Friday, February 24, 2012

When a Chef invites you to dinner...

One of the things I value most about writing a food blog, is surprisingly, not just about the food.  Since I started writing this blog (almost two years now!), I have come to discover many new restaurants and hidden gems, I have explored and familiarized myself with new neighborhoods but most of all, I have come to meet so many different people.  Many of the relationships I have built in the past year have been thanks to my activities as a foodista in and around Boston.  It is truly enriching to meet people from all walks of life who share one common passion...food:)
A couple of months ago I became acquainted with Chef Joshua Lewin, newly appointed Executive Chef at Beacon Hill Bistro. Chef Lewin worked as Sous-Chef for BHB for about two years (a few months of which was under the direction and mentor-ship of Chef Jason Bond of Bondir) before being promoted.

This past week, Joshua and I did a bit of an exchange, he first came to a performance of mine at the Ballet, and I came by his restaurant a few days later.  As a performer, I always love having friends in the audience, it allows me to really project and dedicate my performance - and with what follows, you will see just how much I enjoyed his tasting menu...it seems like I got a pretty sweet deal. Then again, I would imagine that perhaps the life of a dancer is not so different from the life of a head chef; his kitchen being his studio and the restaurant...his stage - familiar faces in the latter might be just as rewarding!
My friend and I were due for dinner at 7:30, I arrived a couple minutes early and snagged a shot of the outdoor sign.  Beacon Hill is a great neighborhood and Charles Street ranks highly on my list of favorites:) Funnily enough, this was my first visit to BHB...I am glad I managed to wait until this invitation to try it out!

Chef Joshua had prepared an incredible menu, he had even printed out coursed menu cards with the date and our names! Talk about a keepsake:) The meal was designed to give us a broad grasp on his regular menu, something I really appreciated because I wanted to get the real deal! Our meal began with an amuse-bouche that definitely tickled my taste buds.  It was a 'honey mussel' which is a rare breed only found in British Columbia.  It was topped with salt crystals that brought out the unique flavors of the oyster while offering an interesting contrast. I am always amazed when something so small can be so full of flavor!  The mussel was accompanied by oyster mushrooms, tantalizing both in aesthetics and taste.
Our first course was a charcuterie board with an assortment of pates, lardo, meats and condiments.  My absolute favorite was the duck liver pate (pictured closest to the lens).  I paired it with the grainy mustard on the crunchy baguette.  The house-made fig spread was so delicious I ended up eating it by itself once all the other meats had somehow disappeared;) 
For the second course, we were presented with two dishes, above we have the Evergreen cured Gravlax (smoked salmon) with baby beets, frisee and faroese yogurt.  What I was most impressed with here was the incorporation of the beets, an item usually paired with goat cheese and hazelnuts.  Here Joshua strayed from the invariable smoked salmon, dill and caper number and dipped into his creative side, offering us a very refreshing alternate to a staple on most restaurant menus.

Also part of the second course was a 'Sandra Jean' Scallop accompanied by grapefruit, vanilla and brown butter. I am always a sucker for scallops, the brown butter and vanilla were subtle enough not to overpower the scallop flavir while allowing for a note of sweetness. I could have had five of these!

It is probably just as well that I did not have five because the third course consisted of hand rolled tagliatelle...and yes, those are winter black truffles you spy! (how spoiled we were!) The sauce with this dish was a light, creamy concoction that paired well with the other flavors, pepper was used tastefully and I once again found myself longing for more:)

Fourth we had the proteins come in, in style. Above was the Rohan Duck breast in a reduction with rutabaga and braised greens. The duck was soft in texture and strong in flavor; the skin, crispy and juicy. 

However, my friend and I both agreed that the Painted Hills Beef Short Rib had the upper hand.  A gentle pressure with my fork had the entire portion fall apart in a beautiful heap of tender, juicy meat.  Soft, buttered cabbage and red wine glazed carrots were such excellent compliments they could barely be referred to as 'sides'.  It was very difficult for me to pass along the other half to my friend...very difficult! 
As full as we were, we always have room for dessert.  Joshua kept his creative and inspired style all the way through.  For dessert, we were presented with a Spiced Parsnip Cake....I know what you are thinking, how could parsnip ever be considered for an ingredient in a dessert!? Well, as a testimony to Joshua, this cake was moist and spicy, sweet and light all at the same time. Complexity was added by the chocolate ganache covering, juniper ice cream and hazelnuts.  It was a dessert epiphany and as it turns out, Joshua was a bit nervous about this dish...my empty plate assured him the risk was worth taking!
We finished the meal off with some vanilla ice cream 'a la mode'...aka on its own:) It was delightful.
I think by now I can say that I have been to fair number of restaurants and experienced a good number of tasting menus.  Few, if any, could parallel the experience Chef Joshua put together for my friend and I this past week.  The balance of ingredients not only within each dish, but also from course to course show off his culinary intuition, expertise and passion.  Best of all, most dishes can be ordered from his regular menu, so a tasting menu like this can be recreated - although perhaps in more than one visit!
After only 6 weeks as the head of the BHB kitchen, Chef Lewin has already honed his menu and individual style, he has apparently found a niche where he can be free to flourish!
It is because of Chefs and friends like Joshua that I am so enthralled and committed to Boston's food community:)

12 comments:

  1. I'm really excited for Josh and his new position at Beacon Hill Bistro. We're definitely making plans to eat there soon. Looks like you got to try an amazing assortment of dishes!

    ReplyDelete
  2. He is truly fantastic! You will have a wonderful time;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. One of my favorite spots to sneak out to for lunch. I might just have to make it my business to get there in the next few days. Best of luck in this week's shows. I am currently panning to go Friday Night.

    ReplyDelete
  4. let me know if you make it in for lunch jason, trying to find time for this week's shows myself.

    josh

    ReplyDelete
  5. and can't thank you enough rachel for taking the time to let me cook for you guys, looking forward to your visit as well megan

    ReplyDelete
  6. :) :)
    I won't be performing on Friday:(

    ReplyDelete
  7. I want to try this place!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. It will become one of your favorites:)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rachel here comes one of my mini reviews:
    Thanks for a wonderful lunch Josh. Glad to meet you.

    I had the roast beet salad with farmer cheese and almond vinaigrette to start. I loved the presentation of the thinly sliced beets formed into a wedge with the runny cheese on top. The contrast of sweet and salty between them was delicious. The lightness of the vinaigrette was an excellent compliment to the greens.

    For my main course I had the Faroe Island Salmon. Typically I am not a fan of salmon skin, but your excellent preparation left it very crispy almost chip like while the meat of the fish remained a perfect medium rare. I can only imagine this was made possible by the use of a blow torch, and who doesn't like a good blow torch in the kitchen? Getting me actively eat salmon skin is a major accomplishment. Bravo. The fish sat on a bed of perfectly firm lentils and a celery puree. That was contrasted by a fruity sauce which complemented the fish and starches very well. (Sorry for the loss of detail here I was in food bliss and was not remembering the details by the time I made it back to my desk, feel free to correct me).

    Not wanting the meal to end, I ordered the lemon tart and was not disappointed. Its perfectly peaked meringue and lemony curd was an excellent end to the meal. Attention to detail was apparent in the selection of the garnish strawberry; firm, perfectly ripe, still slightly tart, and completely luscious.

    As always the service was attentive and efficient. I am glad to see BHB is in your very capable hands and look forward to many more lunches during your tenure.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think you ought to start a blog of your own:) So glad you enjoyed your meal!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I was informed by Josh that my guess of a blow torch was incorrect. But I am pretty sure I know what the secret to the salmon skin is now..... magic. :P

    ReplyDelete