Many restaurants take pride in signature dishes. After all , they're what give any eatery, bistro or cafe their reputation and following. Yet a new restaurant in San Francisco is doing the opposite. The chef is taking world famous recipes from restaurants around the world and putting a new spin on them.
Pete Wells interviewed In Situ's creator and chef, Corey Lee in his A Recipe Lab column in today's New York Times Food section. The concept is unique in an industry where individuality is key to success,The restaurant with the closest ideology is Chicago''s Next, founded by Grant Achaz , which completely changes menus every four months. Of course Chef Lee also owns a traditional restaurant, Benu where there is only seven main dishes to choose from.In Situ is sort of like a culinary art museum. Even the name, comes from the Latin phrase meaning a piece of art is embedded in its' original location. Its' menus are folded and fastened with metal museum admission tags and look like guides to a gallery exhibition of works that are on temporary loan. One side of the menu depicts a map of the world tilted on its' axis. The reason for this is showing a dislocation of sorts that hints' that there is a shift from the recipe's original location to In Situ's. Circles on the map show the many dishes many birthplaces.There is a key in the menu's right margin that gives each's ingredients ,it's originator;s name and the city where it was created.
Chef Lee is so good that he even earned praise from the famed WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne. What he had done with Chef Dufresne's signature dish shrimp and grits is nothing short of amazing.The grits in Chef Lee's interpretation are actually the shrimp repeatedly ground and fried married to pickled jalapeno slices.Another masterpiece is The Forest ,taken from Mirazur in Menton, France,The original dish created by Chef Mauro Colagreco fashioned this vegan dish to look like the woods outside his restaurant on the French Riviera,It involves recreating moss from a parsley soaked sponge cake while the bark is created from fried sunchoke peels. Chef Colagreco gave Chef Lee permission to use mushrooms from Northern California for true authenticity as opposed to ones used from Provence, A dish from the great eatery, Momufuku Ssam Bar is also on In Situ's menu. It is spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. Chef Lee amped up this ragout with sliced rice sticks, turning it into a mapo-tofu.For dessert Chef Lee honors Chez Panisse,It is a salute to Alice Waters lemon ice cream dish in a hollowed out lemon shell placed next to lemon sherbert. A lemon flavored cat's tongue or langue du chat shares the spotlight.
Chefs are usually encouraged to create signature dishes, reflecting their tastes and backgrounds Chef Corey Lee breaks away from that by putting his own spin on already famous dishes. The result is stunning and delicious, the perfect homage from a culinary master.