Saturday, August 6, 2011

RnD Table - 07/31/2011

3003 W Olympic Blvd, Ste 103
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 389-7008

RnD Table is the new underground restaurant by Master Chef Season 1 contestant Mike Kim and his partner Conrad Malaya. With his boundless energy and upbeat personality, Kim established himself as one of the show's more likable characters. After finishing sixth on the show, Kim successfully made the transition from the front of the house to the kitchen; parlaying his experience into a position at the Bazaar. Like the name implies, RnD's mission is to provide a forum for young chefs to showcase their own menu. The first few dinners hosted by the duo will feature Mike's contemporary Korean-inspired fare, but the goal is to find other chefs to take the lead at subsequent dinners (think Test Kitchen but with less established chefs).

01: Croquette & Dumpling "Mandu" - potato and beef croquette, cabbage slaw, oxtail dumpling, shimeiji, purslane, siracha
The first course consisted of a fried dumpling paired with a croquette made by the owners of Persimmon. With a nice crispy exterior and starchy savory interior, the croquette was enjoyable for what it was, but didn't really fit with the refinement of the rest of the dish. The oxtail dumpling was another story entirely, like a fried xiao long bao; it burst upon mastication, spilling a heady oxtail broth on the palate. The slaw was key, its acidic tinge keeping the dumplings from feeling too heavy.

02: Yellowtail Sashimi "Hwe Dup Bop" - yellowtail, "chogochujang," perilla leaf, nori, arugula, asian pear, masago
Mike called Hwe Dup Bop to a Korean version of chirashizushi, but the sheer variety on the plate was a far cry from simple fish over rice. I was actually a bit overwhelmed by the plate, its vivid colors and sheer variety of ingredients seemed daunting and almost too ambitious. The fish was deliciously fresh and worked well with the different elements; though I would have liked to make sense of the dish as a cohesive whole.

Intermezzo: Granita "Dongchimi" - lobak radish, asian pear, fresno pepper, green onion, tomato heart
Dongchimi refers to a kimchi that comes in a light brine which has been re-imagined as a frozen palate cleanser. I was initially wary but the kim chi was well balanced while the onion and tomato giving the dish a bright freshness. Though I enjoyed the savory pungency, I think this would have been a bit more effective between the last two savories which were notably heavier.

03: Chicken Risotto "Samgyetang" - chicken breast, sweet rice, jujube, ginseng, onion, garlic
The instant this was brought to the table, I was hit with a heartwarming savory aroma that got my mouth watering. The rice and chicken possesses a straightforward savory weight that isn't particularly elaborate but feels immediately familiar and comfortable. The chicken itself was beautifully prepared the perfectly smooth disks were wonderfully moist with a faithful and pure flavor while a small chip of crispy chicken skin finished the dish with a punchy saltiness.

04: Braised Shortrib "Galbi Jjim" - shortrib, ancho chile-soy, pico de gallo, carrot, cilantro-lime crema, corriander tortilla chips
The final dish was a homage to Chef Kim's mixed heritage. His mother hails from a region in Korea famous for their Galbi Jjim mixed with the Mexican food prevalent in his Western upbringing. The beef itself was fairly tender while the flavor leaned towards a pervasive sweetness and though there was a hint of spice, I would have preferred a bit more bite. The accouterments of pico de gallo and cilantro lime provided a countervailing southwestern levity and the chips were a nice textural contrast to the short rib.

05: Watermelon "Soobak" - carbonated watermelon, honeydew cake, coconut milk, yuzu vanilla gel, basil
While Mike was the driving force behind the savories, the dessert was almost entirely Conrad's creation. Despite having very little experience with pastry, Conrad did an exceedingly good job with this one. The honeydew cake provides a supportive base for the other elements, aerated and cooked in the microwave, the cake smelled of sweet melon and had an airy supple sponginess. The watermelon is saturated with a tingly vibrant succulence and the basil adds a savory fragrant tinge to the dish.

Gift: Black & Tan - stout brownie, butterscotch ale ganache, salted pretzels
These were provided by Batch from Scratch, the new gourmet bakery started by Master Chef Season 2 contestant Esther Kang. These were some of the softest brownies I've ever had, with the base almost melting in my hands. The pretzels were key, giving the dessert some crunch as well as a much needed savory contrast. While the brownie was quite good, I wish the beer was more apparent as it would have made the dessert truly distinctive.

While Mike and Candace were handled the front of the house during the meal, at the end of the night the chefs all came out so they could get their well-deserved recognition. From left-to-right: Minh, Conrad, Will, Mike, Semi, and Candace.

Though I was immediately intrigued by the menu, I wasn't sure what to expect with RnD Table, but I have to say Chefs Kim and Malaya have shown some real promise. In their forth dinner service, the two have managed to execute an exciting ambitious menu and provide a polished dining experience. The duo have worked tirelessly over the past three services to evolve their dishes. Though there are probably still some minor tweaks to be made, I still came away quite satisfied with my time at RnD.

Mike has worked tirelessly to bring his vision to life; continually experimenting and refining dishes all while working 6 days a week at the Bazaar is no mean feat. While I applaud the effort the staff at RnD have put in to their restaurant, it raises the question: will future one-off chefs be able to come up to speed on a much abbreviated time frame. Then again Test Kitchen faced similar problems but remained one of LA's hottest tickets while the restaurant was open.


Rodzilla said...

I think this is a really cool idea, but I wonder if it will stick around. I could see potential diners thinking it too much of a learning forum and preferring to spend the equivalent elsewhere.

Epicuryan said...

Yeah I see consistency being a concern. I'd be worried about being a guinea pig too, but the restaurant allows diners to pay whatever they feel is fair which might help ease concerns.

James said...

Wow the dishes look way more complex than I expected when you showed me the menu; there are a lot of elements on each of the plates. I'm wondering if they all actually worked or if it's just needlessly complex

I'm happy for Mike that he seems to be doing really well after the show!

Epicuryan said...

The dishes felt a bit over the top at times, but I appreciated the ambition and inspiration that went into their creation.