intensive techniques, passion and intelligence. This post will focus on his current Persian inspired Tasting Menu.
Hamid is born in Iran and he is very close to his Persian roots as to why the menu is Persian influenced. It is a very unique menu, and it is not for everyone. If you are new to Persian food than this won’t necessarily introduce you to the authentic dishes of Iran, but it stays true to the flavours of it and all the courses are traditional. The menu uses a combination of local and global ingredients, and the cooking methods are a mix of Persian, traditional French and New American (modernist). The result is not “modern Persian cuisine”, but New Persian cuisine which offers an upscale approach more scientific and artistic than simply “modern”. I don’t like using the words “fusion” or “molecular gastronomy”, but those are terms associated with the style, although too often misused and abused. Nonetheless the food is treated with respect, and the modern techniques are used professionally with practice, control and purpose.
Persian food is predominantly sour, so be prepared because Hamid stays committed to authentic Persian flavours. I am not Persian, so I am experiencing the food with a Canadian-Asian palate. I’ve had restaurant and homecooked Persian food, but I still have limited understanding and knowledge of the food. Therefore I found it extra helpful to have Hamid give me a bit of background on each dish before trying it. The staff provides the same service for all tables which really helps translate the menu. That being said the menu requires a bit of guidance or it risks getting lost in translation.
The menu was a celebration of Nowruz, although not a traditional “Nowruz menu”. I have tried Hamid’s Persian New Years menu at The Apron (see here), and I am ecstatic he is doing it again. The menus are completely different, but the idea is the same. I did enjoy his Persian New Years menu at The Apron more, but this one was still excellent. It is apples and oranges to compare this to his regular tasting menus too, although the style is still the same.
Persian food is comforting and I enjoy it family style, in casual one pot wonders, but Hamid’s approach is fascinating and appreciated on a whole other level. I experienced the menu as Hamid’s vision of Persian food, which is not diluted, but highly innovative. Quite frankly, the menu is advanced and it would be new for those familiar with the cuisine too. There is no one else in Vancouver taking Persian food to this level, and few could replicate it even if they wanted to, and that is worth celebrating beyond Nowruz.
**Note: Chef Hamid’s Persian inspired tasting menu is offered at 6 courses for $55 with wine for $100 or 8 courses for $75 with wine for $135. The price of the menu is almost laughable and it offers the best value in any tasting menu I’ve ever come across in a developed city/country. There are no expectations for the outcome of this post.
On the table:
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Brut Okanagan Valley, BC – It is a familiar sparkling wine in BC and generally considered very good. It was crisp, dry and lemony and it was a great choice considering all the various “Diva Snacks” to come. Champagne goes with almost everything and I thoroughly enjoy this one alone or with hors d’oeuvres.
- I always appreciate complimentary bread and at this level of dining I do expect it.
- All the breads are made in house and it is usually a standard selection of Poppy seed Ciabatta, Russian Rye, caramelized onion and pecan, and sesame crisps.
- The caramelized onion and pecan with cranberries is my favourite and it is the sweeter bread on the plank. I could use more pecans, but I like it.
- The Russian Rye is savoury, nutty and earthy with some aromatic toasted caraway seeds.
- The poppy seed ciabatta was a bit tough and dry for me, so it wasn’t my favourite.
- The sesame crisps are a bit thicker and they don’t have that home made quality, so I considered it more standard.
- The bread basket has more potential, but I appreciate the service, variety and effort.
This is killer. The bread was served with butter topped with brown butter powder. It looks like sundried tomato powder and it is slightly tangy from perhaps lemon juice added to the brown butter. It is made with maltodextrin which is a safe powder made from starches like corn or tapioca. This already shows the theme of the menu and style of the chef. Bread and butter can say a lot.
- Chicken kebab
- I know. It looks nothing like a kabab, but it captures the flavour of it.
- I could smell the charcoal lifting off the ultra thin, frail and crisp chicken skin.
- If you think you don’t like skin, try it like this. It is the most delicate chicken skin which sounds like an oxymoron.
