I was invited by Connie DeSousa, one of the co-owners and chefs of CHARCUT Roast House, to attend the Chef’s Collaboration Dinner which took place earlier this month. Co-owners and chefs, John Jackson and Connie DeSousa collaborated with their friends, guest Chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Northern California to host this six-course dinner. I was super excited when I learnt that the guests chefs were the husband-and-wife team behind the acclaimed and Michelin-starred restaurants, Ame Restaurant in San Francisco and Terra Restaurant in Napa Valley. The wine pairings for this dinner were from Thomas George Estates and Jeremy Baker, CEO of the winery, was there to speak about the wines chosen for each of the courses.
The evening started off with a reception. The snacks for the reception included Roasted Heirloom Beets with Goat Cheese, Mint and Basil, little spoonfuls of Amberjack Tartare and Somen Noodles topped with Caviar, as well as Squid with Chorizo. The wine for the reception was Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, which paired wonderfully with the snacks.
The first course was the Milk-Fed Piglet and Foie Gras Porchetta “chilled”. It was served with a frisée salad containing deep-fried artichoke and shaved fennel along with a salsa verde aioli. The 10-day old piglet was made into porchetta stuffed with foie gras and truffle. Though the truffle and foie gras was really mild in flavour, the thinly sliced porchetta itself was very savoury and tender. I really enjoyed the contrasting textures and flavours of the deep-fried artichoke and shaved fennel. This dish was paired with the 2009 Thomas George Estates Russian River Valley Viognier from Catie’s Corner Vineyard. The wine was very floral, elegant, and well-balanced. To my surprise, it was a bit drier than other viogniers that I’ve tasted from California. This is because of the cooler climate in the Russian River Valley. It paired perfectly with the delicate flavours of the porchetta.
Our second course was the Chawan Mushi with Sea Urchin and Yuzu Kosho prepared by guest Chef Hiro Sone. Chawan Mushi is a traditional Japanese savoury egg custard dish flavoured with dashi and mirin. I’ve had Chawan Mushi before as part of a omakase set at Sushi Kimura in Vancouver last year. But this version by Chef Hiro Sone is in a league of its own! It’s no wonder that this is one of the signature items at their Ame Restaurant in San Francisco. To me, this was the star of the show at this Chef’s Collaboration Dinner. The egg custard was perfectly executed. That is actually quite a challenging feat considering it was a full house at CHARCUT that night for this special event and each individual bowl of this custard was meticulously prepared. The flavours in the Chawan Mushi were very well-balanced and I loved the delicate chunks of uni (sea urchin) in this dish. I also liked the vegetables (fresh corn kernels and diced green bean) that were at the bottom of the silky custard to give it some texture. The bold citrus flavours of the Yuzu Kosho contrasted nicely against the creaminess of the egg custard. This dish was paired with the subtly smoky 2009 Thomas George Estates Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Musque from Brian and Janice Schmidt Vineyard.
The third course was the Boudin Noir with Farm Egg prepared by CHARCUT’s Connie DeSousa and John Jackson. It was served with Poplar Bluff Potato Lyonnaise and Sylvan Star gouda. This breakfast inspired dish was presented at the table family style in a cast iron roasting pan. Chef Connie had explained that she and co-chef John Jackson had prepared the Boudin Noir (blood sausage) using pig blood, pork, cream and bread crumbs.
The blood sausage was very creamy and rich. It was almost like eating butter. I liked the texture of this version of blood sausage a lot better than the version I had at the CHARPOP event earlier this year as I found that version of blood sausage at the CHARPOP event to be a bit too wet for my liking. My only quibble was that this breakfast inspired dish was a bit too heavy for me considering this was only the third course in a six-course meal. I was already almost full after finishing this course. If CHARCUT was open for brunch on weekends and this dish was available on the menu, I would totally order it. It’s definitely a nice gourmet twist to traditional breakfast fare. This dish paired nicely with the 2009 Thomas George Estate Russian River Estate Chardonnay.
I was glad the fourth course, which was prepared by Guest Chefs Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone, was a little lighter as I was already getting full. The Broiled Alaskan Black Cod in Shiso Broth is actually a signature dish at the guest chefs’ award-winning restaurants. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of shiso but to my pleasant surprise, the shiso flavour was not overbearing at all in the broth. After the Chawan Mushi, this Alaskan Black Cod in Shiso Broth was my second favourite dish of the evening. Though a bit sweeter than I was expecting, the fish was executed perfectly. But the real highlight of the dish was actually the shiso broth flavoured with ginger, garlic and mirin. The broth was so delicious that I couldn’t stop eating it until every drop of broth was gone. This dish was paired with the 2009 Thomas George Estates Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir. The wine was delicious as it was probably one of the better pinot noirs that I’ve tasted in a long time.
Our fifth course was the signature Rotisserie Butcher Board CHARCUT style. The board was served family style, filled with 12 hour smoked Spring Creek Ranch (SCR) ribs, Brant Lake Wagyu Butcher Steaks, and Roasted Marrow Bones topped with escargot and bread crumbs.
I thought the Spring Creek Ranch ribs were the best part of the platter. They were huge and flavourful. I really liked the smokiness of the meat. The Butcher Board was paired with the 2009 Thomas George Estates Zinfandel from Tre Torrente Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.
To go along with the Butcher Board, we were served Yellow Beans with Bacon and toasted bread from Aviv Fried’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to go with the Roasted Bone Marrow.
We ended off the dinner with the Roasted Apricot with Cherry Heart along with Almond Cake and Noyau (fruit stone) Ice Cream. The Roasted Apricot was quite a bit more tart than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the Almond Cake, which was not too sweet and the creamy, subtly flavoured Noyau Ice Cream. Both helped to balance the tartness from the Roasted Apricot. The dessert was paired with a really complex cocktail made of muddled strawberries and mint along with Brandy, Amaretto, and Chambord, and finished with vanilla extract, ginger ale, lemon juice and honey syrup.
It was definitely a privilege and honour to be invited to such a special gastronomical event. I’m really glad I got the opportunity to experience the amazing Japanese inspired preparations by guest Chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani. This Collaboration dinner was definitely a night to remember.
CHARCUT Roast House
#101, 899 Centre Street SW