Just relaxing on an islet in the Caribbean

Thursday, December 2, 2010

REPOSTING: In Honor of Jose Andres - Cafe Atlantico!

CAFÉ ATLANTICO & Molecular Gastronomy!

Molecular Gastronomy: “ the application or study of scientific principles and practices in cooking and food preparation; a discipline practiced by both scientists and food professionals that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking…”.

So…how often does one order absolutely everything off the left side of a menu? Call it a first for my dining party when we enjoyed a fabulous meal at Café Atlantico in Washington, D.C. As if that was not enough, we also ordered one entrée, all five sweet treats off the dessert menu, a magnum of wine, another bottle of wine and each enjoyed a special aged rum aperitif! We were a gaggle of gluttonous fools taking pleasure in everything that passed our lips!

In October hubby and I along with dear friends from Los Angeles, Peter & Joan, had a delightful dining experience at the haute Nuevo Latino style cuisine of Café Atlantico in Washington, D.C. Located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood, Café Atlantico is a hip three story restaurant and home to world famous chef Jose Andre’s “minibar by Jose Andres" where small plates of indescribable goodness are served. To get a coveted restaurant reservation for minibar one must set their alarm clock to phone 30 days in advance at 10:00 a.m. east coast time. Well, on a rare occasion, hubby over-slept and we missed our reservation opportunity but ended up in the main restaurant at Café Atlantico instead.
Jose Andres is an executive chef, restaurateur, business man, father, husband, food scientist and a master of molecular gastronomy with hands on experience in world famous kitchens (protege to Ferran Adria of world famous El Bulli in Spain and various Michelin star restaurants) since the age of fifteen. In addition to overseeing seven restaurants offering “avant-garde and classic Spanish cooking” he also teaches a course on culinary physics at Harvard University and has been the recipient of many culinary awards as well as a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard Foundation award for outstanding chefs.

Never have I walked into a restaurant and ordered everything on the appetizer menu - 14 items…along with an entrée, every dessert (5 total) and copious wine and liquor (does this make me a lush?). My dining team decided the only way to truly experience Jose Andres in all his culinary glory was to “taste” everything on his appetizer menu, and then some.

Oy vay…where to begin?! How about with the Fried Oysters and Uni or the Dominican Conch Fritters or Shrimp & Grapefruit w/Chayote Spaghetti? For starters the Tuna Ceviche was spectacular. Small cubes of tender sashimi grade tuna folded into creamy coconut milk and topped with firm, ripe avocado slices was visually appealing and very refreshing. I was surprised to see my hubby eat his portion since he does not care too much for coconut milk…need I say more?

The Foie Gras Soup blended with wild mushrooms and poured table side was a first for me. Not that I have never dined on foie gras in the past just never served as a warm, rich, creamy soup…OMG! A chilled carrot soup with passion fruit and fresh herbs was served along side the warm soup and it was a cool accompaniment.

Once our server realized our passion and excitement for anything epicurean she alerted the famous minibar and the wonderful staff continued to send over several samples (little taste “gifts”) of their molecular gastronomic creations. Most praiseworthy was the ultra thin Cheese Empanadas. Gladly breaking the rule of polite society, I promptly shoved the small wafer thin morsel in my pie whole and was immediately pleased with the flavor sensation – a rich cheese taste emanated through the ultra thin empanada and disappeared instantly on my tongue. Enjoyably the cheesy aftertaste lingered in my mouth for several seconds. WOW!

There were many other items worth mention such as the Grilled Octopus and Watermelon Salad but I will leave you with a description of out main entrée. Cobia is a dense white fish which was thickly sliced and plated in overlapping layers sashimi style and floated in a broth of chicken jus! Who in their right mind puts fish chunks and chicken jus together? Creative Jose Andres does…and he does a mighty fine job of it too! The accoutrements of summer melon, fresh lime, passion fruit and green almonds plated with the fish were unimaginable combinations but truly glorious eaten as one.

Although Café Atlantico is known for their molecular artistic cocktails such as the Magic Mojito and Old Man and the Sea we selected from their extensive yet reasonable wine list a magnum of red and bottle of white wine and topped it all off with a special aged rum suggested by the sommelier to accompany our rum infused dessert. As for all the desserts we ordered I do not recall what they were (I was slightly inebriated) but I do recall they were utterly fabulous!

I have had the benefit and joy of experiencing many world class restaurants in my life (Joel Robuchon, Taillevent, Louix XV, etc.) but my conclusion is Jose Andres’ Café Atlantico is outstanding in its own right with their many combinations of ingredients and use of molecular gastronomy in melding flavors extracted through a scientific approach! I look forward to one day dining at the six other restaurants Andreas owns and operates and I am certain I will experience a bon vivant’s delight all over again!

Café Atlántico on Urbanspoon
Great $Price$ Point
Vast Wine Selection; Wine & Beer
Closed Mondays Lunch & Dinner

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