- I could smell the charcoal and see the grill marks and it reminded me of Hamid’s Chicken Bacon from a previous tasting menu.
- It was made almost the same way, but also very differently.
- This chicken skin “chip” is smoked, brined, marinated, baked and grilled.
- It is salted and marinated in lemon juice, onions, garlic, and saffron which I could taste, but it wasn’t overpowering.
- It was very well seasoned and it captured the flavours of a Persian chicken kebab.
- There was a dollop of garlic yogurt and chives which was a bit spicy from the very fresh and raw garlic.
- It was almost like “chips and dip” or “chicken wings and dip” and I just wanted more dip.
- Of course it does not compare to a traditional Joojeh Kabab made with marinated chicken breast, but the flavours were reminiscent.
- Ha. This was funny. Hamid brought this out and hesitated a few seconds before telling me what it was. I blurted “brains” out before he did.
- I took French. I know what “cerveau” is! It is the French word for brain, but the word “brain” on a menu in Vancouver is not going to sit well with the majority.
- I like brain, but I don’t crave it. I’m not going to sit there with a big bowl of brains on a Friday night, but I enjoy it and would order it on my own.
- Visually, the brain looks like a brain and it is not very appetizing at all, but here it is disguised extremely well. I couldn’t even tell where it was.
- In Iran sheep/lamb brain is traditionally served in a stew with goat tongue, cheeks, and feet, or on its own in a sandwich pan fried in butter with caramelized onions.
- The brain here was served as a puréed dip.
- The lamb brain was marinated and cooked with a lot of blanched garlic and it almost tasted like a creamy thick and rich garlic aioli.
- Having tried brain before I couldn’t even tell this was brain, but it was also richer and more savoury than a standard aioli. It had umami.
- He could have mixed it with Kashk (whey) – a Persian style yogurt that tastes like sour cream meets feta cheese.
- The umami also comes a bit naturally because brains are basically all fat. It is not chewy fat, but very creamy and tender soft fat.
- Lamb brains do not taste like lamb, animal fat, or really like any animal meat. It is not gamey, meaty, or strong.
- They taste very similar to sweetbreads and they have a very mild, milky and delicate flavour.
- The pureed brain was topped with sweet onion powder which was candy-like, but not sugary. I loved the sweet and salty contrast with the brain.
- There was also a sprinkle of crispy onions and crispy shallots for texture to contrast the creamy brain dip.
- Together it tasted like a savoury sweet garlic onion dip on a “chip”. I could have it on perogies!
- All of it was carried on a crisp rice “cracker” which reminded me of Chinese prawn crackers except it was flavourless.
- I would have liked the rice cracker seasoned because the onion powder and brain were all in the centre for 1-2 decadent bites.
- If you have never tried brain I would barely call this even trying it because it doesn’t resemble brain at all.
- I am really happy he took the “risk” and put brain on the menu.
- It pushes boundaries and I want to be introduced to new foods from other cultures.
- It is always nice to see the whole animal being used and not wasted too.
- I actually want to try the traditional Iranian lamb brain sandwich, but it is understandable for him to make brains approachable for Vancouver tastes.
- Eggplant caviar, buttermilk and kashk (sour whey) macaron, eggplant puree, mint, yogurt powder
- I love this Persian dish and I loved Hamid’s new way of looking at it, although it looks nothing like the original – see Kashke Bademjan.
- It is a Persian appetizer dip made from deep fried eggplants, sauteed garlic, onions and fresh mint topped with Kashk (whey). It is often eaten with lavash (flatbread).
- In this case it was executed like a macaron, but it was still savoury and not sweet.
- The eggplant dip was sandwiched between airy light and crisp meringue made from whey and buttermilk.
- Kashk (whey) is a Persian style yogurt that tastes like sour cream meets feta cheese.
- The meringue had the weight of styrofoam and it was very hard to hold on to its flavour, but it was slightly tangy at the end.
- The creamy smooth eggplant filling tasted exactly like the Persian dip which is smoky, garlicky and a bit tangy.
- The whole thing just melted in my mouth and I didn’t bite or chew once.
