Top Chef Chris Crary’s Wild Game Dinner at Whist
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been to Whist at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. When I heard Chef Chris Crary from this season’s Top Chef was doing a special wild game dinner with My Last Bite, I gathered some friends to go. There were two seatings; 6:30 and 8: 30 PM last Thursday. I opted for the later one since traffic is so unpredictable in LA. The 5-course tasting at $60 seemed like such a deal considering the exotic ingredients. I was bummed though when I heard ostrich eggs weren’t procured for the flan. It turned out it’s not ostrich mating season so no eggs for us. Duck eggs came to the rescue.
One of my friends and I met up early at the bar to enjoy some cocktails. After getting a Manhattan that was shaken (please, all bartenders– STIR Manhattans!), I opted for bourbon on the rocks after. I did try the Champs Elysees (Cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, Angostura bitters) which was quite nice. I teased my friend vodka is dead. The Cucumber RX (gin, St. Germain, cucumber) was very popular with the lounge crowd.
After we were seated, bubbly was immediately given to us while we waited for our food. The amuse bouche was octopus. We joked it must have been the “wild game” of the sea. After some time had passed, the roasted rabbit arrived. The three pieces came with carrot panna cotta and a tiny carrot. I was a bit startled to find the rabbit was cold but figured it was supposed to be that way? It was indeed tender and I thought the Thai spices, peanut and lime must have been inspired from Chris and Jo’s lunch at Jitalada (Jo’s “home away from home”)where the plan was hatched for this dinner.
The next course was also cold. The venison neck and loin was pretty good though. My table enjoyed the neck best. I rolled up some of the venison in the edible nasturtium leaf and ate it like a taco, something I had learned from LQ at SK’s dinner.
The boar belly was clearly favored to be the favorite dish of the night. With a root vegetable cassoulet, truffle and apple ephemere, we finished this dish in a jiffy.
I hadn’t had antelope before. I found it to be very meaty. When I first saw the hearts of palm, I mistook it for bone marrow. Aw, it was not but it was still tasty. The table liked the pearled barley under the antelope. We didn’t think this tasted “gamey” at all.
Loved that the sauce for this duck egg flan was made from Wild Turkey (whiskey). It was served with a cardamon crumble and cajeta ice cream. Cajeta is goat’s milk.
I later talked to Chef Chris how I expected some offal. He took a big enough risk with the venison neck with the “Santa Monica” crowd. True but there are a lot of expats in the area that I think would dig it. Plus, LA foodies (yes, I know some of you hate this word) like eating the whole animal- nose to tail and such. I vote for an offal dinner next time. With tripe!
1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401 – (310) 260-7511