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inventolux

Moto Restaurant - Chicago

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not sure if its meant as a kangji or not, but in Chinese, the character is "yi" and means something like meaning/idea or hint/suggestion...This month's Chicago mag has an article about Moto that made me very interested, I'm looking forward to a visit soon.

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had dinner at moto on tuesday night............19 courses, i took pictures and will post them along with a review as soon as i get a chance.............amazing restaurant!!!!!!!!!!

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I just read a blurb about MOTO in the new Food Arts.

Looking good and congrats!


2317/5000

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I just read a blurb about MOTO in the new Food Arts.

Looking good and congrats!

Hey, you beat me to it!

Anyway, congrats yet again, Senor Cantu.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Last Monday was my birthday (thanks - I'm 40. yay.), and following my own personal tradition I booked a table for one at the restaurant of my choice. This year, the choice was the new Chicago restaurant Moto, helmed by head chef Homaro Cantu (eGullet member inventolux). Also on his kitchen staff is eGullet member and Chicago potluck favorite Hobbes.

Approaching the address given on Moto's web site, I was beginning to wonder if there had been a typo - the neighborhood is gritty industrial warehouses with big trucks and semis blocking many of the sidewalks. But then here is this clean little storefront hacked out of the raw urban wilderness. And coming inside everything is calm modern minimalism and chic all-black clad staff (including what look like lab coats in black). In fact the space is so minimal that you find yourself wishing for just a bit of artwork on the walls, but then the food starts coming and you forget all about pictures.

The current menu offers four tasting menus of five, seven, ten, and nineteen courses ranging in price from $50 to $160. Each menu also has a wine progression option for an additional charge from $30 to $65. There is no separate wine list, which is fine with me since there is no way I could have hoped to pick better matches with the dishes that were about to appear. I would even go so far as to say the the wine progressions are an essential part of the Moto dining experience. A complimentary glass of a lovely proseco was poured to enjoy while I'm studying the menu. It's a tough choice, but given my temporary financial situation I go for the seven course - the nineteen course will have to wait for a time when I'm feeling a bit richer.

(Sorry about the poor quality of the photos, but I didn't want to be rude and use a flash in the restaurant.)

i3398.jpg

Toro, Sturgeon Caviar, 11:45am Live Uni & a Utensil Study

NV Herbert Beaufort Bouzy grand cru, Champaigne, France

As you can see, the custom made spoons are an integral part of this dish. Inside the spiral handles are sprigs of fresh thyme that you smell as you eat the toro tuna, sea urchin (alive until 11:45 that day) and caviar. Magnets on each end of the little posts they are resting on keep them attached to the plate. The flavors here were very subtle and clean, but the mouth-feel is pure silken luxury. The champaigne had a strong yeasty, buttery finish - almost like drinking brioche. It beautifully enhanced and complimented the tuna and uni.

i3399.jpg

Candy, Hot Gelled Hash & Slurpee with a Special Ingredient

2000 Cuilleron Marsanne, Rhone, France

This dish was a study in fennel - the candy in the lower left was chewy sweet fennel with an edible wrapper, on the right is a baby green salad with fennel gellee cubes and fennel puree, and top left is a fennel soup slushy with a Slurpee® straw direct from 7-11. The strong anise and sweet and sour flavors going on here had to have been a nightmare to pair a wine with, but the Cuilleron Marsanne was simply amazing. In combination with the fennel the alcohol in the wine was completely suppressed and the herbal notes accentuated - specifically a strong dill flavor. Surprising and delicious.

i3400.jpg

Sashimiesque Plate

I was given an extra pour of wine with this dish, but I'm afraid I don't remember what it was. Anyway, as you can see there are three portions of fish on the plate - lightly seared tuna, raw scallop, and raw salmon, each with it's own light sauce - along with a small cup of wasabi soda. The seafood was fresh and perfect with the light glaze of sauce just enough to enhance without overpowering, and the soda was sweet, but the fish was rich enough to stand up to the sweetness.

i3401.jpg

Inside Out Duck Roll

1998 Domaine Lorentz "Rotenburg" Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France

Here we have three portions of duck, each with a puree of duck skin, duck confit, and duck breast cook sous vide. On top is a crispy fried wonton tube with a sweet and mildly spicy liquid sauce inside. You are instructed to break the wonton and pour the sauce over the duck. A fun presentation and simply delicious. The flavors of the duck were deep and rich with the light, sweet sauce refreshing, and the play of textures from smooth to tender to slightly chewy was very nice.

i3402.jpg

Before the next course was served, the waiter placed this translucent plastic cube on my table. He explained that the fish inside would cook slowly from the heated liquid in the bottom of the cube and would be perfect by the time I had finished the next course.

