Offal-y…Interesting: Dinner at Restaurant DNA with Chef Chris Cosentino

February 28, 2011 · 3 comments

in Restaurants

Offal: (source: the parts of a butchered animal that are considered inedible by human beings. WRONG! Inedible? No no no no no. It’s perfectly edible. In fact, I ate offal this past Friday night. I’ve been eager to try this type of cuisine for a long time. When I heard that Chris Cosentino of Incanto in San Fransisco was visiting our fair city to cook at restaurant DNA for one night only, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. For those of you who have never heard of Chris Cosentino, he has competed on Iron Chef America, was one of the stars of the now defunct Chef vs. City, and is famous for using the nose-to-tail concept of cooking, also known as offal.

This type of cuisine is not for all of us. It’s not a meal that one would indulge upon or crave for a special occasion. When we eat a chicken breast, ribs, and steak, we tend not to think about all the parts above, underneath, and in between. Many cultures have traditional offal like cow’s liver, or chicken hearts. But like I said, it’s simply something most of us don’t have very often. So when it came time for me to step up to the plate and work my way through 5 courses of offal, I knew I would be in for quite a ride. Please note that I prepared myself physically, and mentally for this meal…or so I thought.

Course #1- Turf and Surf: Horse leg and heart tartare, mixed with a Lambertini oyster, fries cooked in horse fat, hay aioli, and brioche

The first thing that went though my mind was “Wow. I’m going to eat Seabiscut”. Once I got past that notion (only took a few seconds), I dove right in. Our waiter conveyed the message that the chef recommends that we make a sandwich out of this. So I did! And I have to say, it was very good. It tasted like a slightly less rich beef tartare. The aioli didn’t taste like hay, not that I know what hay tastes like. The fries were a little inconsistent though; some were crispy, and some were a little soft. Nonetheless, I liked this dish. If this is how easy the rest of the meal is going to be like, I would have no problem. Wrong again.

Course #2- Eel, Blood, Egg: Applewood smoked eel, piglet blood mousse, peasant pappa (like polenta), a 2-hour sous-vide cooked chicken egg, and a heap of green onions

To start, the eel was great. A nice smokey flavor, crispy, and delicious. I tend to turn away from it when it comes on my sushi, even through it is a little more common than a piglet blood mousse. I had to brace myself for this one since it just seems wrong to eat piglet blood. It was nice though. A bit hard to go by mentally, but when I mixed it with the incredible egg and peasant pappa, it was actually very good.

Course #3- Lamb Pluck Fra Diavolo- Lamb heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs, with a jalapeno and cayenne spice rub, a celery root and ash smear and mint puree

So far, I’ve eaten heart, I’ve had liver before, but never kidneys or lungs. The aroma was tantalizing though. It smelled amazing. So I just dove right in. The rub was nice and spicy, without being over the top, and it removed from some of the flavor of the organs, which was probably a good thing. The dish was cooled down with a smooth mint puree. Overall, I liked this dish, and I was ok to eat it. The people around us who just finished eating said we didn’t get to the bad part yet. Pfff. Whatever that means.

Course #4- Big Brain, little brain: Half a veal brain cooked in brown butter and preserved meyer lemon, veal testicle, brainaise (mayonnaise made with brain), and a watercress and radish salad.

Now for my “Fear Factor” moment. I stared at the dish for several moments, wondering how I was going to attack it. I didn’t have a clue. Then a made the wrong move: I poked the brain with my fork. It jiggled. And psyched me out. So I went for the testicle. It was ok. It was like a very soft scallop. It took a few bites, but I stomached it. I ate 3 fork-fulls of the brain and tried to mask the very soft tofu-like texture with the watercress and radishes. It was very rich, and the feel was simply off-putting for me. That’s as far as I got.

Course #5- Chicken Candy Bowl, Chocolate N’Duja Cones: Vanilla ice cream, with n’duja (roasted pepper salami pieces), candied coq’s comb with citric acid and sugar, a “jelly bean” (duck testicle coated in a seabuck thorn berry sugar), and chocolate ganache

I really though dessert was going to be tame. I already had one testicle, so I guess it would be fitting to have another. It tasted exactly as it sounds: a sweet soft coating around a little duck ball. Not bad. The coq’s comb was surprisingly good. It tasted like Sour Patch gummies. The vanilla ice cream was just odd. Spicy salami on ice cream? The chocolate ganache was excellent, yet somehow it was so normal, I wasn’t expecting it to taste like that (it tasted like chocolate ganache).

The one word that everyone had to describe the dinner was interesting. And it was. Is offal something I would have again? Probably not; however, if there was any chef who was going to cook this type of meal for me, it would have to be Chris Cosentino. I walked away from this meal with more of a learning experience than culinary adventure. Even though the concept of house pets and nursery rhymes kept streaming though my mind, I realized there’s so much more than just the regular cuts of meat we are used to, and there’s a lot more to an animal we need to think about. This meal was truly about mind (or should I say brain) over matter.

Restaurant DNA: 355 Rue Marguerite d’Youville, Montreal, QC H2Y 2C4, (514) 287-3362

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeffrey Gilman March 1, 2011 at 8:28 am

Offal: pronounced, AWFUL.
Time to get back to some basic foods that the other 99.999999% of us can enjoy.


wcundill March 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

check out it is Constantinos site, and it has some very informative facts, and views on offal, including the origins of the word (which may change the way you consider pronouncing it)


Food Guy Montreal March 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

Thanks Will!
I already looked at that site before. Pretty eye-opening. Take care and see you soon.


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