Have you ever tasted a restaurant dish, and sat back in wonder, flat-out amazed over its intense depth of flavor? Whether it’s a tomato dish that tasted more tomato-y than even the most perfect peak-grown tomato off the vine or the beef dish so boffo meaty it was like tasting beef for the first time again?
Turns out it’s not all about just using the best ingredients. It has even more to do with combining the right ingredients to magnify their shared flavor attributes.
It’s by James Briscione, a former culinary instructor who worked with IBM on its “Chef Watson,” which develops cognitive computing applications to create better ingredient combinations. Briscione also was the first two-time “Chopped” champion. He wrote the book with his wife, Brooke Parkhurst, a former culinary instructor. Together, the couple run Angelena’s Ristorante Italiano in Pensacola, FL.
Apologies to Chef Anthony Secviar for my plating skills — or lack thereof — on his sublime takeout food from his Protege restaurant in Palo Alto.
Because, yes, it’s possible to enjoy Michelin-starred food to-go in the comfort of your own home.
And getting takeout does offer an alluring plus: the chance to enjoy one of the restaurant’s “family meal of the week” options. I’ve had the pleasure of dining several times pre-pandemic in the lounge of the restaurant, where an a la carte menu is offered. But before, the only way to indulge in a multi-course progressive meal was to book a table in the intimate dining room for the tasting menu.
The “family meal of the week,” however, is a much less expensive variation with typically about four courses or dishes, including dessert. For instance, the one offered last week, which I got, was $75 per person.
It began with shaved Brussels sprouts salad, the crisp julienned leaves tossed with an almost equal amount of grated cheese, as well as pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and crunchy, salty, porky bits of pancetta for a dish that hit every taste bud.
With a 13-foot-long custom grill that dominates the kitchen, downtown Palo Alto’s Rooh serves up contemporary Indian cuisine licked by plenty of flames and smoke.
It also mixes in some very unconventional ingredients in its dishes, such as goat cheese, cheddar cheese, polenta, and Japanese togarashi. But executive chef Sujan Sarkar, who oversees this Palo Alto restaurant along with its sister San Francisco outpost, somehow makes it all work.
To get a feel for what this grill can do, order the roasted eggplant ($14). It’s as smoky tasting as the best baba ganoush, with an equally spoonable texture. The whole slender eggplant is covered in cumin-scented yogurt, pickled onion, cilantro and pomegranate seeds.
Garlic naan ($15) is the perfect vehicle to spread this creamy roasted eggplant on. Or smear it on the pao ($16), pull-apart, fluffy soft rolls that come with a sweet-tangy, chunky heirloom tomato kut.
It still amuses me whenever I read comments from people visiting Camper in Menlo Park for the first time, who expect, well, yes, camping-type food.
While there are S’mores on the menu (albeit a pretty gourmet version), you’re not going to find any canned pork & beans or mounds of trail mix.
Not when Chef-Partner Greg Kuzia-Carmel hails from New York’s Per Se and San Franciso’s Cotogna.
Instead, the name is meant to evoke the great outdoors, as Camper takes its inspiration from the freshest, seasonal local ingredients.
That shows from the get-go even with a simple green salad ($14), consisting of an ample amount of fresh mesclun with peppery mustard greens in the mix. Pink peppercorns added pretty color, as well as a crunchy bite of floral heat. House-made Green goddess was the final flourish.