i3403.jpg

Citrus & Togarashi

This was a light pallet cleanser consisting of a citrus emulsion, and citrus ice with a sprinkling of praline underneath. The waiter also used a stainless steel spray bottle to mist a bit of Japanese pepper liquid over the top. Very refreshing, nice textures and a little kick of spice at the end from the spray. A charming dish.

i3404.jpg

Pacific Bass Baked Tableside

2002 Cusumano, "Angimbre" Sicily, Italy

Now the plate for the fish that had been cooking in the cube was brought out with a bit of what looked like soba noodles, but turned out to be seaweed with a light sweet and sour sauce and a sprinkling of powdered nori. The cube was opened and the waiter used a spatula to transfer the sea bass to the plate. OK, so I know it looks like the whole cube thing could be just a gimmick, but this fish was simply amazing. It was cooked through, but the texture was silky smooth and fragile, melting in my mouth. The bass was also expertly seasoned and perfect with the seaweed and sauce. Did I say it was amazing?

i3405.jpg

Poached Pork with Curry

1999 W.H. Smith Wines "Hellenthal Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Mmmm... pork belly. On the left is a small dish of "beans and rice": wild rice and firm beans (runner beans?) in a thickly flavored cream sauce with a pyramid of bean ice cream. On the right is the meltingly tender pork belly topped with a piece of deep fried pork skin and surrounded by dots of lightly flavored curry sauce. Three words - rich, rich, rich. Deep, full bodied flavors that coat your mouth with unctuousness. In fact, this dish might have been just a little too much of a good thing as I was starting feel a bit full at this point.

i3406.jpg

Triple Seared Beef & a Sapporo Head

1997 Produttori del Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy

I'm not sure exactly what cut of beef this was, but it was treated like a beef sashimi with a darkly seared crust outside and extremely rare, basically raw inside. It was served on top of a richly flavored "wonton puree" and the waiter added a scoop of Sapporo beer foam at the table. Very nice.

i3407.jpg

Chocolate Rice Pudding Made Your Way

2002 Marenco Moscato d'Asti, Piedmont, Italy

On the right is a dish of puffed jasmine rice with toasted house-made marshmallows and mint micro greens, and on the left is a cup of rich hot chocolate. The idea is to pour the chocolate over the rice however you wish to create a rice pudding, or you can choose to eat the two sides separately. This I think was the least successful dish of the evening. All of the components were fine and tasty, but combining them didn't really add up to more than the some of their parts. A fun idea, but not very satisfying to eat.

i3408.jpg

Mignardises and Moto To Go

On the left is an intensely flavored pineapple chip, in the middle is a spoonful of rich and luxurious white truffle ice cream (more, please!), and underneath is the take-away - a sealed plastic pouch containing two separate liquids that when combined are supposed to make a chocolate/honey/anise soda. The flavors of the drink were really good, but it was a bit overly sweet and didn't really have much of a soda-type fizz. It was fun to play mad scientist at home, but the results where underwhelming.

Chef Homaro was kind enough to invite me downstairs to the lab - I mean kitchen to meet the crew and see the goings on. He showed me some of the stuff they are working on for future menus and talked about plans for more inventions that are really going to blow some minds. I think some of it may actually be alien technology - do Scully and Mulder know about this place?

Obviously everyone is going to be comparing the direction of Moto with what's going on at Trio, since both chefs are clearly into challenging expectations, pushing the envelope, and using technology to bring new experiences to the diner. I think the biggest difference is Moto's strong Japanese influence in ingredients and flavors, but their presentations also tend to be a little simpler, which you could also see as part of the Japanese tradition. The meals I've had at both places are certainly a couple of the most memorable and exciting.

I wish chef Homaro all the luck in the world on his new adventure and I look forward to seeing his cuisine develop and grow in new directions in the future.

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Great post nightscotsman. Love the images. Within two weeks when I was last there, they have changed the presentation.

You will be missed.

Good luck.

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I had an excellent meal at moto (3rd times the charm). Everything was awesome. Service, atomsphere and the kitchen team were kind enough to invite me back as a guest chef - thank you chef Cantu. Just wanted to mention that the restaurant is getting tons of press, just this past sunday the tribune wrote an interesting article available here . I also saw them in aprils elle magazine and I hear they may be on WGN next wednesday in the morning for a live cooking demonstration, however I could be mistaken.


Edited by niterider (log)

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Great article about a great guy.

Congrats!!!


