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Friday, November 12, 2010

Alinea 5: The Ikea course

The waiter brought us a plate each, on top of which were arranged these artfully sliced and prepared items. Mise in place, I suppose. The green balls are honeydew melon. There's a dollop of hot sauce on a spoon just out of frame. There's that one lonely curl of coconut. On the watch glass appears to be a slurry of lime juice and basil seeds. But, lo, this platter conceals a hidden compartment, for once the white surface is moved off, the wooden base has carved space in it, holding a strange metal contraption. We were instructed to assemble into a holder.

Remember the tapioca sheet from earlier?

Turns out it wasn't simple table decoration, but was to be draped atop the contraption. Into the sheet was dolloped a lump of pork belly cooked in coconut milk, and we were to adjust the flavors with the accompanying ingredients.

Now this strategy hearkens back to southeast Asian cuisine, where a number of adjustments are usually offered to the diner, far beyond the simple salt and pepper shakers, to adjust the flavors to the diner's liking. Anything from chili pepper infused vinegar to a squeeze of calamansi or a dash of pungent fish sauce makes every plate an individual canvas.

Problem here is, well, we have one, maybe two, bites. We have to guess without tasting as we go.

So, most diners dump everything in. And for the most part, the flavors chosen are proven complements, so there's no harm in that. Not sure why the basil seeds are in the lime juice, I think the gelling effect blunted the already timid lime. I think it needed more acid to counteract the richness of pork belly cooked in coconut milk, more aggressive citrus may be a good idea. Yuzu, perhaps?

Previously on this series:

Alinea 4: Clarity
Alinea 3: Chinky Chicken
Act 2: Green
A symphony in 21 acts

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