- It just disappeared as soon as I squished it to the roof of my mouth, but it left me with enough flavour to make me crave it.
- I’m a very texture oriented person, but in this case I think the desired texture was a smooth consistency from two very different components.
- I could eat at least 20 of these.
- Compressed romaine heart, apple mint Gastrique, romaine granita
- This is pretty amazing if you’ve never tried it, and even if you’ve tried Sekanjabin Kaho, this is still impressive.
- Sekanjabin Kaho is a refreshing Persian drink, but here it was presented as the palate cleanser before the series of appies and mains.
- It was almost like a Persian style mojito meets a healthy green leafy pressed juice.
- It is very refreshing with mint, lime and romaine. I thought there was cucumber, but there was no cucumber.
- Sekanjabin is a sweet and sour Persian syrup made from vinegar and simple sugar syrup (or honey) mixed together.
- The syrup is aggressively sweet and sour so you really need to eat it with everything mixed together.
- The syrup was also reduced with some mint and the vinegar was apple cider vinegar.
- It was drizzled over romaine granita, which is almost like the texture of a slurpee, but more powdery.
- The texture of this granita ice was fine, feathery and soft and it wasn’t like the standard Italian granita in mouthfeel.
- The romaine was very obvious in flavour and it was showcased in various textures: granita, juiced (or just melted granita), and as tender hearts.
- The hearts of romaine were marinated in perhaps lime, so they were a bit tangy, but I could still taste their natural flavour.
- The romaine might seem random, but traditionally the drink is served with romaine leaves for dipping.
- Nothing was really mixed together and it was almost like a sundae, so it was fun to discover all the layers.
- I ended up getting a bite of salt at the end so I would have liked that mixed into one of the components rather than sprinkled at the end.
- The dessert is much better eaten with everything together and I would say it is a bit acquired as a drink, but as a palate cleanser it works perfectly.
- Cracked wheat, beef tartar, sorrel
- I liked this course, but I didn’t love it because I found the beef tartar secondary, if not an after thought.
- Zeytoon Parvarde is a Persian olive dish made with pomegranate juice (or seeds) and walnuts, so this was very different from the original.
- It is from the north of Iran by the Caspian sea.
- I found it celebrated the olive and sorrel the most which are two very strong flavours.
- There was a lot of sorrel and Spanish green olive puree on the plate and it had a grassy, herby and sour taste which matched the wine.
- I almost thought there was arugula or maybe even mint (?) pureed with it.
- The olives made it quite salty while the sorrel sour and I wanted something to eat it with.
- The dish seemed more puree than tartar.
- The beef tartar was very finely hand minced and semi grilled, and it was a bit chewy.
- The mince was quite consistent and it was mixed with black Kalamata olives so the flavour of the beef was lost.
- The frozen olive crumble sprinkled on top was actually my favourite part.
- The crumble tasted like it was made from chickpea flour seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and it was nutty like walnut crumbs or powder.
- Traditionally the dish is whole olives coated in a creamy marinade of grated walnuts, so this was an unique interpretation of the idea.
- The cracked wheat or puffed rye was sprinkled around the plate for a nutty crunch.
- I would have loved it more as walnuts, but I think they were trying to avoid nut allergies by avoiding walnuts entirely.
- I tried various combinations of the components together and it was tricky to find a balance.
- Chilled foie gras, preserved fig, raisin
- Oh gosh… this brought halva to a level I never imagined. This was really catered to my tastes.
- It actually tasted just like his Puffed Quebec Foie Gras dish, but in another form.
- My favourite way to enjoy foie is simply seared as is, but it is not the style here so I appreciate it for what it is.
- The frozen foie gras torchon was presented in a sheet and it was almost like frozen “butter”.
- It was so rich and buttery (as foie naturally is) and I could taste the umami of the foie and it wasn’t just fat and cream.
- It was savoury and a bit starchy and it was naturally oily alone, but fantastic with all the components hidden underneath.
- Underneath the foie were all the condiments!
