Wednesday, March 01, 2006

sci-fi cuisine

i first read about moto in the new york times and immediately wanted to go. the problem, of course, was convincing anyone to humor me (and shell out some mad money) to go. eb and sf are wonderful friends and i would love them even if they hadn't agreed to go for my birthday (but it doesn't hurt. plus they're my favorite couple - AND they just got engaged on sunday. i am so pleased that my birthday will always be special to them).

did i feel like a loser for taking so many photos? nope. there was only one other dinner party the entire time we were there (7:45-10:20) - except for the group that looked like they were out-of-towner conference attendees, sat down, drank water, looked at the menu, and got the fuck out of there. one of our waiters told us that they mistakenly thought that moto was a rib joint. i cannot imagine a more bizarre assumption, not the least of which would be the chinese character on the door.

first we ordered drinks. eb and i got jolly ranchers, which were martinis that tasted exactly like liquid candy, with pop rocks on the rims. sf ordered the "martini library," which consisted of a glass of ice, swizzle sticks with olives and onions, and four weird-ass eye-droppers filled with different martini shots (one dirty, one mustard, one blue cheese and i don't remember the other one. i might consult eb on my accuracy and later go back and correct. i feel like i am forgetting a lot of small details).

i was going to do the ten-course (smaller portions, i hear, since the five-course we ended up ordering was absolutely enough) but moto wants everyone in the party to have the same "progression" and it was kind enough for eb and sf to come along and end up dropping $115 a person (which was the total after drinks and tax), so i'll just have to wait on that one. i would like to point out that we had like four or five waiters, all nerds in suits that made us feel like we were in the matrix.

the first offering was a bowl of homemade chips and a platter with a puree "dip" that tasted like scallions. laser-printed on top of the dip was the menu and, in the bottom corner, "moto welcomes (my name) - happy birthday!" the puree that had printing on it was a little rubbery - it was like a weird filmy layer that stretched - but the parts around it were good. eb had heard that the menu was edible and was disappointed when the crowd of waiters brought us normal paper sheets when we sat down, but this redeemed them.

so the first course came. it was really pretty, and it was super good. there was a piece of salmon that looked raw but was very strangely cooked. i think i remember the waiter saying it was infused with olive oil - it was very moist (ewww - i hate that word) and firm and was different-tasting from sushi salmon but was definitely not like broiled salmon and the way that it flakes when you cut it. listen to me - like i know anything about what i am talking about. i fully expect to be hired as a food critic for the tribune. my rating's system will be range from "vomitocity" to "fucking awesome."

also on the plate: hearts of palm, shittake mushrooms, mushroom puree, and a ball of bacon and horseradish icecream on a bed of some weird little crunchy grain. yeah, i just said bacon and horseradish icecream. it tastes exactly how it sounds - not sweet, but icecream. and it was fucking awesome. i don't think a bowl of it would be fucking awesome, but the little ball was perfect.

course two: capon with beans. capon, the wine chef (or whoever he was - i'll get to that momentarily) told us, is a eunuch rooster that's depressed. no, really. they castrate a rooster and he's really depressed and lethargic and gets fat, and he ends up being really delicious. the beans were really awesome - very southern ham-hock slow-cooked tasting. i think there was pulled pork under two of the piles. i really couldn't say. it was good. the puree for this plate was sort of buttery bbq sauce tasting - and had a bottle of masterpiece bbq sauce lasered onto it.

before the next course the waiters had us go to the bar to see the wine chef guy. he was using this very sci-fi clear box with all sorts of wires and parts that shot a blue laser beam out onto a weird vanilla stick (it looked like incense) that was held in place by a little metal arm. i did not take a photo of this because it's one thing to take photos at your table and another to go traipsing around like a retard tourist. anyway, the wine chef held wine glasses over the smoking vanilla to infuse the glass, and when they poured the wine in, it picked up the scent. this felt like the most gimmicky part of what could easily have been a very gimmicky-seeming restaurant. regardless, i must now try this at my next dinner party - burning incense with a laser beam to make the two-buck chuck all infused and smoky.

the wine was meant to compliment the third course, which was buffalo, one brussel sprout, and purees of spicy pear and sweet potato pie. the buffalo was really rare and hard to cut with my knife, but was goodgoodgood. i loved the purees. the menu noted that this course was "buffalo with sage" - and the sage was intertwined in the fork and spoon that came inserted into the top of the weirdass metal tray-with-side that the course came on. the waiter told us that most of taste comes from scent, so we were to smell the sage as we ate the buffalo. okay, dude.

then came the reeses pieces course. it was a small square glass bowl with a little spoon, filled with a dusty chalk that you were supposed to have sit on your tongue so that it would sort of melt into a compressed chocolate/peanut butter-type ball. eb and sf didn't like it much. it was okay. it just sort of reminded me of the dust and crumbs at the bottom of a cereal box. i'm sure it was all complex and scientific, but it could have been replaced by something better. like a chunk of freeze-dried icecream that you can get at the museum gift shop.

the last course was a strange spongy tower of cake-like dessert that was filled with chocolate and dates, with dates on the plate in a good sweet puree. best yet was the mushroom-flavored icecream ball on top - you know, to make it a truffle. again, a bowl would not work, but a little ball of mushroom icecream was strangely perfect.

they also brought out a bowl of styrofoam packing material that tasted like buttery caramel. really. i'm sure it's actually like rice-based or something, but i want a box for when i move.

so that was it. pricey, yes. delicious, almost all of it. all i need now is to convince someone to take the next step and do the ten-course with me. or, god willing, the gtm (grand tour moto, which probably takes like five hours to eat). any takers?

yeah, i didn't think so.

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