This is Not a Restaurant: Chris Bolyard
THIS IS NOT A RESTAURANT is not a restaurant. Except when it is. Most of the time it's just a coworking space in the Central West End that looks like a cross of Mad Men and a chic hotel. But sometimes, without much fanfare, it becomes a tiny, exclusive restaurant. Most know Chris Bolyard as their friendly neighborhood butcher, a guy who's bringing the sexy back to the butcher game. But not so long ago, he was the Chef de Cuisine at Sidney Street Cafe, acting as Kevin Nashan's right hand man. I had stopped by the shop, Bolyard's Meat & Provisions, to load up on sausages, when he let me know that he was going to be taking part in one of the This is Not a Restaurant (TINAR) dinners.
Could he still cook after over a year out of kitchens? Had he lost his ability to plate? Would everything be in tube form? I had to see.
TINAR takes place at THE BHIVE, which is the office space above Brennan's, with the dinners taking place in the conference room.
Being the amazingly generous older brother that I am, I decided to take my sister for her twentysomethingth birthday. We stepped in, got a cocktail at the bar, then were given a choice of 2 person tables to sit at. I was a little bummed that we weren't all sitting at communal tables, like most pop-ups. I love meeting new people! Alas, my sister and I were forced to stare at each other for 3 hours.
Anyway, the meal started with Chris' "Savage Slider", an adorable beef tartare patty on a tiny freshly baked potato roll. I almost swallowed it whole. Just as I started to tell my sister I was surprised to see him do something simple, out comes his pickled lamb's tongue salad.
Spring vegetables were tossed in a bagna cauda, an anchovy-heavy Italian dressing (usually it's a hot dip, says Google), then topped with small slices of lambs tongue and smoked pistachios. The dish had spring down so well, it was even pastel colored. It was like eating Easter.
My favorite course for the evening and one of the best things I've eaten this year was course 3: fresh spring peas, served whole and as a puree, paired with white asparagus, and ultra-crispy pork belly. Just like the pork belly I had at Sidney Street a few months ago, the skin was insane—it was like a meat potato chip glued to melty fat and tender meat. And it was drizzled with kimchi vinaigrette. I'm salivating as I write this and look at that picture.
The 4th course seemed like a play on the steakhouse classic of meat, mushrooms, potatoes, and spinach—instead of creamed spinach, we had charred ramps, instead of mashed potatoes, we had sunchoke puree and potato chips, instead of boring steakhouse mushrooms, we had massive morels.
Chris cut the beef plate ("a forequarter cut from the belly of the cow, just below the rib cut. It is typically a cheap, tough and fatty meat") into little medallions that were seared on the outside, but pull apart tender on the inside. All that was topped with morel jus and a preserved lemon gremolata. I would eat this again.
Dessert made me mad. I've been buying meat from Chris since the shop opened, and not once has he had carrot cake for sale in the fridge. You'd understand my indignation if you had this—it was so good. If he can whip desserts up like this, he should be selling them. I don't know how many days he's already taken off my life thanks to meat mayos, tallow fries, and bacon butter, but I'd happily sacrifice more days for more desserts.
The cake was served with a cajeta (a Mexican goat's milk caramel sauce), meringue shards, and pickled walnuts.
So yes, Chris can still cook. Let's hope he does it again. In the meantime, make sure to go to the This is Not a Restaurant website and sign up for their mailing list!