- I kept thinking how cool it would be to have the sheet of foie gras executed as a white chocolate foie sphere and then cracking it open to find all these goodies! It was an inspiring course!
- This is dish from south of Iran. Iranian halva is different than Jewish or Greek halva and it is much more fragrant.
- The halva was made with flour, sugar, rosewater, saffron and macerated fig so it was floral, sweet and nutty.
- Sometimes it has cardamom, but there was no cardamom in this although I would have liked the addition.
- The flavour started sweet and nutty with saffron at the end and it wasn’t bitter or too perfume like with the aromatics.
- It was not dry, but unusually feathery, moist and “fresh”, and it was unlike other halvas. It was a chilled halva that was grated.
- It was mixed with plump and pickled Sultana raisins (pickled in Chardonnay vinegar) and crunchy toasted almonds.
- The sweet and sour raisins were very pickled on their own, but mixed with everything it was fine.
- The raisins helped cut the richness of the foie and I just loved the various textures of all the components.
- The moist preserved figs pickled in elderberry vinegar gave another dimension of sweet, sour and floral.
- The crunchy toasted almonds gave the desired crunchy texture.
- It would have been even better as marcona almonds, or even better than that, Iranian pistachios!
- It was sweet, savoury, tangy, and balanced and it was everything I want in a dish.
- It was light yet rich in flavours and I could have had this again for dessert.
- Another creative frozen foie gras dish I had was the Foie Gras Ice Cream Sandwich.
Blasted Church ‘Hatfield’s Fuse’ Okanagan Valley BC, 2011 – It is an easily accessible BC wine and it was nice to have Corey select local wineries. This is one of their most popular and it is very citrusy and fruity with tropical fruit flavours. It is refreshing, sweet with honey notes and also tangy. It was more acidic than the soup, but it is full of flavour and I enjoy it on its own.
- Sour whey, mint, legumes, noodle
- This was my second favourite “6/6” dish and it was the most important one to have for Nowruz.
- It is Iran’s national dish and there are nearly 50 different types of ashes in Iran.
- I learned from Hamid that this dish made cooking in Iran a profession.
- Ash pasz means chef and also refers to the person cooking the soup.
- It is a hearty Persian winter noodle soup and every Persian grandma makes “the best”. It is Iranian comfort food.
- The noodles symbolize long life, just like it does in Asian cuisine and it is sometimes called “Persian New Year’s Soup”.
- This is one of the “one pot wonder” Persian dishes that I am glad Hamid did not de-construct.
- It was closest to the original, but presented in an appetizing way for North American standards.
- It was served in a heated bowl which is always appreciated and I could have eaten a big helping of it.
- The original recipe uses a combination of chickpeas, lentils, navy beans and kidney beans.
- The beans were nice and firm and made from their dry state, but I couldn’t get the lentils so I’m not sure if they were in there.
- The green colour comes from a combination of fresh parsley, cilantro, green onions, spinach and dried dill, so there is a very earthy undertone to the soup.
- Since the herbs are almost all fresh their flavours get cooked out and disintegrate into a stew like broth.
- Usually it is a muddy, swampy dark brown-green colour of overcooked herbs, and here it was a brighter green and vibrant.
- The “overcooked herbs” is how the dish is authentically made (with sauteed herbs that are later slowcooked), so I’m not ‘shaming’ that method.
- However, the herbs didn’t seem overcooked in this version and their flavours came to life without being obvious.
- It was almost more like a sauce than a soup and it was tangy, but not sour and it had depth.
- It was likely made in advance for the flavours to develop.
- There were no strong Middle Eastern spices and it was about the herbs and aromatics.
- From a Western perspective the soup was reminiscent of Italian style herb pesto with beans throughout.
- The thin spaghetti like “Reshteh” noodles enhanced that basil pesto pasta quality, and it translated well to non-Persian palates.
- The noodles were very soft and tender and cut very short for the fine dining context.
- It defeats the “long life” symbolism, but it is hard to have it all.
- The soup is traditionally topped with crispy fried onions and garlic and a drizzle of Kashk (whey).
- Kashk (whey) is a Persian style yogurt that tastes like sour cream meets feta cheese.
- In this case Hamid used reverse spherification for the kashk and created a buttermilk and kashk liquid ravioli.
- There were 2 capsules holding the kashk liquid which popped in my mouth with a burst of yogurt flavoured liquid.
- The method results with a leftover jelly like membrane skin after the liquid is released, and this cannot be avoided with the technique.
- Usually the membrane is quite thick with reverse spherification, but in this case it was not, which is good.
- As much as I appreciated the technique, I only got the kashk in two bites with the soup, so the classic drizzle does work better, although this was fun.
- The kashk was the only thing giving it modernist characteristic, so I saw where he was going with it.
- To finish the stew it was drizzled with mint oil, but it was not aggressive.
- I would not consider it a very minty dish, but I could taste it.
- It was an aromatic dish with a balanced use of herbs and even if you don’t like one of the mentioned herbs, I don’t think you would be able to pick it out.
- Hamid was generous enough to share this recipe with me. See Hamid’s Ash-Reshteh.
Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, Columbia Valley, USA, 2011 – Washington is known for their Riesling so it was nice to have a switch up even though Vancouver has some nice Rieslings too. This wine was selected to play off the flavours of the sweet and sour saffron broth in the next course. It was crisp and refreshing with flavours of peach and apples and there was a good acidity.
- Saffron broth, onion, pork jowl
- sfm;laksdnf!! My favourite course of the night!
- How “taboo” that my favourite course on a Persian menu is the pork dish.
- It wasn’t even the Koofteh (Persian meatball) I liked the best, but it was the whole dish. It came together so well!
- It was very similar to Hamid’s Pork Jowl and Chickpea dumpling dish, but reinvented. The wine pairing was actually the same too.
- The pork jowl and meatball were topped with crispy fine strands of salty beef flank jerky which was obvious once you knew.
- It was a nice change from crispy fried onions and garlic for texture, although those are always good too.
- I really missed the cauliflower cous cous from his original Pork Jowl dish, but this was served with a broth instead of a sauce.
- The saffron broth really took the dish to maximum potential.
- It was actually the onion gastrique and saffron jus used in his Pork Jowl dish turned into an elegant broth.
- It was a sweet and sour savoury broth with intense umami.
- It was sweet at first, and then immediately tangy from lemon juice and vinegar.
- It smelled and looked richer than it was and the acidity helped keep things balanced.
- It had a malted caramel flavour and intensity of reduced pork stock and caramelized onion.
- It was reminiscent of French onion soup, but with saffron.
- The broth was sweetened with a little bit of sugar and I would have liked it to be sweetened with just the caramelized onions, but it was still delicious.
- The soup was rich in flavour, but not from pork fat.
- It had a malted characteristic and there was depth and layers of flavour.
- The saffron flavour finished at the end of each sip, but it was not aggressive and used well.
- The dish had two main components: a chickpea dumpling and a nice fatty piece of pork jowl, just like his previous Pork Jowl dish.
- The piece of pork jowl was small, but that’s really all I wanted because it was almost all fat and very rich.
- It tasted delicious, but too much fat can be simply too much.
- The pork jowl was almost like cream and it was not chewy at all.
- It was cured, smoked and sous vide for 16 hours and I could cut it with a spoon.
- Jowl is comparable to pork belly, but must be executed differently and they break apart differently.
- They are both inexpensive cuts, but they have a lot of flavour.
- It was finished with a sear and it tasted like Christmas ham.
- The pork jowl is not traditional to the recipe which is all about the meatball, but I saved it for my last bite.
- The Koofteh Meatball tasted like his chickpea dumpling, so it didn’t taste quite like a meatball.
- In Iran there are lots of different Kooftehs and the recipes are regional. This koofteh recipe comes from central Iran.
- I’ve had them before mixed with rice and presented in one giant meatball, but the central Iran version has no rice.
- This meatball was made with chickpea flour, bean flour, onions, saffron, egg, and ground pork shoulder.
