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Eating at Son of a Gun LA
07/10/2012 (rev. 08/11/2012) by
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This was a special night where top chef Marcus Samuelsson creates a culinary experience with the dynamic duo of Son Of A Gun. The menu was nothing like their normal menu. Marcus Samuelsson greeted most, if not all, of the guests during my visit. You can tell he was very appreciative for us patrons to experience this. Not only did he prepare food for us, but he also presented a signed copy of his memoir book “Yes Chef”. I read the first chapter before I decided to write this. The book seems to document his journey through life and show how passionate he is with the culinary arts.

The book was a nice gift, but being a non-foodie snob (is this an oxymoron?) I came here to try the food.

Tusker East African Lager.  To start off, they had a “special” liquor list.  I imagine these must be specially selected to match with the dinner.  This particular lager was extra crispy and a little on the dry side.   I would probably compare this to a Sapporo or a Kirin.

Course #1a – cold pea soup.  Being it was somewhat hot outside, this was a great way to start the 5 course meal. The cold pea soup had some spicy kick to it which was due to the ginger. There was also some mint in it as well. The soup was flavorful and surprisingly good. I typically am not a fan of pea soup because of how plain it is at certain places, but this made me change my mind. There is some sort of flower on top that really added a nice aroma when you took it in with a spoonful of soup.

Course #1b – fried oyster.  There is some grilled lemon on the side that you can squeeze on to it. The fried oyster’s batter was thin but breaded well. It wasn’t super crispy, but I like how the batter was very light and not oily. Underneath the oyster is addis remoulade. Don’t ask me what it is because I don’t know. It reminded me of tartar sauce meets 1000 island for some reason. If you’ve ever eaten a poboy seafood sandwich, the sauce in it is what I keep thinking of. The whole thing as a whole was very delicious. The oysters were fresh, and I’m glad there wasn’t an overuse of sauce and citrus to try and mask any ounce of foul fishy taste.

Course #2a – gravlax with mustard and pickled fennel. The gravlax is basically raw salmon cured with salt, sugar, and dill. There are 2 pieces of bread around it. It’s served on top of 2 types of mustard, one seems to be a purple type of mustard and the other is your typical seeded mustard. There’s also some pickled fennel on top. The fennel was delicious. As a whole, this reminds me of the bagel and lox. But in this case, the salmon tastes much better and doesn’t have that oily strong aftertaste I usually get if I eat lox at a restaurant. Combined with the mustard, it was really good.

Course #2a – some cheese.  The waitress suggested we eat it with the provided cheese. I forget what she said it was, but it’s very much like ricotta cheese with some seasoning on top. Honestly, I found the cheese to be surprisingly good but did not pair well with the gravlax, mustard, and pickled fennel. In fact, I found this more tasty by itself with some of the purple or seeded mustard.

Course #2b – tokyo salad, which has mizuna and yuzu shishito vinaigrette. The reason why they call it the tokyo salad is simply after you take a bite, it reminds you of flavors you’d get at a Japanese restaurant. The white slits tasted like daikon but with some Japanese pickling in it. Perhaps that flavoring might be coming from the vinaigrette as well.

Course #3 – fried yard bird with collard greens, rooster sauce, pickles, and sweet corn salad. The fried yard bird tastes basically like chicken. It seems we were also given the dark meat as well. The batter had some interesting spices in it, that reminded me of a little of Indian or African spices. The chicken was also very moist and tender. The one thing I did not enjoy was how hard the batter was. The batter after being fried was somewhat thick and crunch. If they had used something similar to the fried oyster appetizer, it would’ve been nice. Instead, imagine you take KFC’s drumsticks and fry it 3x without making sure the batter evenly disperses onto the chicken. So some parts you get a nice coat, and other parts you get an uneven and somewhat hard coat. The savior to this was the rooster sauce. The rooster sauce is spicy with a kick. It’s a little sweet, so think of it like the Southern type of hot sauce. The collard greens were ok. I wasn’t really impressed by them. The pickles tasted like the sweet butter pickles that are served with some burgers. This was perhaps the most expensive fried chicken drumstick plate I have ever paid in my life so far.

The sweet corn salad had bits of heirloom tomatoes in it, but I didn’t find this sweet at all. If it were sweet, then it was masked by the collared greens and pickles. All in all, I was a little disappointed with the chicken dish.

Course #4 – sweet potato doughnuts and fennel ice cream. The doughnuts were good, but the sweet potato taste wasn’t particularly noticeable.  However, what was absolutely delicious was the fennel ice cream. I would buy this in a heartbeat if it were available in stores. The ice cream was vanilla with fennel flavoring added to it. Unlike most vanilla ice cream, this one wasn’t overly creamy, so it didn’t leave a creamy texture on your tongue. It was light, tasted great, and was very refreshing.  The cone’s tip was dipped in some type of white chocolate.  I didn’t think it was necessary, but it was appreciative.

Course #5 – harlem chocolate truffles served on the dinner check face down on a sardine can.  There’s some cocoa or chocolate powder added to the outside.  So when you first taste it, it’s a little bitter like coffee. But after the powder goes away, you’re left with the chocolate truffle ball which is rich and sweet.

The food overall was probably worse than I was expecting.  I’m sure Marcus was not in the kitchen actually cooking the food, but was providing direction for how he envisioned his dishes to be.  Portion size was a little on the skimpy side for some of the food.  That picture of the tokyo salad was shared amongst 4 people.  The fried oysters were shared between 2 people.  The main entree was just ok.

However after having second thoughts, I felt the dining experience was memorable.  At first, I was thinking this was way overpriced for the food, so I was a disappointed.  But I was keenly reminded that I’m paying not just for the food but for the overall experience.  The guest chef Marcus Samuelsson was literally at the table right next to me chatting up with his recognized patrons.  He was friendly (despite the hassle I gave him about Gordon Ramsey), deeply humble, and extremely appreciative for you just showing up to share this night with him. As a souvenir without harassing him, his book “Yes Chef” with his signature on the inside cover was given to each diner at the end of service.  This is the best food gift I’ve had to date so far and will sit next to Joy of Cooking.

Visit: http://www.sonofagunrestaurant.com in Los Angeles
Also visit: Marcus Samuelsson