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Z Kitchen


BryanZ
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Bryan, just wanted to say that I applaud what you're doing here.

I, like most people on this forum probably, enjoy cooking for friends and medium sized groups. The challenge of creating nice dishes with good execution and creative plating in it of itself is rewarding. Knowing that the diners actually enjoyed what you created is a great feeling.

I ate at minibar on thursday (see that thread for my photos/descriptions/review) and walked away with tons of ideas and concepts.

The direction you've taken your food is very similar to where my gastronomic interests lie right now having read extensively about El Bulli and Achatz/Cantu and dining at minibar and wd-50. Talking with Chef Dufresne was also quite enlightening.

The carbonated fruits, the foams, the alginate/cacl2 spheres (especially those!!!) and cooking sous vide are techniques that I plan on testing out in the very near future. Is there an egullet thread on techniques/materials sources necessary for these? I've seen ones on the pacojet but maybe i'm not looking hard enough for the others.

Regardless. I look forward to seeing more photos of your dishes. Maybe you can talk a bit more about preparation, how you think up your plating ideas (I definitely see a lot of WD-50 style sauce smearing in your photos) and your sauce/meat pairings?

Keep up the good work! If I find the time to visit my Duke friend, I will let you know.

Cheers,

Albert

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There are indeed threads on eG discussing a host of modern techniques. eG has probably the internet's best guide to sous vide cookery and decent threads on experimentation with alginate/CaCl, N20 foams, Activa, and various gelling agents. You just have to look around. A lot.

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Sorry it's taken me so long to provide my thoughts about my meal at Z Kitchen, but it's been a bit chaotic.

Let me start off by saying that I offer these comments as if I were visiting a restaurant, and not as a guest at a friend's restaurant. Thus, if I come off overly critical, it's because I'm taking that approach rather trying to be ultra-nice to a friend.

Bryan certainly is a young man who has some talent and pretty good ideas. He's incredibly young, but seeing he has absolutely no training and no experience in a professional kitchen, he does some impressive work. What he needs more than anything right now is constructive criticism from people who aren't just pandering sycophants. He'll learn that way.

The student apartment is just that. Don't arrive expecting to be impressed by the ambience. That's not what this is about. It's all about the food.

Bryan started us with an appetizer of seared sea scallop with a piece of golden beet, a pickled chanterelle, and a base of pureed Japanese artichoke. This was a very good dish that would have been outstanding with a bit more beet and chanterelle. Moreover, the dish was served in this high-sided square bowl that made eating it almost impossible. Bryan should have just put it on a plate. However, this dish really showed me what he's capable of doing, and it was a good looking presentation.

He then served some corn croquetas, that were supposed to be very creamy on the inside. Frankly, they were pasty and not all that pleasant to eat. He served the croquetas with an aioli that incorporated sherry vinegar and caramelized onion, but neither of those flavors came through. This was the only dish of the evening that we felt did not work very well.

For the next course, Bryan stuffed squid with two different fillings: goat cheese and piquillo pepper in one and braised short rib in the other. Both were served with a garlic cream. The goat cheese-filled squid was superb, but the garlic cream was not flavorful at all. Nevertheless, I could have eaten a half dozen of these. It was also a drab presentation -- lots of white -- hell, just sprinkle some peppers around the plate. The braised short rib filling needed some acid or some sort of zip to it. It was a solid try, however, and was one step away from being outstanding.

The next dish was the highlight of the evening: wild salmon cooked sous vide served with some wonderful fennel that was braised with raisins and some sort of acidic wine. He added some soy sauce powder to build up the umami. The powder was overly hygroscopic, so it ended up clinging to the bowl and not getting distributed with the food, but the dish really worked. Excellent dish.

The savory courses ended with chicken breast cooked sous vide that was accompanied by a somewhat sweet roasted vegetable puree and some sort of wine "jus." I appreciated tasting the chicken cooked this way -- it made boneless chicken breast flavorful, but the overall dish itself needed a bit more. The "jus" added nothing to the dish. The vegetable puree was fine, but the overall texture of the entire dish, combined with the chicken, was too soft. Plus, the flavors ended up just being a bit too mild. It was tasty, and I enjoyed eating it, but if I had been served this in a restaurant, I would have found it just OK.