- It almost tasted vegetarian or like a gourmet falafel and the texture is not like European or American meatballs.
- It has a mealy, floury and starchy texture and it was quite mushy, but moist.
- It was slightly heavy on the starch for me and I prefer more ground meat, but the pork jowl made up for it.
- The slight sear on the outside of the koofteh was nice although it wasn’t necessarily crispy and I was hoping it would be.
- The crispy beef jerky strands helped make up for lost crispy texture on the pork jowl and meatball.
- I got the pork flavour from the pork jowl instead of the meatball, which was unexpected.
- Originally some recipes have a quail’s egg stuffed inside the meatball too.
- Koofteh is one of my favourite Iranian dishes and I’ve had home cooked “Persian grandma recipes” for it, so it was hard to compete.
- To keep from moving, the meatball sat on a creamy, rich, sweet and savoury silky puree of caramelized onions and brown butter.
- It was truly a beautiful dish that is tried, tested and true. It has me salivating just looking at the photos again.
Joie Rose, Okanagan Valley, BC, 2011 – It was another local favourite winery. It is an affordable rose with mostly Gamay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It is a bit “girly” with strawberries and caramel and it is sweet, but tart from berries and apples. I’m not enthusiastic about many rose, but I enjoy this one.
- Oxtail, seville orange, carrot, rice
- This was the most acquired dish and it is not because of the oxtail, but the seville orange broth.
- I love oxtail and am very familiar with it, but I have never had it with Koresht e Narenge.
- Koresht e Narenge is a dish from north of Iran and it means Seville orange stew.
- The stew originated from a region in Iran where oranges grow.
- I’ve had a chicken version of it in the past, but this was made with oxtail.
- I would like to try it with duck, which I know does exist, but it is also most expensive.
- Traditionally Persian stews are served with mountains of crispy rice, but this one was served with crispy saffron rice and puffed barley.
- There were also toasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds for added texture and flavour which I liked.
- Again I could appreciate his attention to texture although the crispy components are not traditional.
- It was served with a orange gravy like beef stock broth which was acquired.
- It was more for a palate familiar with authentic Persian flavours and food.
- It was very sour, a bit starchy, beany, nutty and musky and I thought it was made with pureed lentils.
- The texture was a bit grainy and it was thickened with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
- The walnuts had to be cooked for 6 hours so they could be creamed and blended into the broth.
- It was very dominant with orange flavour and I thought there was vinegar and pomegranate juice, but it was just orange.
- There was something about the aggressiveness of the orange and texture of the mealy broth that didn’t sit well with my palate.
- I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, although I enjoyed the oxtail and other components.
- The braised oxtail was expectedly fatty and a bit gelatinous, but it was also sous vide and roasted so the collagen was broken down.
- Oxtail is a very tough cut of inexpensive meat, but it has a lot of flavour. This was moist and well charred.
- It was well trimmed, lightly cured, removed from the bone, and approachable.
- If you have never tried oxtail just think of it as brisket in texture and it’s not “scary”.
- There was some sweet sunchoke and caramelized onion puree holding up the carrot too which I also enjoyed.
- Again, I enjoyed everything except for the seville orange beef broth which was more acquired.
- I don’t have much to compare or reference too, but I would try another version of this stew again.
Paul Zinck, Pinot Blanc, 2011 – It was interesting to go back to a pinot blanc at this point of the tasting menu, but the dishes were really challenging to pair. There are so many flavours and components that it is tricky to play off only one. This was crisp and dry with apple and lime, and it wasn’t my favourite with the lamb, but I could appreciate it. I liked the dual wine pairing for the next course.
- Lamb belly, lamb loin, potato, stone dry lime
- Hamid almost always has a “Duo of Lamb” course on all of his tasting menus. Sign of a true Persian chef.
- I’ve had his Duo of Lamb on a few occasions now and I consider it Hamid’s staple or signature dish, although it changes.
- His lamb dish has always included the sirloin and the neck though.
- Gheymeh is a legendary Iranian dish with meat and yellow split peas. Normally this is a one pot wonder.
