In Hiding – Baumé – Palo Alto
Looking at the field of cuisine, it is impossible to escape the reality that molecular cuisine has run its course. Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz are mining the past. Ferran Adria and Joan Roca are bowing to classicism. But in Palo Alto, California, Chef Bruno Chemel is producing food as if it is still 2008. How odd.
I have long wondered what would happen if Claude Monet returned to Musee d’Orsay and insisted on dabbing a few more haystacks. Would he be turned out of doors? Is style a moving train that is gone once it leaves the station? And in cuisine, can a chef – having opened a restaurant a year ago – make a go of molecular cuisine.
Chemel is a fine and creative chef, but seems of two minds. One the one hand, he shows no desire to escape the molecular canon. However, he advertises his cuisine as “French Cuisine Moderne.” If a diner wanders in thinking that this is L’Arpege or Chemel is Guy Savoy, there will be heck to pay. His professional lineage is Catalan.
Baumé is an enjoyable restaurant, very pleasant to eat in with its private corners. Perhaps Chemel is not quite the chemical engineer as Dufresne (WD-50) or Cantu (Moto), but he has mastered the techniques. This is second-generation molecular, and not bad for that.
Each dish had its twist: Saketini with freeze dried raspberry ice cream, Asparagus with leek ash, 62 degree egg, daikon mousse, foie gras with apple foam, lemon smoke, paired bonbons – savory (lime miso) and sweet (lime caramel), and frozen snow. Each was worthy – delicious - in its own right. My favorite was the perfectly cooked halibut with Meyer lemon citrus zabaglione and butternut squash puree, a dish that I loved as much for the intense flavors as for the citrus zabaglione. Least successful was the Mont Blanc Thaw – the texture of snow wasn’t quite right, but it was a very distinct and memorable dish, worth the experiment.
Saketini with Freeze Dried Raspberry Ice Cream - better as it melted
Sponge Bread with Creamy Butter - Bread Service
Asparagus, Aioli, Trout Roe, Leek Ash - The leek ash was a creative touch, a nice mix of flavors.
Slow-cooked egg with sunchoke - this old style of egg preparation. Filled with flavor and with texture.
Foie Gras Two ways (old and new) with apple gelee and foam.
Vegetable Bisque, Daikon Mousse, Dungeness Crab - Modernist soup with a daikon mousse focus
Halibut, Curry, Leeks. The most balanced and lustful dish of the evening. Perfectly executed with excellent Meyer lemon zabaglione.
Lemon Smoke Cleanser. Pure molecular.
Grass Fed Beef, Bergamot Saveur with Carrot Flan: Very tasty flan and fine citrus combination.
Gruyere, Beets, Watercress - Nicely composed cheese plate
Mont Blanc Thaw, Madeleine, Warm Ganache with Exotic Citrus Ice Cream. Interesting in conception as dessert snow. The texture was too "snowy" after a few bites
Candied Raspberry Sphere with Chocolate Base
I plan to return to Baumé for their spring, despite their identity confusion. This is a restaurant that really takes you back, even if time machine is set in months, not in years. The San Francisco Bay Area does not have a true molecular restaurant other than Baumé. It deserves attention, despite its own imagined claims.
201 South California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
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