2317/5000

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i really couldn't resist and despite being pretty jet lagged, i ate the tasting menu at moto on monday. the restaurant is pretty stark, no art on the walls to intrigue me or keep me from the powerpoint presentation i was writing :-)

i like to eat the tasting menu when i first go to a restaurant but i really wasn't sure I'd be up to it, but i thought of egullet and bit the bullet. i decided against the paired wines and instead had a couple of glasses of herbert beaufort bouzy grand cru champagne, which was fantastic and saw me through the meal very well.

i think the menu i left with was slightly different to the meal i ate, but i'm happy with that as it means you're eating food that's evolving while you're in the restaurant. this is especially important with the food at moto. having met homaro afterwards it's clear that he's having a blast and i'm really glad that i've eaten here at the beginning of the resturant's life as he is capable of producing some stellar food. the menu is reproduced almost in full here in bold, i havn't commented on all of the dishes.

two things to start that weren't on the menu, toro with caviar and a "palate cleanser" didn't do what it said on the box. two pipettes, one with chili and eucalyptus, the other with cilantro and scallions (i think). this seems to be a new preparation for them and chef showed me after how they're going to change the presentation slightly so the oil isn't at the bottom of the pipette as all i really got was an oily mouthful. not a auspicious start...but it got much better.

raw "smoked" watermelon soup & virtual smoke saw a motorised smoke box placed on the table what wafted some applechip smoke over the plate of watermelon soup with a creamy and zingy mango puree. the presentation of this dish reminded of a wylie dufresne dish i ate last year.

fennel phase one

salmon, hamachi and black young coconut soda

peeky toe crab and caramelised burdock a very simple preparation of almost soupy crab just sauteed and served with a whole soft shell crab to garnish.

caramelised cucumber sorbet and soup this was the first really amazing thing for me. the cucumber sorbet had been encased in a sugar "window" that shattered as you ate. the cucumber flavour in the soup and sorbet was killer, this would have been a better palate cleanser.

a duck roll pulled apart this upped the wow factor even more. in fact, i was excited when i was pulling the wonton apart that i managed to spill it all down my white tshirt. undeterred i poured the rest of the sweetly soyish sauce over the pile of confit duck, sliced duck breast and duck skin. it's a study of what you can do with duck and each flavour and texture really sang out. stunning.

citrus and togarashi again, great. nightscotsman said everything i want to say about this.

four story hill veal with beans and rice the veal was small nugget cooked sous vide and served with a veal consomme. in a separate dish was some puffed rice and beans.

bass baked tableside with live sawagani river crab my crab was served with another dish (i think) but that didn;t matter. this was the stand out dish of the night for me. this is probably the most delicious fish dish i've eve eaten in a restaurant. it was so perfectly steamed with japanese stype aromatics, the texture and flavour so subtle but the dusting of pepper (i think) made a great counterpoint. who says this molecular gastronomy is all about complex preparations and flavours?

wood poached pork belly with curry very tender pork and a really subtle curry sauce but it was slightly lost on me as i was starting to get very full at this point.

juniper and gin didn't work for me, it was served as a drink. too herbal.

prime beef, trumpet royale mushrooms and a beer head way too much for me at this point but the beef was charred and cooked very rare and was very good.

fennel phase two

parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes and branch water in the words of simon cowell "not for me"

saffron and cardamom but this one was. i believe it was a saffron icecream floated in a beautifully small bubbled soda. delish.

chocolate rice pudding made your way i'm a huge fan of chocolate and the milk chocolate sauce was so creamy and chocolately. and the homemade marshmallows. OHMYGOD. i kind of ignored the rice. i really had to stop myself licking the bowl.

i had a quick kitchen tour at this point and then a rushed final desert, not on my menu, while i signed the bill and ran to my waiting cab. this final treat had some white truffle icecream that mobyp should cross the atlantic for :-)

i didn't get to try the moto to go as i left it in my hotel room, along with my laptop and pursue :-( but still, i can't wait to go back.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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He showed me some of the stuff they are working on for future menus and talked about plans for more inventions that are really going to blow some minds. I think some of it may actually be alien technology - do Scully and Mulder know about this place?

All right, you lucky ducks who have eaten at moto and posted here: You've got my attention! The sense of play, and, well, invention is exhilarating to hear about, and that fish-in-a-cube thing reads like Jules Verne. Very, very cool.

Felicitations, inventolux and Hobbes -- and to all those non-eGulls involved.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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congrats inventolux........well deserved and i look forward to experiencing your restaurant again in the near future)))))))))))


Edited by chefseanbrock (log)

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I just saw chef Cantu and read a sample prix fixe menu in my monthly mailing from Chef's Garden. Looks really cool and will definatly be a stop my next time in Chi-town. I wish you much future success.