- It is arguably a “stew” or “casserole”, and this was a deconstructed, French, and modernist way of looking at it.
- Gheymeh is Persian comfort food people don’t like to mess with (like Ghormeh Sabzi), so this was risky.
- According to Hamid, the tomatoes and potatoes where not always in this dish, but as new vegetables were introduced to Iran the dish evolved.
- The dish is always made with preserved lamb or veal meat that is extremely fatty.
- The lamb, potato and stone dry lime were all presented in 2 ways, which I found very unique. It let the diner play.
- There was a lot of lentil puree and stone dry lime foam on the plate which is intentional.
- It is equally as important as the lamb so he is very generous with it.
- They were used as the sauce, which is a change from meat reductions.
- The stone dry lime foam was made from turmeric, cinnamon, tomato, fresh lime juice, garlic, onion, potato, and yellow lentil.
- The word “foam” has freaked a lot of people out because more often than not it is made poorly and serves no purpose.
- Here, the foam is made correctly and it is more like a frothy mousse that has body.
- The foams that do not work are the ones without an emulsifier that look like bubbly foam in the kitchen sink or bath tub. Those, I do not like either.
- This was creamy, thick, rich and moussey and I knew I would love it just by looking at it.
- It coated my mouth almost like egg yolk and it had so much flavour, although hard to pick out what it was without knowing.
- It was definitely sour and tasted like sundried tomatoes with the texture of hummus, but not as starchy or thick.
- I did get some unexpected background heat although it wasn’t spicy.
- There was a bit of chili in it which is not traditional to the recipe, but still very good.
- The lentil puree was super sour from the stone dry limes, so I had to use it sparingly.
- The acidity from the stone ground puree and foam cut the richness of the lamb, and it could be acquired, but I loved it.
- The roasted lamb sirloin seemed sous vide first and it was moist and medium rare.
- It was sliced very thinly and incredibly tender and not very gamey.
- It was likely cooked with other ingredients, but those flavours didn’t quite develop their way into the meat.
- Traditionally the dish is served with crispy slices of fried potatoes on top, and here it was in two mini strands of “potato tornado”.
- The crispy potato chip was made from a baby potato and it didn’t have the same impact as it would in a casserole or stew, but I still liked it.
- It wasn’t seasoned though, which is easy to fix, and it would have made it better.
Domaine Bousquet Malbec, Tupungato, 2011 – I’m a fan of Malbec because I like their creamy texture. It was a traditional wine pairing to go with lamb and there was only a bit of spice so it didn’t overwhelm anything. It had a medium full body and was obvious with blackberry and plum. There was also fig and chocolate like flavours and a medium long finish. This was meant to be paired with the the fattier and richer lamb neck.
- The lamb neck was expectedly fatty and it was committed to the type of meat used in the original recipe.
- It was rolled in a roulade and seared crispy on the outside.
- The meat was likely salt cured, braised, sous vide, and roasted so it was not chewy, but very tender and a bit gamey.
- The flavour was reminiscent of suckling pig and crackling and I preferred it to the loin although completely different and much richer.
- It is naturally gelatinous, but it is not chewy and there are alternating layers of meat when it is rolled like this.
- I wasn’t aware that Iranian cooking believed in the balance of “heaty” ingredients and “cooling” ingredients, but it does.
- Therefore the basil leaves were the “cooling” component to the heatier components around it.
- If you have no idea what I’m talking about see my article on Chinese food and symbolism (“Yin and Yang” philosophy).
- I love potato-parmesan pavé, but this had no parmesan.
- The potatoes were very thinly shaved and they were a bit overcooked, but the crispy sear all around saved the day.
- It was an interesting component to put next to the roulade of lamb which was also somewhat layered.
- I wouldn’t have minded one more variety of foam or purée just to change things up because it got a bit repetitive.
- I actually wouldn’t mind some crispy fried yellow split peas somewhere and more cinnamon built into the meat too.
- It captured all the flavours of the original dish, but it was presented very differently and I couldn’t compare it to anything else I’ve had.
To be continued…