For dessert, he added some grapes and strawberries to a carbon dioxide cannister, and then served those with a miso-chocolate dipping sauce. The fruit was fun -- sort of a solid fruit soda. The sauce was quite tasty (and the miso was a great addition to the chocolate), but it was brushed on the plate -- hardly a dipping sauce. It was, however, a nice presentation and a whimsical way to end a solid meal.

All in all, it was a very good meal and showed me that Bryan is capable of doing great things. For $40, it's a great meal and quite a value. I think he's trying to be subtle with his flavors, and he does a solid job with it. He might have toned things down for our crowd based on the dietary restrictions I gave him. Regardless, I'm positive that Bryan can put together an outstanding meal. Give him a chance; you won't regret it.

Pictures to follow when I get the chance.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Here are the pictures from our evening at Z Kitchen. Sorry, I'm not a real photographer, so these will have to do.

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The Menu

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The wonderful sea scallop amuse

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Croquetas

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Salmon and fennel and raisins, oh my!

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Close up of the "oh my!"

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Short rib-stuffed squid. I didn't take a picture of the goat cheese and pepper stuffed squid.

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Chicken and vegetable puree

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Carbonated fruit cup with miso chocolate sauce

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Bryan through the looking -- er, wine -- glass

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Bryan in his deluxe kitchen. Actually, it's amazing what he does in there.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Great looking dinner, Bryan.. You are really so brave to be doing this and putting yourself out there.. Its really so cool that you are doing this..

Is that the aerogarden I see in the wine glass? That shot reminds me of an Alec Balwdin skit on SNL.. Now you can put your loved one in a brandy snifter..

gallery_137_3690_47228.jpg

That fennel and raisin combo sounds fantastic.. What a pretty piece of salmon..

gallery_137_3690_1038.jpg

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Here are the pictures from our evening at Z Kitchen.  Sorry, I'm not a real photographer, so these will have to do.

Those are some pretty damn good food photos, Dean. You are way too modest.

Brian, I like your plating style - spare and elegant. While the setting may not be the most elegant, it looks like you are doing a tremendous job. The food looks delicious.

Dean, you also did a very nice review that was clearly meant to be constructive.

I see a lot of potential here.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Is that the aerogarden I see in the wine glass? That shot reminds me of an Alec Balwdin skit on SNL..  Now you can put your loved one in a brandy snifter.. 

Dude, you have eyes like a hawk. That is indeed the Aerogarden in the wine glass.

I'm off this weekend and am going back home for a couple meals in New York and some much-needed rest. Hopefully things will remain busy (but not too busy), as I constantly strive to improve upon the quality of this venture.

I have another VIP party (though in all honesty, everyone is a VIP :biggrin: ) next week. Maybe I'll be able to restock the pantry with some items easier found at home.

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Hey there Bryan. In case you had some spare cash laying around or were on the market for one... a pacojet is up on ebay right now and chances are it'll sell for around the opening price

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-PacoJet-Gelato-Sor...1QQcmdZViewItem

Easily 1/3 off of retail!

After seeing the containers that come with it, I realized that ALL the sorbets (coconut, berry, tomato) at minibar along with the ajo blanco were made with the pacojet!

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He then served some corn croquetas, that were supposed to be very creamy on the inside.  Frankly, they were pasty and not all that pleasant to eat.  He served the croquetas with an aioli that incorporated sherry vinegar and caramelized onion, but neither of those flavors came through.  This was the only dish of the evening that we felt did not work very well.

Croquetas aren´t supposed to be very creamy, unless you're doing a variation on Adrià's liquid croquetas.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Hey there Bryan. In case you had some spare cash laying around or were on the market for one... a pacojet is up on ebay right now and chances are it'll sell for around the opening price

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-PacoJet-Gelato-Sor...1QQcmdZViewItem

Easily 1/3 off of retail!

