Monday, March 29, 2010

Hatchi - Burning Sensation - Kuniko Yagi @ Breadbar

Breadbar Century City hosted the latest edition of its Hatchi series of guest chef pop-up dinners last Thursday night with Kuniko Yagi, the chef de cuisine at Sona, David Myers acclaimed flagship restaurant (which is due to close soon), for a dinner themed and titled as Burning Sensation.

The meal offered 6 savory courses and 2 dessert courses (by Sona pastry chef Ramon Perez) for $8 each. Guests were required to purchase a minimum of 4 courses or 3 courses + a drink, per person. The idea behind the Hatchi series is laudable - offer a chef the opportunity to cook whatever they want, and at the same time provide a wider public access to these chef's cuisine, at an approachable price point. The "one night only" nature of the events have frequently led to full houses and chefs being more experimental.

My dining companion and I tried all the dishes, with the exception of #4, as we do not eat clam.

The menu was:

1. New Zealand Spinach Creme, Almost Burnt Caramel, Cauliflower
2. Yellowfin Tuna, Smoked Eggplant Puree, Mitsuba Sauce
3. Yogurt Marinated Chicken, Burnt Shishito Puree, Maitake Mushroom
4. Geoduck Clam and Charred Veggie Salad, 3 Kinds of Grains
5. Harissa Marinated Cod, Sunchoke Puree, Crispy Pigs Feet
6. Miso Marinated Hangar Steak, Miso Marinated Soubise, Chino Radish
7. Burnt Orange Consomme, Meyer Lemon Creme, Sushi Rice Sorbet
8. Soft Chocolate, Charred Pineapple, Alpine Strawberry, Burnt Milk Ice cream


The first dish was a disc of new zealand spinach, much less aggressively flavored than the usual variety formed into a dish with a creme brulee like consistency, only slightly more solid. Not so jiggly. The dish was garnished with flowers and hazelnuts. Beautiful presentation, a hallmark of the evening and of Sona's dishes in general.

The harissa marinated cod had a hint of spice/heat. The waitress had warned us that it was the spiciest dish. No need to worry, Jitlada this was not. We had this dish without the pigs trotters. The sauce had penetrated the chicken and it was flavorful. This was also the most sizeable dish. Most were tasting menu portioned if that - delicate morsels.

Least favorite:

The yellowfin tuna dish was bland. The sushi quality tuna was served seared but did not have much flavor. Presented attractively.

Overall the meal was enjoyable but as a calling card did not compel me to make a reservation at Sona for a return visit. My last visit to the restaurant was nearly 3 years ago. The Sona style has a large degree of emphasis on presentation, almost like in a Japanese kaiseki meal. Much of the meal felt very ephemeral in nature, like it could float away.

Chef Yagi is charming and she is off to Japan and then to Europe once Sona shutters in the next couple of months. I look forward to trying the next iteration of her cooking.

Photos (in descending order) are of: Breadbar, Chef Yagi, Spinach Brulee, Tuna, Chocolate Dessert

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