So today I’m writing something a little different than my usual reviews! I had the amazing opportunity to go to the third installment of VERSUS last night- a competitive dinner series held at Plaza del Toro that pits local chefs against each other, with the guests voting and the winner’s proceeds going to a charity of their choice. Tonight we would be trying six courses by Maylin Chavez and Melissa Mayer from Olympia Oyster Bar and Andrew Gregory from Woodsman Tavern. All of the dishes would include seasonal ingredients; the first with green beans, the second with peaches, and the third with tomatoes. I’d never been to anything like this before, and I was so excited to see and taste some amazing, creative dishes! I’m not going to reveal who I voted for, because all three chefs did some pretty incredible things!
Round 1: Green Beans
Chavez and Mayer:
The presentation of this dish was amazing. I’ve always wanted to try food this beautiful! The cured kampachi, which is a type of fish, was excellent, and it paired well with the sour cream, which cut the saltiness of the fish. There was a little salad of a couple things I wasn’t sure I knew what they were, and it was tasty and acidic. The quail egg was perfectly cooked. The green beans were on top of a puree that I believe included green beans, mint, and lemon. It was really refreshing and paired well with the fish. My problem with this dish is I didn’t know how to eat it. I wasn’t sure where to begin, and which items should be eaten together. It was so whimsical and elevated that I don’t really care!
I was immediately more comfortable with this dish because I understood what it was, which was a salad. It was delightfully acidic, and the raw green beans were a nice counterpoint. Everything was so crisp! The blue potatoes were beautiful, and imparted so much earthy, meaty flavor. So delicious.
Round 2: Peaches
Chavez and Mayer:
Chavez and Mayer really upped the bar in the next round, when they presented us with three trays of their famous oysters, all dressed and presented in different ways, and all incorporating peach in some way. The picture above is the “naked-katafi” oyster. The oyster was cooked through and wrapped in thin pieces of pastry, and had a sort of spicy peach jam on top. This bite was incredible! It was probably my favorite thing I tried tonight.
I don’t know which picture is of which oyster, but there was one that was grilled with mole blanco, and one that was dressed with ceviche. They were all beautiful, as you can see from the pictures, and it’s obvious why these two ladies are known for their oysters!
I’ve never tried foie gras before, so I was excited when I saw it was on the menu! I tried all the components separately before combining them all on the little pieces of toast. The foie gras and chicken liver mousse was decadent. I’ve never eaten anything so creamy and light, and the flavor was rich and smoky. Now I know what all the fuss is about! The peach butter was savory and spicy, and paired well with the rich mousse. With the crunchy rye, everything felt right together, with the sliced peaches and jalapeno brightening up the heavy flavors of this dish.
Round 3: Tomatoes
Chavez and Mayer:
I’ve never seen a dish quite like this one! It was like a little pond filled with tomatoes prepared all different ways! Roasted, grilled, marinated, raw, everything you could possibly think to do with a tomato was in this dish, including turned into tiny balls of savory sorbet. The chapulín was a nice crunchy counterpoint that perfectly brought together the Alice in Wonderland theme. (Just so you know, chapulines are grasshoppers).
What this dish lacked in presentation, it made up for in amazing flavor. First off, I don’t like uni. I think the texture is just weird. Gregory made it into a tomato gravy. The smoky, rich flavor of the uni made me really appreciate such a weird ingredient, and I applaud him for his creativity! The beef was tender and well cooked, and the clams were buttery and delicious. The green tomato was really needed to cut the rich sauce! I believe everyone licked their plates.
Dessert was served by Plaza del Toro’s pastry chef, Carrie Merrill. Oh my god. This was incredible! I don’t even have words at this moment to describe how amazing this dessert was. The portion size was huge but I don’t think anyone left a crumb on their plates! The peach ice cream was the star.
Congratulations to everyone involved in Versus, especially Andrew Gregory, the winner of the competition! It was such an honor to try every dish!
I had such an amazing time, and the cherry on top was that both of our $50 dinners were comp’d! Thank you, stranger!