Three Tales of the Foie Gras (Shunji, Animal, Hatfield’s) [Bonus Tale: Waterloo & City]
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Californa is banning foie gras starting July 1, 2012. I’d link to articles discussing it, but nearly all of them are biased toward one viewpoint or the other. I will not get into a debate about it on my blog. Suffice it to say, I do eat foie gras, and I’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to hit restaurants that I haven’t been before to have their signature foie gras dishes. These visits have served double duty as I get to have a new experience at each of these places, and I get a few last tastes of foie gras before the ban. A week ago, I had three very different foie gras dishes at three very different restaurants.
The first restaurant, Shunji, is one that I have been to many times. It is one of my favorite restaurants, and I dropped in on a Friday evening and ordered the Foie Gras Saikyo-Yaki [$20] after they posted a photo of it on Facebook. Saikyo is a kind miso that is gold or yellow in color, is less salty and naturally sweeter than other varieties of miso. Saikyo-yaki is a traditional preparation method for meats and seafood, where the protein is marinated in the miso and then grilled.
Until Shunji, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had grilled foie gras. I’ve had it poached or in pate or terrine. And, of course, I’ve had it seared. I found grilled foie gras to be very different than seared, with the charcoal adding a smoky flavor, and with the char itself lending an interesting flavor and texture than the standard sear. The inside of the foie was barely cooked, and had a sweet and pungent fattiness to it.
At Animal, I had the choice of several foie gras dishes, including their famed foie gras loco moco. Not being in the mood for spam, I opted to try the seared foie gras, topping a biscuit that was drowned in maple sausage gravy [$25].
The piece of foie from Animal was bigger and denser than the one from Shunji, and lightly scored before being seared. The browning from the sear was perfect and added the lightest crispness to the outside of the foie. The biscuit and maple sausage gravy gave a sweetness that contrasted well with the savoriness of the foie, and were strong partners for the intensity of foie gras.
At Hatfield’s, I ordered the only foie gras dish on the menu, seared, served with apple-rosemary “butter”, caramelized cippolini, and molasses toast [$25].
[Pardon the darkness of the photograph; I was in low-light conditions and did not want to disturb the other patrons with a flash. You can see better photographs of this dish at Taste with the Eyes or at BunRab.com.]
This was the largest piece of foie of the three restaurants, and had a very caramelized sear but without really crisping the outside. The consistency was fatty like at Shunji, and like at Animal (and Shunji too, come to think of it), the dish combined sweet (apple butter, cippolini onions) and savory (foie) components.
Bonus: At Waterloo & City earlier this month, I had the smoked eel and foie gras terrine, with piccalilli, soy gastrique, and brioche.
This dish really surprised me. I was expecting it to pack a bolder punch, but it was milder than I expected, in a good way. The eel was lightly smoked and the soy gastrique was fortunately nothing like the thick, cloyingly sweet sauce that’s slathered on unagi in sushi restaurants everywhere. The foie was delicately pungent and very tender. The terrine was dotted with generous chunks of both, and the sweet-tartness of the piccalilli brought it all together.
Shunji Japanese Cuisine
12244 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Waterloo & City
12517 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066