After seeing the containers that come with it, I realized that ALL the sorbets (coconut, berry, tomato) at minibar along with the ajo blanco were made with the pacojet!

I'm so sad you brought this to my attention. There's no conceivable way I can scrounge up at least a grand, as much as I really really really really really want to own a PacoJet.

Anyone want to give me a loan?

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aside from scrounging up a grand for the paco jet, you'd then have to scrounge up money for a freezer that will stay at -10 degrees fahrenheit or colder (reliably) in order to freeze your bases cold enough to even consider using the pacojet. so consider it a good thing to not have right now :rolleyes:

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aside from scrounging up a grand for the paco jet, you'd then have to scrounge up money for a freezer that will stay at -10 degrees fahrenheit or colder (reliably) in order to freeze your bases cold enough to even consider using the pacojet.  so consider it a good thing to not have right now  :rolleyes:

That's the part that they don't mention. Does a decent home freezer qualify?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The Pacojet pitch didn't go over too well with the 'rents. Maybe another time.

As an aside, I think I'll be picking up a case of Manni olive oil in the coming weeks. So yay for that.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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aside from scrounging up a grand for the paco jet, you'd then have to scrounge up money for a freezer that will stay at -10 degrees fahrenheit or colder (reliably) in order to freeze your bases cold enough to even consider using the pacojet.  so consider it a good thing to not have right now  :rolleyes:

That's the part that they don't mention. Does a decent home freezer qualify?

A decent home freezer does work just fine - and actually probably better than some restaurant freezers that get a lot of traffic. The beakers are supposed to freeze through at -4F - and a home freezer should be around 0F - put the beakers on on the bottom and they do work fine. And if you have a Costco-esque chest freezer, all the better. A shameless plug warning - but of interest to us here - I just tested the Pacojet for my CHOW product review column next week. This week it was sous-vide.

Bryan, great work you're doing - in and out of the kitchen.

Edited by Louisa Chu (log)
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In completely unrelated news, it appears that Paul Liebrandt is the high bidder on this infamous eBay Pacojet. Paulieb76, I'm pulling for you.

ETA: I just realized that some of you might not know who Chef Liebrandt is. Besides being a huge inspiration of mine, he recently was the chef at Gilt, New York's only hypermodern fine-dining restaurant. Now it appears he's surfing eBay and buying up Pacojets.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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In completely unrelated news, it appears that Paul Liebrandt is the high bidder on this infamous eBay Pacojet.  Paulieb76, I'm pulling for you.

ETA: I just realized that some of you might not know who Chef Liebrandt is.  Besides being a huge inspiration of mine, he recently was the chef at Gilt, New York's only hypermodern fine-dining restaurant.  Now it appears he's surfing eBay and buying up Pacojets.

With all due respect to Paul, how do you leave WD-50 out of that statement let alone anyone else?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Alright, I am going to bite, what the heck does hypermodern mean?

Look in the miror :wink::smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Alright, I am going to bite, what the heck does hypermodern mean?

Look in the miror :wink::smile:

Indeed.

Seriously, though, in this context it means looking forward and experimenting with food. Beyond that it's really just a catch phrase of sorts, a way to set myself apart from other people holding private dinner parties in their apartments. It's a competitive market. I would consider the likes of Minibar, El Bulli, et al truly hypermodern. I'm just employing modern and novel techniques to make my food more interesting and thought-provoking. Many ideas I come up with myself, many others come from other places. On the aggregate it's fun and innovative, but somehow that doesn't have the same ring as "hypermodern."

Here's a menu. Tomorrow's diner hasn't seen the v.2 last-minute changes yet, so hopefully all will be okay.

gallery_28496_3717_4005.jpg

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Just found this thread, and had to say WOW, Bryan. WOW, WOW, WOW. You're doing what I suspect so many of us here on eG just dream of; you're passionate about something (cooking-related) and you're going for it. HOORAY for you! Really.

