By Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Clio's TK and TK
Something is happening in restaurants around the world. A modern cooking movement rooted in Europe and perfected at Spain’s El Bulli restaurant is gaining traction, and it’s already famous in several American eateries. Dubbed molecular gastronomy, it’s a way of cooking that disguises, surprises and takes its cues from the Mr. Wizard. Such trompe l’oeil cooking is edgy and wildly creative—and it’s happening at a few spots right here in Boston.
Philosophy: “Molecular gastronomy is a way of revolutionizing the texture of food,” says chef de cuisine Douglas Rodrigues. “We do it mainly to give our dishes a more creative and modern edge. “
Experimental eats:Flavored “bubbles,” served as an amuse-bouche. Rodrigues has created feta cheese and olive bubbles and more recently a sphere called crimson “cherry coke,” made from blending a gel with reduced cola and cherry juice. 370A Commonwealth Ave., 617-536-7200; cliorestaurant.com
Philosophy: “We play around here and there to be creative and interesting,” says executive chef Colin Lynch. “We use these techniques to add flavor or put a component in a different form.”
Experimental eats: Right now, Lynch mainly uses gels to add body and texture to ingredients like lemon juice, which instead of combining with oil he blends with a gel to get a clean, pure, lemon “sauce” for raw fish. Or he creates eggless garlic custard by blending a gel with garlic steeped in milk and cream to offer the sensation of richness without the fat. 354 Congress St., 617-737-0099; mentonboston.com
Philosophy: “For me, these techniques open up a new window of options, especially for savory items,” chef-owner Gabriel Bremer says. “They enable me to make artistic and exciting food and play with the presentation but not change flavor.”
Experimental eats: Bremer often uses spherification in his cooking, meaning he’ll employ various gels to create flavorful foams that stay warm and bubbly. Lately, he’s been offering black truffle “caviar” to garnish roasted fish. He’s also created “cheese ravioli,” wobbly gelatin spheres holding warm Gruyère cheese, to put in onion consommé for a streamlined onion soup. 798 Main St., Cambridge, 617-876-8444; saltsrestaurant.com
Philosophy: “With molecular gastronomy, if it’s not better than the original then I won’t do it,” says chef-proprietor Tim Cushman.
Experimental eats: Wild kampachi with sesame and myoga (a Japanese ginger bud) topped with a jalapeño sauce emulsified with xanthan gum. Cushman also uses soy lecithin to help sustain froths, such as the “squid ink bubbles” served with his fried oyster nigiri. Some recent experimentation with tapioca maltodextrin and fats has led to a scallion-ginger powder based on olive oil, as well as a coconut-oil powder he’ll probably use on a dessert. 9 East St., 617-654-9900; oyarestaurantboston.com
Photographs by andy ryan photography, inc.; justin ide (menton); christian schlubach (l’espalier)
We celebrated our annual men's issue with cover star Harry Connick Jr. at Bistro du Midi.