As you know, I'm a next follower. The Vegan menu at Grant Achatz's next is definitely a nice follow-up to "The Hunt", as there's no meat in the Vegan. Obviously, raving review from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune helps to solidify the opinion of this meal. However, I always like to make judgement of my own. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate and excited to check out this meal.
The center piece is definitely interesting. Fitting for the theme of the meal.
Frozen baked potato - purple potato mouse, chives
One of the first small bite is a little potato. The potato carried a nice seasoning, with crispy skin along with soft potato center. It reminds me of a mini potato skin.
Starter and Burnt Avocado" - Mousse of avocado, togarashi, crispy kale bouquets
This is one of my favorite starter. The mousse is nicely flavored but leans more on the hearty side. I especially like the crispy kale, which I initially thought was seaweed as it offers a seaweed consistency of crunchiness but with bolder flavor.
Baby Artichoke - artichoke mousse
Another small bites comes in the form of mousse. The artichoke mousse is hiding in the heart. With a gentle scoop, you can get everything out. The mousse itself is surprisingly creamy but light. However, I don't taste too much of the artichoke itself.
1) Miso Sprouted tempeh - Sprouted tempeh, soy sauce, sprouting basil -
2) Early Grey Rambutan - "Gelee"
3) Spinach Nori "Dumpling"
2) Early Grey Rambutan - "Gelee"
3) Spinach Nori "Dumpling"
A trio of appetizer, I started with the Miso tempeh, which tasted rather fishy. The brininess combined with the saltiness of miso and soy sauce becomes quite a nasty bite. The texture is a bit of a mush also. However, the failed tempeh bite is redeemed by a sweet rambutan jelly. It was mild, not overly sweet and light. The spinach Nori was my favorite in this trio. It was nicely seasoned, fluffy and has a nice fish flakes flavor to it. However, no where do I detect spinach flavor. But I still liked the bite.
Fermented apples and Lichen - apple sorbet, rose petals, cashew, reindeer lichen, apple gel.
Our first course is an apple sorbet with cashew. The sorbet carries a nice, mildly sour but sweet flavor. Along with the crushed and powdered cashew, this becomes a really nice starter. I especially like the cold, salty and sour combo of this dish.
3-ways Lily Pond with celery leaf and sorrel
I've had lily pond before, however, this is my first time eating 3 different ways together. The different ways were charred, raw and glazed. The result? A nice combo of texture as the mushy texture is balanced by a more solid/raw texture. Surprisingly, the dish carries a nice hearty texture to it. Just to note, the celery leaf and sorrel used here are actually in the center piece of the table. Pretty cool aye?
Rice Yogurt and Purple Asparagus 3-ways - White aspragus, rice yogurt, rice crackers, tarragon
One of my favorite courses of the night, the rice yogurt shines and, at times, over shadow the Asparagus. It carries a mild sweetness with a rich but not heavy texture, makes me want to lick the plate clean! The asparagus was served in 3 ways: vinaigrette, braised and with pear. I actually like the pear combination the most, as the sweetness of the pair balanced a somewhat blend flavor of the asparagus.
3-ways Salsifies with oyster leaf and dandelion - crispy, charred, boiled, arugular
The Salsifies are nicely cooked and done perfectly to their individual preparation. The boiled salsify is obviously what you expect it to be. However, the brininess from the oyster does a great job in complimenting the salsify. The charred version is nicely flavored and carried a little crunch. The coolest way to eat a salsify is the crispy version. It was practically fried, leaving the skin crispy and I thought I was eating a potato chips at times. An excellent dish and highlighted the different use of it
Swiss Chard leaf and douchi seitan - battered leaf, pepper jelly, Bean curd, onion
I must say, I've never had a Seitan before and I don't think this will be my last. The seitan carries a nice "meaty" flavor, which sort of resembles meat to me. Along with the spices that goes along with the mix, the seitan was a bit tangy too. The swiss leaf is nicely fried and crispy, which provides a nice complement to the seitan.
kombu atoll (tofu skin) - Yuzu
The tofu skin carried a nice yuzu flavor but still has a nice tofu flavor. It's very light, but carries a hearty "umami" tone to it.
"Mushroom cart" - sunflower seed "risotto", sunflower pedal, maitake, king trumpet, morel and oyster mushroom
I'm a sucker for sunflower seed and this is absolutely my other favorite of the night. It's definitely a heavier dish. With the sunflower seeds providing that risotto crunchiness, the flavor itself is a classic mushroom puree. However, one of my biggest concern is that I can't tell which mushroom am I eating as it's all mushed in together. But the dish tasted great and I believe that's the single most important thing.
red onion - inspired by Stupak - avocado puree, brussel sprouts, serrano pepper, quinoa wire, micro-cilantro
I thoroughly enjoyed the Brussels sprouts leaf in this dish as it carries a nice, heart and crunchy texture.
Harissa curry roasted cauliflower - tunisian spices
This is one of the most interesting dish. The curry carries a pungent spice to it, which offer a heavy spice flavor. Combined with the roasted cauliflower, making this dish quite the treasure.
Szechuan Berry & "olive oil jam" and bitter chocolate - chocolate cake, freeze dried strawberry, olive oil
We are instructed to eat the Szechuan Berry first, which numb my taste bud and I really dislike it. However, I guess that's the point of a pallet cleanser, since it wasn't alot of heat, my taste bud is able to come back and taste the chocolate cake, which is mildly sweet. Combined with the freeze dried strawberry, this is a very creative way to restarting your taste bud to transition from main course to dessert.
Hibiscus and Pistachio - Hibiscus cake, vanilla syrup, pistachio.
The hibiscus cake is actually raspberry flavor, while it offers a nice cake consistency. Along with the cake is a nice little capsule of vanilla syrup which is encased by a caramel case. Upon breaking, a coconut flavored liquid comes out, adding sweetness to the cake.
steamed crepes (kinda like mini pancake really) - vanilla & maple, chocolate, passion fruit
The crepes are all a bit spongy while carrying a mild sweetness of different flavors: vanilla, chocolate and passion fruit. I especially like the passion fruit one, as it carries a citrus sweetness to it.
This meal initially comes off as a bit blend and I didn't quite understand why am I eating so much spice. But after thinking about it, it hits me with its creativeness: using different spice and flavor to draw out the vegetable. Surprisingly, I did not miss the protein in this course and that's my biggest surprise. Such creativeness between using texture and flavor really lives up to my expectation of next, and I guess being a Vegan isn't all that bad, albeit all the restrictions.