Nook Dining at Harney Sushi: A Day at the Fair
Head to Harney Sushi in Old Town for a 10-course molecular gastronomy tasting menu from Executive Chef Anthony Sinsay.
Most nights, dinner means scarfing down a plate of Trader Joe's orange chicken in front of the TV. Typically, I can stretch the activity out to about 10 minutes max before my empty plate hits the coffee table. Like many people, I love eating, but the thought of preparing any more than three items at a time seems like too much work. This is one of the reasons I have the utmost respect for chefs like Anthony Sinsay of Harney Sushi, who can slave over not one -- but ten -- different dishes, each of which is made using complicated molecular gastronomy techniques.
At a press preview for Nook Dining -- a new tasting menu concept being launched by Harney Sushi starting on August 2nd, I was one of six lucky diners who sampled Chef Sinsay's "A Day at the Fair" menu, which included everything from uni with cucumber and melon "snow" (pictured above) to kettle corn panna cotta. The whimsical menu was designed by Sinsay, who created each dish in a kitchen that is so limited, he doesn't even have an oven.
Nook Dining is a unique concept. The tasting menu is served at one communal table that seats 6-8 guests, tucked away in the back of the restaurant. Guests book reservations in even numbers, and share the experience with others. It's a great way for everyone from hard-core foodies to newbie gastronomes to experience new flavors and learn about modern, cutting-edge cooking techniques. During my meal, I tried several things for the very first time, including uni (sea urchin), foie gras (au torchon), and salmon roe.
During the course of the meal, Chef Sinsay presents each dish and explains the techniques he used to create each course. Every dish had a fascinating back-story, especially the 7th course, a plate of pork jowls pictured below. The meat was dry cured for 10 hours, then brined and cold smoked for 90 minutes. Using these techniques made the meat taste like it had been BBQ'ed, without actually using a BBQ.
The most memorable dish was the Animal-style beef tartare, which was served with chopped pickles, spheres of ketchup, french fry ice cream, and toasted bread. Sinsay said as a Californian, his menu would not have been complete without adding a nod to In-N-Out.
The tasting menu also included cocktail pairings, including a sweet tea and vodka cocktail, a Guinness float in reverse (made with stout ice cream and vanilla soda), a raspberry lemonade with herbs, and a strawberry daiquiri, made with cherry rum, tableside. The cocktail was made by pouring liquid nitrogen over daiquiri mix, which quickly turned it into a fruity slush.
Another stand-out dish was the kettle corn panna cotta, which was made by freezing kettle corn in liquid nitrogen, then turning it into a dust and steeping it in milk. The panna cotta was topped with caramel, salt, and house-made kettle corn. You can see photos of each dish served in the slide show.
Each Nook Dining event at Harney Sushi will feature a completely new menu, so each group of diners will be the only people to try that night's dishes. The experience costs $150 and includes all cocktails. To make a reservation, call Harney Sushi at 619-295-3272. One note of caution: our meal started at 8pm and didn't finish until just before midnight, so be prepared for a long dinner.