#TestKitchen at Artisanal Foods
Roasted Rainbow Radishes and Whipped Pancetta
Early Girl Tomatoes, Peaches, Green Gazpacho and Espelette Spheres
Tuscan Bean Soup – Cranberry Beans, Broad Beans, Zucchini, Carrots, Onion, Celery, Dehydrated Peels
Rice Flour Frito Misto – Corn Fritters, Tomatillos, Okra, with Meyer Lemon Aioli
Tasting of Caviars
Pancakes and Foie Gras – Icicle Grapes, Champagne Grapes, Raisins on the Vine, Wine Glaze
Chicken Thigh with Mushroom Bread Pudding – Black Truffle, Pan Jus
GLT – Guanciale, Lettuce, Tomato
Lamb Sliders – Tzatziki, Harissa Tomato Jam
Brioche with Cherry Vanilla Compote from Le Suquet
Recently completing his contract at MTO Cafe it was only a matter of time before Chef Johnny Church found a new outlet for the considerable skills honed at some of The Strip’s best spots, and whether the result of serendipity or plain old luck a partnership with Artisanal Foods owner Brett Ottolenghi has given way to a concept currently titled #testkitchen, the pair of Midwesterners offering up some of the city’s best ingredients cooked in tasting menu format to a lucky handful at lunch with even bigger things soon to come.
No doubt in its early stages, the recently relocated shop on Pama a substantial upgrade in size as well as potential with live tanks, a warehouse, and a demonstration kitchen in which plans are set for everything from pop-up dinners to cooking classes in addition to a cafe set to open ‘soon,’ it was at the behest of Chef Church that myself and three local writers sat down at a long table and deferring to the chef as well as Mr. Ottolenghi for everything but booze and jam brought from our homes the resultant eight course tasting with additional caviar service proved the sort of experience that Las Vegas sorely needs, a ‘dinner party’ sort of atmosphere not unlike those offered at London’s Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs or stateside in cities like Santa Ana where concepts like Playground 2.0 continue to evolve and wow.
At this time consisting of one table in the Artisanal Food atrium, the kitchen on one side and the rest of the store on the other, it was after a brief tour of the new store that service from John, Brett, and two-others would begin and with conversation as well as wine flowing the first bites were presented in the form of spicy radishes atop whipped pancetta, the brine and bite in perfect balance and a bold introduction to the produce that followed, the tomato and stonefruit salad served alongside a complex soup featuring the flavors of sea beans, spinach, basil, and fennel pollen with a light linger of melon on the swallow.
Progressing with good pace, the meal soon joined by three ciders from Mr. Ottolenghi’s Pennsylvania family farm, course three saw an earthy bean soup lent levity by sweet crisps of dried peels while the followup of Gluten Free Frito Misto arrived perfectly crisp and virtually oilless, even the okra offered up as snappy little bites beneath the rice flower while a sidecar of Meyer Lemon Aioli saw little go to waste.
Taking a break in the tasting to sample some of Artisanal Foods’ selection of fine caviar, Brett proving a fount of knowledge about everything from province to crossbreeds and indoor vs. outdoor cultivation, the menu resumed with the sort of thing seemingly made for such a venue, and pairing three types of grapes with pancakes and seared duck liver it seemed almost impossible when course six arrived featuring a pounded thigh of Mary’s Free Range chicken served crispy atop mushroom bread pudding that fared even better.
At this point more than a little impressed by not only exemplary ingredients, but also the skills that saw each one coaxed to its utmost potential without once straying far from the boundaries of classic technique, the final savories of the afternoon featured a duo of sandwiches, the answer to which was best largely a matter of ones personal tastes as the GLT spoke to the sapor of cured pork tucked inside a buttered roll while the slider offered the grass-fed gaminess of New Zealand lamb mellowed amidst cool Tzatziki and harissa-spiced tomato jam.
Rounding out the meal with soft brioche from a local bakery topped with cherry-vanilla confiture imported from the garden of Michel and Sebastien Bras it should go without saying that rarely has a lunch of such caliber been had in the city of Las Vegas, but with the shared passion of Church and Ottolenghi one hopes this will be the first of many, that perhaps the time has finally come.
N/A: Obviously unable to fairly assess a meal that presented more like a dinner party with friends than the sort of dining experience a typical customer is likely to find, suffice it to say that when the yet unnamed cafe at Artisinal Foods finally does open to the public there is little doubt the experience will be one to seek out.
RECOMMENDED: Trust the Chef.
TIP: While plans are yet to be finalized, an opening date of early September has been suggested with a fixed-price “ticketing” system and BYOB alcohol policy likely to present absolute bargain to those lucky enough to secure a seat.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor