Friday, February 26, 2010

ForageSF's Iso Rabins Cooks at Hatchi

Hatchi at Bread Bar
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770

Iso Rabins
SF Underground Farmer's Market
The Wild Kitchen

Iso Rabins is a young man with many irons in the fire.  Years from now people will either call him visionary or overly granola. Definitely one or the other. His activities remind me of the hippie-esque antics of my mother's earthier cousins: mushroom gathering, hitchhiking from one end of the country to the other at the drop of a hat, taking an 11 year old me to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, sleeping during the summer with the bed outside (wait, D & T still do this).  Iso has taken the whole food movement to the terminus of its logical conclusion. Iso Rabins forages for ingredients both to serve at pop-up restaurants and to construct and sell as CSF (community supported forage) boxes (a spin on the CSA). Indeed, I read somewhere on his blog that they are not taking any new members for the CSF boxes as they are foraging all they can for current members and have no surplus to take on new clients.   According to said blog, this month's CSF includes: 2 kinds of mushrooms, black cod, miner's lettuce, oxalis flower and wild ginger.  All of which I had for dinner last night when Iso cooked one night only for Hatchi at BreadBar in Century City following in the footsteps of famous/infamous chefs such as Michael Voltaggio, Debbie Lee, Marcel Vigneron, Ludo LeFevbre, Robert Cortez, Remu Lauvand, and more.  Below, see the menu.

The concept of Hatchi is simple. Eight items for $8 each. Six savory courses and two desserts.

This particular Hatchi three cocktails were also added, all concocted with foraged produce.

Foraged citrus lemon drop. Made with foraged local citrus (I could have offered to let Iso use the fruit of my prolific lemon tree) and oxalis flowers from Griffith Park. Need I mention that this was a little too sweet?

I drank some then asked for a chilled vodka shot to lighten the sugar load.

After the second shot of vodka it was light, sweet citrusy perfection.

D riding the coattails of my third illness this flu/cold season ordered chamomile tea and was fascinated by the accoutrements.

I explained, that is a tea strainer for using loose leaf tea.  BreadBar does serve their tea rather prettily.

First course: Salad of Wild Oxalis, Arugula Flowers, Wild Miner's Lettuce, Chickweed and Beets.  Very nice. Super savory. Our server described the oxalis as being tart, but I would definitely say the outstanding flavor element of oxalis is citrus, arugula flowers being savory.  Gorgeous little salad.

Is the above oxalis or arugula? Iono, I ate it too fast to ask.

Miso Marinated Black Cod with Blood Red Daikon, Quick Fried Heirloom Potatoes.  This black cod was caught in Northern California and served in Southern.  In my mind, this dish served commonly in Japanese restaurants is one Nobu Matsuhisa is famous for. Iso takes the cooking to a different place. The dish last night was less translucent than Nobu's version, most likely marinated less time and cooked longer ending with a firmer texture. The quick-fried heirloom potatoes were absolutely wonderful, crispy but also stout and pleasingly salty. I wonder if Iso makes his own salt from foraged Pacific sea water? I kid, I kid.

Another project Iso has going is a pop-up restaurant called The Wild Kitchen.  In his Twitter feed he calls his Hatchi stint "moonlighting at BreadBar".  While I am 100% sure that the Hatchi experience is nothing like a true The Wild Kitchen experience, I am really glad I got off my Thursday evening tuckus to travel west to Century City and eat Rabins's grub. I would be willing to plan a trip to SF around the next Wild Kitchen pop-up.  Mission-Mission announces a Wild Kitchen dinner, Civil Eats reports in, and SFWeekly commentates humorously as always.

Last night, however, I got to try Iso's salt cod.  I am always fascinated by alternative spellings on menus. Fascinated and confused.  Light Egg Whipped Baccala, Sriracca Aioli, Wild Oxalis Flower.  Presented in a paper cone inserted into an OG jelly jar with an oxalis blossom underneath.  Not only was the presentation breathtakingly rustic, the flavors were bold. 

Sriracha aioli was spicy even enough for me, and the salt cod satisfyingly substantial. I love a cod fritter. And in this dish I tasted the entire oxalis flower, hence the understanding of its citrusy flavor.

One of my two favorite dishes of the night.  Wild Nettle Soup with Pickled Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Creme Fraiche. On the side, diners were served two beautiful thick slices of BreadBar toast for dipping.

I took two pics of this soup because it was just that good. It reminds me of a far less dairy heavy cream of asparagus soup. A little creaminess, a lot of verdant vegetal flavor. It reminds me a little of this Gordon Ramsay broccoli soup, simply cooked and full of the very true flavor of the produce, not a lot getting in the way in between the palate and the earth.

Slow Roasted Wild Boar Porchetta over Hand Cut Noodles with a Gleaned Kumquat Jam & Foraged Mushrooms. My other most favorite dish. This was a very generous cut of boar for $8. In the lower end of the bowl, you can see stewed kumquats, a local very small citrus fruit that is originally native to Asia.  Kumquats add a beautiful citrusy bitterness to the hearty game.

To the left of the plate and underneath the boar are wild mushrooms. This dish is probably my favorite meat dish of the season. Hearty and rustic, we sopped up every drop of the mushroom/kumquat sauce and ate every bite of the boar despite being full to bursting at the seams.

The third ball Iso Rabins has in the air is a pop-up Farmer's Market. Where will the madness end?  The SF Underground Farmer's Market is run more like a nightclub than your typical yuppy-cum-green Silverlake or Santa Monica market.  A quote from the web site,

The SF Underground Farmers Market is a venue where you can taste and purchase the food that is being produced in backyards and home kitchens in the Bay Area. At the last market, vendors sold homemade pies, sarsaparilla, jams all by "suggested donation."  In order to enter the market, we're going to ask everyone to sign up for a free membership to the SF Underground Farmers Market. Don't worry, it's just a formality.

Apparently, the first launch of the underground market caught the attention of local authorities. Running the market like a club rather than a retail venue allows them to get around some licensing issues. Reminds me of the London after hours nightclubs of my youth. Please don't ask for details, they are too colorful for me to even think about.  What entertained me the most about the initial location of the underground market is its location. At 17th and Capp it was located at the corner of a loft/art space I lived in back in the mid-90's.  Why does SF still sound like so much fun?

Thank you for the daffodils, Carrie.


Kristine said...

what an interesting concept. let me know if you get the csf box or what you come up with when you forage your neighborhood. :)

Anonymous said...

We just enjoyed the most recent iteration of this foraged dinner. Love the idea of foraged seasonal foods. Some of the dishes fell a little flat, but others were amazaing!

Anonymous said...

We just enjoyed the most recent iteration of this foraged dinner. Love the idea of foraged seasonal foods. Some of the dishes fell a little flat, but others were amazaing!