Chef Gary Menes: A Celebration of Vegetables

Amuse Bouche - Faux Bluefin Tuna Ceviche

Chef Gary Menes is entering the final weekend of his month-long popup at Olive & Thyme this weekend. I first became aware of Chef Gary at Marche (though I probably had his cooking when I went to Palate Food & Wine). I was amazed by the simple deliciousness of the tasting I had. My BFF Sophia LoRengade, one of the LA Derby Dolls Enforcers (referees), also loves Chef Gary. We visited him last at Test Kitchen when he cooked an all-vegetarian meal.

Champignon de Paris veloute, fromage balnc, farinette

When I heard Chef Gary was doing a vegetarian meal one of the four weekends, I immediately signed Sophia and I up. We started with his faux bluefin tuna ceviche (which is really watermelon). We first had it at Test Kitchen but for some reason, I really enjoyed it more last Sunday. Perhaps because it’s closer to summer and the melon was more sweet?

Sophia and I are big fans of his soups. This particular mushroom veloute was silky smooth and the fromage blanc was housemade.

legumes du jardin de mes amis; carrots, fava, leeks, radish, orange, beets

Every vegetable was well-cooked in this dish. The interplay of the legumes including the fava beans worked well with the orange and beet. I detected more of a bitter flavor while Sophia thought it was very sweet.

Asparagus "A ma facon," 62 degree egg, reggiano, lemon, brown butter

The dish I was most anticipating was the asparagus and egg dish. I was about to order a red wine but was advised a Chardonnay would work better. And it definitely was the case. The reggiano cheese was so wonderful along with the brown butter. We talked about feeling good about the good food in front of us. I could see myself dreaming of more idyllic times.

early summer baby squash, variation on tomato, eggplant, garlic

At first this plate of vegetables didn’t seem more than just some nicely cooked vegetables. Then we discovered the garlic miso paste and the tomato jam. With every bite, the flavors just popped.

peas, sugar snaps, tendrils, smoked onions, potatoes, jus d'oignions

I have to laugh that every meal I’ve had from Chef Gary featured some sort of peas. And this dish reminded me of the first time I had them at Marche (of course I had it with beef then). But the jus made from onions managed to make me forget I wasn’t eating meat jus. This was a lovely dish.

Whimsicial Forest, meringue mushroom button, pine needles, chocolate

We wondered what this dish would look like when we read it was entitled Whimsical Forest. I was immediately reminded of my meal at Moto in Chicago when I heard the mushroom was made out of meringue. However, that mushroom was hardly up to the artistry of Chef Gary’s.

top of the meringue mushroom

another view of the Whimsical Forest

I don’t normally like carrots, much less carrot cake but I enjoyed this version with the cream cheese and butter frosting. The mushroom immediately disappeared along with the almond cake and blanched almond. We were given pine needle tea to enjoy with our cake.

pine needle tea

I wish I could go back this weekend. I heard Chef Gary is doing pig trotters. It would be a hoot to compare  the vegetarian menu to the more meaty one. [edit] I did go! Check back for another Gary Menes Quartier popup post soon.

Quartier Pop-up with Gary Menes at Olive & Thyme

Reservations for tomorrow and Sunday:

quartierrestaurant@gmail.com

Menu here.