I had a feeling that my Easter weekend was going to be eggcellent when I arrived to the first seating of "The Coop" pop-up restaurant on Friday morning. Marcel Vigneron and Haru Kishi dreamed up a delectably clever 5-course tasting menu that was exactly the avant-garde dining experience I had hoped for. It was everything I had eggspected and more.
Our party of 3 arrived to the now closed Gonpachi restaurant on La Cienega and walked through the ethereal garden and past the koi pond to our intimate seats at the sushi bar.
Our first course was a warm scramble of egg and cream with truffle foam on top, placed inside of an egg shell. The truffle essence of the foam and the delicate creaminess of the egg were a mouth watering combination. The scramble was fluffy and light with a beautiful finish on the tongue. Marcel's touch with the foam was a welcome reminder of his Top Chef days and his gastronomique flourishes with nitrate did not go unnoticed.
The next course was my absolute favorite. It looks simple to the naked eye, but in truth the flavors were rich and complex. This delicate cut of salmon was cooked under sous-vide and then lay in a glaze made from nori (seaweed) on one side and a creamy sauce made from fried egg on the other. Tiny ronds of sweetened kumquat, cilantro flowers, pickled daikon and diluted wasabi adorned the plate and made this salmon mi-cuit the most heavenly part of brunch. Marcel and Haru need to consider bottling this seaweed syrup glaze and shelving it right away. I was thrilled to find these flavors presented in new and unexpected ways. Hats off to you, Chefs!
The third course was a tiger chawan-mushi with spring peas. We poured the broth of fresh peas over tiger shrimp, pea tendrils and the chawan-mushi, (egg custard steamed in a teacup). The broth was fresh and tasted like Spring in a cup, and was infused with a scallop essence and cream that made it truly exceptional. The textures and flavors were mild, silky and very pleasing. We all appreciated the subtle flavor infusions of this course.
The nesting egg with bacon was an egg moelleux wrapped in shredded philo on a bed of three kinds of wild aragula. The shredded philo did a wonderful job posing as a bird's nest and had a soft crunch to it. The bacon was actually pork belly from Niman Ranch that Haru himself brined overnight with tamarind. Good thing the pork belly portions were huge because some pieces were too fatty for me. This rich and savory dish was decadent and filling.
Dessert was a bread pudding soaked in grand mariner and a sabayon (creamy egg sauce) topped with strawberries, shaved chocolate and mint. I loved the sweetness of the strawberries with this delightfully smooth and luscious bread pudding. The grand mariner and the mint were a beautiful addition here, as well.
Marcel brought the brunch to a close with his digestif cocktail called Bloody Good Thyme. It's vodka based with blood orange, thyme, lavender and simple syrup. It was blended and you can see the dry ice floating as Marcel whips us a batch of these delicious drinks.
Loved the entire brunch, from beginning to end. Haru and Marcel were funny and kept us smiling and laughing the whole time. They prepped this pop-up in just 3 days. One day designing the menu, one day buying the supplies and doing all the prep work just the day before! Marcel joked that he hadn't slept in 3 days and the weekend was just getting started. These two definitely love what they do and you can taste their passion in the dishes they create.
So what's next for them? Haru has left Chaya and is going back to Paris to continue cooking there, and Marcel is staying in LA and working on private events and doing menu consultation for restaurants for his new company, Modern Global Tasting.
I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for any more fun pop-ups and this time I will let you guys know in advance so you can try to get in, too!