Sidney Street Cafe: May 2016 Tasting Menu
Never have I ever...gotten the tasting menu option at Sidney Street Cafe. I am a control freak. I like to pick my food. Most restaurants have set tasting menus where you pick between two options for each course, or it's prewritten so you know what you're getting (Niche, for example, has both prix fixe and a chef's tasting). Sidney Street only offers a chef's choice tasting menu—you don't know what you're getting. Each course is a surprise, and no one gets the same thing. Share (or don't)! Try new things. You're in their hands and they're going to make sure you leave happy. It's sort of like that special massage place you went to in Thailand. Here's a look at my experience with May's tasting menu (5 courses per person x 3 of us = 15 dishes. I did not get all of these).
I've always believed that bread service at a restaurant should be something special or nothing at all. Chef Kevin Nashan obviously agrees, because their fry bread/beignets are out of this world good. Try limiting yourself to just one. You will fail.
All tasting menus start with the crudo—May's is a kombu-cured fluke (a Japanese preparation that turns the mild fish into an umami bomb) with blistered peas, pickled green strawberries, and, as odd it may sound, a white chocolate vinaigrette. The vin is more of a buttery, sweet, umami kick than biting into a bar of white chocolate.
The second round of courses includes a Spring Gnudi, complete with ramp pesto, melted leeks, egg yolk confit, lemon curd, and grilled ramp leaves. This dish confirms what I had long believed: ramps are the sexiest of the allium genus.
A plate of foie gras torchon with tandoori spiced apple, buttermilk borscht, and beet sorbet takes ingredients I normally associate with winter and heavy eating and turned it into a delicate plate appropriate for spring. Beautiful minimalist plating.
Buttery soft octopus over posole with salsa verde, Swiss chard chips, and little peppers whose name I can't remember remains a star on the menu.
Round 3 is seafood. I'm not given a taste of the smoked shrimp spring roll—rude, selfish tablemates—but previous versions of it were excellent.
The halibut plate has become Sidney Street's Spencer buzzword dish—even if the main protein was raccoon, I'd still order it thanks to uni bisque (I'm already sold), clams, squid ink, and crab. I take a few bites and realize I don't even need all the components: just give me that perfectly cooked, buttery halibut topped in that uni sauce and I will be happy. This is going into my epicurean spank bank.
Sidney Street has introduced me to many ingredients, and it was here that I fell in love with scallops close to a decade ago. Since then, I've lost interest. My love has faded. Rarely does a scallop seduce me. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...with creamed English peas, a mushroom conserva, morels galore, glazed pearl onions, and a miso jus. Yet another dish that tastes like Japan in Missouri in Spring (perhaps Nashan can open a restaurant with that theme and call it ミズーリ).A small intermezzo of blueberry mint sorbet arrives and we're off to the entree races. My plate is the rabbit porchetta, stuffed with rabbit merguez and wrapped in bacon, set over a bed of garbanzo bean ragout, morels, smoked kidneys, and a buttermilk broth. If you haven't had rabbit before, Sidney is the place to do it. It's almost like chicken...but better.
The squab & dumplings and beef cheek have been updated with the season and remain solid choices. The confit and grilled squab, accompanied by drop biscuits, citrus braised endives, and a lemongrass veloute is the most rustic of the dishes, and my least favorite of the three. I've never been much of a fan of traditional "chicken & dumplings", and found the dumpling bowl to be a little heavy and muted, especially compared to the other dishes.
If you're not doing the tasting and absolutely must eat beef, go for the cheeks instead of the steak. Pull apart tender meat over a fermented potato pancake with bone marrow vinaigrette. *Drops the mic*
I can't believe I used to be some loser who never ordered dessert. I shudder to think of all the sugar I've missed out on. The classic "Snicker Bar" and Carrot Cake haven't changed, which I won't whine about, because both are so goddamn good. The fact that I can eat the carrot cake over and over and be blown away each time should indicate just how good it is. The Zuggernaut is one helluva chef.
I hope I one day meet a woman who can satisfy me like that cake.
There's a new challenger to the Iron Throne of desserts though, it seems. As the server places a plate in front of me that looked like The Shire from Lord of the Rings, two things strike me: I am a loser for thinking of The Shire instantaneously and I am about to be eating matcha, aka green tea, aka one of my favorite things. All together, it has a black sesame butter cream, white chocolate matcha crumb, rhubarb compote, black sesame ice cream, matcha microwave cake, pickled rhubarb, and a matcha meringue.
It, like the rest of the meal, is glorious. After years of avoiding the tasting menu, that's what I'm doing from now on.