Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gold medal meals at Grant's

Poor little Yang Peiyi. Who'd have thought the Chinese would be so concerned about straight teeth in her 7 year-old mouth while she blasted out China's 'Ode to the Motherland', perhaps the country's most patriotic song for the benefit of the World and the Olympic opening ceremony. She did brilliantly. And they didn't think she'd measure up to international standards of cutedom, so they got some other girl, with a nice smile, to lip synch. Can you imagine Yang Peiyi's pain?
"Mummy. Mummy, did I not sing very well?"
"Oh yes, Darling, you did very well, but your teeth look like the rake we use to clean up after Fido."

It seems the famous American quest for multiple golds in the beauty stakes has inspired countless other nations to subscribe to its twisted ideal of beauty: Fake tan, fake tits, chiseled abs, straight white teeth, Procede, ExTenze, Relacor, Vis-Align...Does everybody think that straight teeth in a mouth is more important than the words that come out of it? Am I the only one that doesn't?

A struggling cook who desperately wants to win awards, rosettes, pats on the back and Burgundy stars, whose cooking is confident and faultless, might think about beautifying his plates to wow critics and pull lasagna over the eyes of the 'inspecteurs', but they'll see straight through his cheap attempt to up the stakes. It's as big a giveaway as linear scars under a perfectly formed, evenly tanned breast, or a bestubbled Adam's apple on a Bangkok hooker.

Overgarnishing is a sin. If it's on the plate, it should have purpose: For the mouth, not for the eyes. Grant doesn't overgarnish. His food speaks for itself. That's not to say that it wasn't beautifully presented. It was, and frankly a joy to eat.

A slice of heirloom tomato was baked with a manchego and bacon crust, varnished with a few drops of truffle oil. The acidity of the fruit battled bravely with the sweetness of the cheese and the salty kick of the bacon.
His Pan-Asian inspired shellfish laksa with squid, seared masala-dusted scallops and big bulbous prawns sat atop a jungle curry sauce thickened with coconut cream. This was a dish celebrating the virtues of of sweet caramelisation and gentle pungent heat, and is one of the best dishes I've eaten all year. A breast of duck marinated in orange juice, garlic, balsamic and spring onion was treated to a hot sear in a glowing pan, the skin transformed from brackish blubber into crackling savoury brilliance in nearly seconds, left the meat underneath moist, pink and deliciously gamey. Duck always needs some sweetness to accompany it, and while the beets underneath didn't achieve the required sugary glory, they were roasted well and mined with grains of smashed walnut and freckled with parsley, yielding a playful congregation of textures. A classic succotash containing edamame, bacon, sriracha and corn exalted a beautifully cooked fillet of perch flanked by toothsome squid and again, the Big Man managed to balance heat, sweet and salt with ease and demonstrated that he has a deft hand when it comes to cooking fish. Wine, a long deep breath and some Olympics in wide screen for the guests quickly followed the fish and while the majority jeered Phelps and scoffed at the tumbling floor action of Chinese and American gymnasts, we could hear Grant in the kitchen muttering, opening more wine and making dessert. A slop of Basmati rice pudding ringed by finely poached peaches had ungainly nuggets of European chocolate (of origin unknown) strewn on the top, and we watched the chunks melt silently into creamy white abysses. It was indeed ambrosial and I said so, but nobody in the room got the joke despite the fact that half of us hold British passports.Where does a culinary athlete position himself on the podium when he's taken gold, silver and bronze? Well, I worked it out. He doesn't. He should sit at the bar, graciously accept the bouquets and back slapping and let everybody buy him a well deserved drink.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

that scallop laksa sounds incredible.

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