>> Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Do you remember Jason Doo?
I wrote about him a couple months ago. Chef Jason Doo is a rising chef who worked at Menton as a chef de partie before traveling to Asia for more culinary exploration and research. Back in February, I was invited to an incredible dinner at his home where I got to taste fascinating renditions of royal imperial cuisine, Asian street food, and creative fusion off-shoots inspired by Chef Doo's rigorous training at places like Menton.
Imagine my uncontainable excitement and utter curiosity when, in June, I was invited to a second dinner by Jason Doo.
I knew from the last dinner that this guy's creativity has no bounds and his food is really like nothing I've had at restaurants in Boston. Better yet, he had just returned from an extended journey in Asia where he had explored street foods, tea plantations, and even Michelin-starred Asian restaurants.
I couldn't wait to see what he had to offer.
I almost gasped when I saw the incredible kitchen at this house. This is Jason's grandmother's kitchen (isn't it gorgeous?). She's half Italian and half Chinese, so she has a love for both types of cuisines (evidenced by things like a dedicated wok burner and two huge ovens!). Here's Jason and his crew hard at work getting everything ready for the meal.
As the kitchen hummed away with activity, the guests mingled in the living room and enjoyed some light "bar snacks".
Here, we have white Sesame and Cocoa Nib Tuiles.
Though they look black on the plate, when you hold them up to the light, they change completely. Chef Doo had made a black sesame version of this snack last time, which was one of my favorites snacks at that meal. This time, the "cracker" has become more refined. It's a lot thinner and it's also circular. Buttery, crispy, and sweet, it was the perfect bite to whet the appetite for more.
The Pork Cracklings (Puffed Style) with Black Lime and Coconut Cream Powder were savory, crunchy, and airy, inspired by a pork crackling appetizer Jason had enjoyed at a Mexican resturant.
These gorgeous large rice crackers, Xianbei with Chili Threads and Dried Shrimp, were definitely one of my favorite snacks this time around. I'm a sucker for rice crackers to begin with, but this handmade version was incredible. It had the perfect, (addictive) ratio of sweet and savory plus a bit of kick from the chili and fragrant umami from the dried shrimp. The cracker had a nice, substantial "crunch" that made it very satisfying to eat.
Honestly, I went back for seconds a few times, even though each chip was quite large and I knew deep down inside I needed to save room.
Other handmade chips, such as these Homemade Shrimp Chips, were also quite tasty.
I'm a huge fan of cashews, so it wasn't hard to appreciate these Caramelized Nuts with Cardamom, which were crunchy and slightly sweet.
The last item we had before dinner began was a Char Siu Roasted Octopus with Garlic and Parsley Vinaigrette. The octopus was tender and really, really flavorful. We loved the fusion of Eastern and Western flavors in this dish, which was Bryan's favorite of all the pre-dinner bites.
Jason impressed us beyond belief last time when he offered us a wide assortment of bread that included a Boule of Nine Sacred Grains; the Dowager's Corn Cake, Tangzong 65° C Milk Bread, and Scallion Pancake. This time, we munched on golden-brown, buttery multi-grain loaves that reminded us of corn bread.
We began this meal with a gorgeous Tomato Salad with preserved persimmon vinaigrette, pickled green tomatoes, and sea kale.
The tomatoes were served alongside an elegant assortment of House Pickled Vegetables.
Next came a Chinese classic, the Luo Buo Gao, or Turnip Cake, presented in a very non-classic way with homemade X.O. sauce, local turnip, pickled turnips, and turnip greens.
You can't see the actual turnip cake that well in the first picture, so here's a picture of the turnip cake while it was still being prepared in the kitchen.
The next course, the Wild Black Walnut Soup, was one of my favorites, and, according to Jason, consists of very, very hard-to-find ingredients. This creamy, intensely flavored cold soup is hard to describe, but it was extremely fragrant, slightly sweet, and oh-so-decadent. The portion size was small (each guest only had an ounce or two), which made it that much more to precious as we savored each velvety sip.
We briefly visited some Chinese dim sum classics like these delicate and flaky mini-scallion pancakes.
Jason also made his own version of "Snowflake" Pot Stickers made from crysanthemum and squash leaves. Aside from in Beijing, I seldom see pot stickers served this way here in the U.S. These were fantastic and totally reminded me of China.
We had some vegetarians in our party, so Jason kindly made certain vegetarian dishes for them. The first one was a Taiwanese inspired "Oyster Omelet" made with oyster mushrooms, salted oyster root, and Sweet Autumn farm eggs. The traditional Taiwanese oyster omelet is made with oysters, not oyster mushrooms. Everyone raved about this dish.
Jason used a combination of the sous vide technique and super-hot oven glazing in order to make several maltose roasted ducks. We had a duo of duck enjoyed in two different ways - a duck "slider" (West) as well as a duck bun (East).
The next course was one of my favorites. Jason deep fried an entire Witch Sole and served it with Garlic Scapes. I believe the fish was marinated in Chinese "yellow wine" (a grain-based alcoholic drink - 黃酒) and possibly miso and something sweet. Whatever it was, the flavors were fantastic. You could eat the bones as well because the frying process made them so brittle it was like almost like eating candy.
This has got to be one of the most beautiful fried rice dishes I've ever seen. Made for the vegetarians (although they were so kind that they shared it with everyone), this exotic Bamboo Fried Rice consisted of a mix of pickled bamboo, salted bamboo, lemongrass, smoked tofu, and Johnny Jump Ups (the purple flowers).
The food was phenomenal (again!) and after all the hard work was done, Jason came out to greet us and talk to us a little about the food.
We finished the evening by tasting a lovely homemade strawberry sorbet (served with both fresh and dried wild strawberries), which served as a great palate cleanser and segue into the crazy, overwhelming dessert spread that followed.
From top left, clockwise: Macanese Custard Tart, Pate Fruits, Pineapple Cookies, Almond Cookies, Longjing Tea Cookies, Okara Doughnuts, Milk Candies, Chocolate Panda Cookies.
Macanese Custard Tarts are inspired by the custard tarts sold in Macau, which are heavily influenced by Portuguese egg tarts (yum!). Longjing tea (or Dragon Well Tea) is a Chinese pan-fried green tea from Zhejiang province in China. It's a high-end tea known for its complex flavors. Okara is the pulp from soy beans that is left over once soy milk is made.
Just like last time, Jason overwhelmed us with this immense tray of mignardises: Hong Kong Orange Candies, Sichuan Peppercorn Bon Bons, Salted Kumquat Chocolates,Kaffir Lime Chocolates, Sesame Bon Bons, and Black Sugar Chocolates.
As always, super kudos to the tireless helpers who made this evening possible.
As a good-by present, Jason gave all the guests small containers full of his homemade Lady Apple Wine as well as his Homemade XO Sauce! What a cool take-away gift!
I was thrilled to be able to enjoy Chef Jason Doo's creative Chinese cooking again. It's a fascinating exploration into so many areas of Chinese cuisine with which I am just not that familiar - namely royal imperial cuisine, exotic Chinese teas, regional snacks, and fusion dishes he's created drawing from his diverse training and background.
Thanks so much Chef Doo and all who were involved for an unforgettable evening.