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the most groundbreaking restaurant in the country...............the coolest thing is the service along with the food....after having dinner at the best restaurants in the country....i found moto to be the most fun because the service was super laid back and dead on.........as good as daniel, jean georges, trio, gramercy tavern, .......and the servers were so down to earth with amazing knowledge of what they were serving and the everyone was so cool.........often when dining at the best restaurants i have felt a little uncomfortable because the servers were so uptight....if i recall correctly at one point the sommerlier poured a glass of wine and in his description he said" this is a killer wine".... enough said......i can't wait to go back.............they are doing everything right and it won't be long before everyone finds out what's going down..............before long getting a reservation at moto will make getting a reservation at the french laundry look easy......take my adviceand get a seat while you can))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

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My g-friend and I visited Chicago two weekends ago and I decided to get a copy of Chicago magazine, primarily because it touted the "best restaurants" on the cover. We were intrigued by the description of both the cuisine and experience of MOTO, and decided it was a "must do" for Saturday night. (Sushi-wabi was Friday but thats another story). Like others have mentioned in this thread, driving up to the restaurant was part of the fun - were we going to enjoy a great dining experience, or be shot down, gangland style, between the trucks lining the docks along the district?

We were delighted by Moto! Ten courses and three hours later we left incredibly satisfied. The chef was able to accomodate my companions "no meat" preferences as well, something we always appreciate.

Some of the highlights - thin sliced scallops with pickled daikon, the incredible scarlet runner beans and puffed rice (!!), the chilled watermelon soup with frozen dijon mustard (although we did not get a "virtual smoke machine" :sad: ), the chocolate rice pudding.

The one dish that really didn' t live up to billing, nor to what I have read from others here, was the bass cooked in the cube. The experience of watching it cook was fun, but the fish itself was bland and left us both wondering what was missing.

Our server was knowledgeable and fun. At one point, between the two dessert courses, I noted that I was just about done in by the meal. He quickly said (with the proper Monty Pytonesque inflection) that we had only one more course "a wyfer theen mint". Not to be outdone, I replied "you'd better bring me a bucket, then"

I must say that this was one of the finest dining experiences I have ever had. Thank you chef and thanks to your fine staff.!

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:wink:

Not yet, but I'm fixing to set up a visit in June (yup, that's the visit I was gonna do in April or May. Had the ldinero, but not the time...then I had the time but not the e-pluribus-unum.

We'll get there, don't you fear.

:biggrin:


Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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For those who have been to both Moto and Trio, how do the two compare, in terms of food quality and consistency?

Thank you.

Scott

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Just saw a blurb in Time magazine. Its great to see one of my favorite restraurants are doing so well. I will be returning with some chefs from baltimore later this summer.

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For those who have been to both Moto and Trio, how do the two compare, in terms of food quality and consistency?

Thank you.

Scott

trio wins hands down. i ate at both in the same week recently. moto is slighly more experimental, possibly slightly further out on the curve but is more inconsistent. trio wins for beauty of presentation, the increible service and the most amazing food experience i have ever had.

in an ideal world, go to both because i think chef omar will be influential in his time and you can catch him early in his career at the moment. but grant is so in his stride at the moment that he's unmissable.

there are very, very few high end restaurants i have eaten in twice recently because i'm a glutton for the new...but i will probably go back to trio next month.

and i live in london!


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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I have had the priveledge of working alongside Chef Cantu at Charlie Trotter's, and I must say, he is one of the most talented and creative people I have had the pleasure of knowing. Due to the fact that I am currently cooking in Vermont, I have yet to try his doings at Moto. I can only guess that it is just a matter of time before he begins to put the food world on its ear!

Chef GEB

www.gebowles.com


Graham Elliot

@grahamelliot

www.grahamelliot.com

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i had a really, really good meal here last night. it was amazing to see how things have grown in the last couple of months. i'll post more later, but if you are thinking about making a reservation here at the moment, pick up the phone and call them.

report to follow.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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How far out in advance for Saturday night reservations? . . we may have to swing a trip back "home" to Chicago at the end of August to go to Moto . . sounds like the perfect place for two displaced Chicagoans to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

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Kind of off the subject..............just wanted some feedback on this one......

I have been begun filtering chefs into our dining room as service members. By next year we hope to have a team of 30 chefs that rotate from the front of the house into the back every 3 to 6 months. Sort of morphing the restaurant into a 100% chef driven atmosphere. My GM and I are finding this to be a more creative environment with culinary minded individuals executing more "risky" techniques. We are observing a number of benefits from this, they are:

1. Eventually tipping out the entire staff (higher wages for chefs, the entire industry could benefit from this one)

2. Expanding our efforts with interactive cuisine by observing what the guest is least expecting

3. Creating a new profession - the "gastronomic professional" not chefs or cooks but individuals that are able to have vision over an entire entity

There are many other benefits but I just wanted to know your opinion here. Thanks


Future Food - our new television show airing 3/30 @ 9pm cst:

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/future-food/

Hope you enjoy the show! Homaro Cantu

Chef/Owner of Moto Restaurant

www.motorestaurant.com

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      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
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