I'm curious...did you ever get to StudioKitchen? I may have missed that, as I just crammed through 4 pages of this thread. I really hope you did. I was one of those nuts who drove 100 miles, stayed overnight in Philly, and am thrilled to have experienced SK. And it was just that--an experience--as I'm sure that dinner at your place is! Now that I see it's running $40 a person, I can honestly say that you have no excuse in terms of the students--they'd easily spend that in a weekend for crappy beer, wouldn't they?!? Get the word out quietly and I'm sure you'll have more time to experiment and your fan base will quickly grow.

One thought from this former university administrator...when you're comfortable enough to do so, go talk to folks in the Dook (I love that, btw) alumni and/or foundation office. If they want to impress a donor/alum by having a student cook dinner for a SMALL group, could you do it off site (i.e., at the president's house)? If so, you'll have a CAPTIVE audience. The other thought is that you could donate your (student) service to an auction for one of the groups on campus, but again, you'll have to figure out if you can do it off site or if they'd have to come to you. For those who are agreeing that you don't have a built-in audience down there, I wholeheartedly disagree; the place is craaaaaawling with professors, and in my experience, many of them are very serious about food/wine, as it's often a favorite 'escape' from their area of expertise, even though they are usually as knowledgeable about these subjects as they are about those that they teach!

I may be jumping ahead, but thought I'd throw in my $ .02. No matter what, you have my best wishes, and if I ever get down there, I'll be happy to make a reservation!

Curlz

P.S., your presentations are great--far better than the cafeteria plating, I'm guessing. :laugh:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Bryan Z,

I know you are down with the Uni.. I had a thought the other day. An Oyster Po Boy with an Uni A-O-Lee...

I was still trying to perfect the Uni Alfredo... My Uni ravioli is just about there.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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This menu is evidence that our group's dietary restrictions (i.e., no pork products for half the crew) severely limited Bryan. This meal should rock, and seeing I know who the guests will be, I may have to call and see if an extra spot is available!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Bryan Z,

I know you are down with the Uni.. I had a thought the other day. An Oyster Po Boy with an Uni A-O-Lee...

I was still trying to perfect the Uni Alfredo... My Uni ravioli is just about there.

I am indeed down with the uni. I ate an entire package last weekend while I was at home. That idea is great, though. I'd pair it with some sort of silky seafood bisque to play with the smoothness of the oysters and to contrast with the crunchy bread. I'll try to bring some down the next time I go home, but it's quite fragile and perishable. I've yet to find a source down here.

For those interested, a night at Z Kitchen was profiled in the Independent as part of the DISH issue. Here's a link.

And here's an excerpt.

I am relieved to find that Bryan Zupon's food also tastes good. He is a self-professed disciple of Wylie Dufresne, though he's never worked in a professional kitchen and claims to have no aspirations beyond Z Kitchen (in the food world, that is; he's pre-law in the real world). An autodidact, he reads about food voraciously and chats on eGullet. One night last year, on a college student's budget, he and his girlfriend flew to Chicago to eat just one meal at Alinea. He credits his mother, of Japanese origin, with making him aware of the purity of flavor and the importance of presentation. As our clandestine dinner party progresses, this becomes evident.

What would I do without eG?

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Just finished cooking for detlechef and the rest of his party. I think the food turned out quite well even though I was serving a couple dishes for the first time.

Here are some technical notes for those interested.

For the "couscous" dish I took Wylie's shrimp couscous and made a version with both shrimp and squid. I then tapas-acized it by placing the couscous on top of roasted piquillo peppers, goat cheese, and chorizo. I sprinkled some toasted almond powder on top of the whole thing. I feel like while this is a fun dish in theory it might literally be too dry. I'd like some sort of light sauce to bring the dish together (literally and figuratively). Perhaps next time.

I also went higher on the pork belly than I usually do from about 65C to 70C; kept the same 48 hour cooking time. As expected the texture was more braise-like but still maintained some structure and textural meatiness.

Anyway, I'd like to thank detlechef for coming in and offering his resources and insight as a true professional to someone with much less experience. Perhaps he'll post here, but I've been informed that he's been known to spend some time on Chowhound. The shame, the horror.

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