Anyone living in LA who enjoys fine dining will tell you the same thing. For a dining experience to remember, you can't go wrong at any one of these acclaimed restaurants: Providence, Ink, Bouchon, Angelini Osteria or Mélisse. So what happens when you get all 5 extraordinarily talented chefs from these prized restaurants together to collaborate on one special dinner? 

Before your head explodes, allow me to paint you a picture. A 6 course meal, where each course is individually prepared by one of these great chefs, and they are all within a fresh baked roll's toss from your table. Oh, and they have invited a guest chef to the party. And he is French. Cue Ludo Lefebvre and the sound of violins swelling in your heart.  There you have it. The exceptional "5x5 Chefs Dinner Series" is upon us and if you're toying with the idea of attending one of the 4 remaining soirées, you can tame your piqued curiosity with this peek into how the evening at Mélisse unfolded.
5 cocktails were available on the menu, each with 5 ingredients. We tried the special with Cointreau, kumquat juice, and almond syrup and the vodka based drink with crushed grapes and lychee, shaken with egg whites. Both were divine, especially the combination of the mouth-puckering kumquat with the warm, sweet undertones of the almond syrup. 
After an amuse bouche of foie gras rhubarb with dehydrated whey and citrus, we welcomed the first course by Mélisse's very own Josiah Citrin. It was a crisp chicken skin, with raw milk curd, aged and fermented beets, and shaved macadamia. Next to it was a chilled pea shot with a yogurt sphere and meyer lemon air. 

I began with the chilled pea, and the sphere at the bottom of the shot was a surprise as it burst on my tongue. The lemon foam was an aromatic touch and was a fresh way to begin. The crispy chicken skin was savory and the milk curd brought a bit of creaminess. An excellent and inventive first course by this gourmet veteran.   
Michael Cimarusti of Providence created the second course which was a delicious and refreshing dish of fluke sashimi, with fluke fin and geoduck clam creme fraiche, grapefruit yuzu kosho, and crispy puffed rice.

The fish was beautiful and the yuzu kosho was a treat. It is made with yuzu citrus peel and chilies and then salt cured, so it adds a hot and zesty kiss to any dish. In certain parts of Japan, yuzu kosho is found on every table, just like ketchup is here in America. The kosho was perfectly segmented into juicy, individual strands and the puffed rice added a fun, textural bite. 
Time for another cocktail, and the next drink I tried was Rum based, with pineapple, ginger syrup, lime and soda. It was sweet and spicy and loaded with a palate pleasing punch. 
The 3rd course by guest chef Ludo was an eastern squid dish with squid ink, ash and baby french leeks. The ink was syrupy with a hint of sweetness and the ash had a crumbly feel, like mocha powder. The squid was soft and firm and the way to eat this dish was to get all of the ingredients together. I swirled the strands of squid around the plate to enrobe them in ink and then coated them with the ash. This was my dinner companion's favorite dish of the night and I found it be creative and ambitious. 
Next up was a homemade spaghetti chitarra alla norcina (with sausage, spring truffles and Parmigiano-Reggiano) by Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria. 

Gino is a celebrated chef who was named by Los Angeles Times Magazine as hands down, the best Italian chef in LA! His spaghetti was made without egg, just as it was often made in certain parts of Italy where people couldn't afford eggs. Gino makes it by hand with only flour, white wine and olive oil. Of course wine would be cheaper than eggs in Italy! That makes perfect sense! Without the egg in the mixture, the spaghetti takes on the texture of an udon noodle, becoming slightly chewier than fresh pasta made with egg. Gino hand rolls and cuts each strand individually with a knife and makes his own sausage, no less. The sausage fragments brought wonderful depth of flavor to the spaghetti and the spring truffles were beautifully fragrant. Bellissima! 
Star of Top Chef, Michael Voltaggio of Ink Restaurant, served a wild black bass with egg yolk dumplings and a porcini dashi. The fish was warm and tender and had a crispy skin which I enjoyed. The best part of it all was the dashi broth he made from porcini mushrooms. It brought a Japanese influence to the dish, since dashi is considered a fundamental in Japanese cooking. The earthy tones of the mushroom were lovely with the bass. 

The egg dumplings were an amazing creation and one that this egg slut had never seen before. I spoke to Michael who divulged that he had used 2 cartons of eggs to make the dumplings for the evening's dinner. That is almost 150 eggs. Lucky for him, the Sweet Lady Jane bakery is next door to his beloved Ink Sac on Melrose, so Michael was able to trade the egg whites in exchange for bread. The dumplings require only yolks (and maybe rice flour?) which he dispenses into boiling water using a pastry bag for cake making, and then cuts down to dumpling size. Voila! Good luck trying it at home. 
The last course (before dessert) from famed Bouchon chef, Rory Herrmann, was a "Degustation De Lapin" made from Devil's Gulch rabbit, sweet carrots, fava beans, young onions, and rosemary scented rabbit jus

I was immediately stunned by the teeny-tiny dollhouse sized rack of ribs on the plate. You can tell their impressively small size if you use the carrots as a reference. I loved the many ways the rabbit was prepared and savored the caramelized onions and the herbaceous jus. A delightful and hearty finish to the meal.    
Dessert was prepared by Mélisse's pastry chef Ken Takayama. It was a chocolate bowl with strawberries, wild fennel and dehydrated caramel. The caramel was poured on top of the dish and released a cloud of vapor just as dry ice would. This was a fascinating little event in itself but the dessert felt slightly lacking. The fennel was a nice touch with the strawberries but everything began to melt too quickly and left a puddle in my plate. Luckily, chef Ludo of LudoBites came to the rescue and treated us to some eye-candy after dinner.

If you are interested in attending another 5x5 Dinner this summer, be prepared to spend $150 per person exclusive of tax, gratuity and beverage. The last 5x5 dinner in LA was in 2009 so this is a rare opportunity, plus a portion of proceeds will benefit the Special Olympics. 

The next event is May 21 at Providence where Jeremy Fox will be the guest chef (formerly of Ubuntu in Napa). 

On July 16 dinner is set Angelini Osteria with Michael Tusk (Quince in SF) as guest chef preparing a course.

On August 20 the 5x5 team heads over to Bouchon where the extra chef is still unnamed. 

The final dinner will be at Ink on Sept 16 with Chris Cosentino (Pigg at Umamicatessen). 

6/18/2012 23:50:22

Interesting post and thanks for sharing. Some things in here I have not thought about before. Thanks for making such a cool post which is really very well written. Will be referring a lot of friends about this. Keep blogging.

9/17/2012 22:40:23

Wow! That’s just amazing. Just love the photos! The mention of different cuisines is making my stomach rumble! The photos just adds to my agony. I am almost drooling over the “spaghetti chitarra alla norcina” picture. I am going to drive all the way to LA this weekend!

9/7/2013 19:53:40

This blog is pretty interesting, will add a bookmark, thanks.


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