This has been a long awaited meal that was booked in the diary donkey’s ago. A good friend Lulu is putting on a run of pop-up evenings with her husband, the brilliant chef, Jozef Youssef at House of Wolf in Islington. The genius chefs behind Kitchen Theory have an incredible CV including stints at The Fat Duck and The Connaught Hotel so it puts them in great stead for bringing molecular gastronomy to their followers.
Kaiseki by Kitchen Theory is their latest venture which is a 9-course Japanese experimental dinner in collaboration with award-winning designer and calligrapher Aerosyn-Lex Mestrovic.
The evening began with a screening of Aerosyn-Lex’s debut short film titled ‘Scriptura Vitae’ and sets the atmosphere to the food. I should mention as a warm up you’re ushered into the ‘Apothecary’ bar on the floor below, where the woman next to us described themenu.. ‘that’s a vague menu’. We however rather enjoyed this and just told the barman we’ll have one gin based cocktail and a whisky based cocktail please and he rustled up two lovely drinks.
Anyway, I digress, upstairs we head. The lovely Lulu (very embarrassed to be serving us) gave us a run through of the evening’s plan and a bit of history behind it all. Wine ordered (a lovely Austrian White) then the first course arrived.
Course 1: ‘Night garden’ selection of appetisers which was a shot of sake and aloe Vera with an added flourish from the chef arriving with wheatgrass cloud. Then on the plate we had the different stages of the moon with cauliflower panacotta, dusted with crispy roasted black quinoa, garlic dust and some very interesting ‘boulders’. The boulders as Lulu said was rather like marmite, you either love or hate them. Had a hard marshmallow texture with a liquid artichoke centre which you discover once you bite into them.
Sake isn’t my favourite so that was probably the only thing of the night I didn’t finish.
Course 2: Salmon sashimi with smoked dashi pearls. This was exquisite and one of the chefs comes out to blow torch the sashimi before it’s placed down in front of you.
The pearls were incredible and added the extra saltiness that you would normally get from soy sauce. Was also great to watch Lawrence trying to pick it all up with chopsticks.
Course 3: Mushroom consommé with an everlasting noodle. You’re presented first with an empty bowl and then a spoon piled with the elements which inevitably will end up tipped into the consommé. The chefs arrive with a hot teapot and then Joey comes out with the tofu and pipes an ‘everlasting’ noodle, was very clever.
Course 4: Selection of yakitori grills, which was tofu, rainbow trout and then beef. These were divine, think would say the trout just pips it as my favourite but all very flavoursome and simple.
Course 5: Seaweed salad. Had great enjoyment to hear Lulu’s infamous dehydrator was used for this dish (she used to always bring in dried everything at the old job to show off her new gadget!) This was a lovely green beans, seaweed, dried starfruit and a fish broth that was cooked then dehydrated and crystallised into a strange honeycomb fish ball.
Course 6 & 7: Tempura selection, just as you would expect good tempura to be. The star of this dish was the spring onion tempura, just incredible! On the side of the plate were a few pickled vegetables (bit too pickled for my liking, but Lawrence wolfed them all down anyway).
Course 8: Now this was probably my favourite dish ‘Japanese rice squid ink risotto’. It had a great representation of the calligraphy style which was shown during Aerosyn-Lex’s short film at the beginning. The fish was cooked to perfection on the top and there was a lovely scallop biscuit which added an extra texture to the dish. The risotto was drenched in squid ink which was incredible and on the side was creamy yuzu mousse which mixed in beautifully. A real joy to see and to eat!
Course 9: ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ desserts. Up there with one of the best desserts I’ve had, the main ingredient was rhubarb in many different ways. Rhubarb granita, rhubarb tapioca, poached rhubarb and rhubarb jelly cubes (who knew you could do so much with one fruit!) And as if the dish couldn’t get anymore impressive it was served with yoghurt meringues, vanilla cream and almond crumble. Amazing showcase of the skill set these guys have!
Overall a wonderful experience and lovely way to spend nearly 3 hours! I would highly recommend giving Kitchen Theory’s pop ups a try, I’m told the next venture will be making the most of the Scandinavian cuisine (very on trend with the nations love of the culture – thanks to The Killing and Hugh!)