Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Chef Tidbits - Out To Lunch With Angelo!

Well, Not Exactly - Actually, It Was Out To Lunch AT Angelo's

Angelo has been doing amazingly well on Top Chef. He won three out of the four challenges in the first 2 episodes. ( I haven't seen tonight's episode yet.)

He mentioned, during the Quickfire in Episode 2, that he would have to close down his sandwich shop if he didn’t win the sandwich challenge. Even tied to his partner and using only one hand, Angelo (and Tracey) triumphed with a sandwich of Flounder Marinated in Fish Sauce, Spicy Sriracha Mayo, Pickled Red Onions & Herbaceous Salad.

I admit I was a little confused about why a sandwich shop owner was on Top Chef or why a top chef owned a sandwich shop. His Bravo bio doesn’t help matters. He worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten and was “invited” by Ducasse to create a “a special seasonal” menu at one of his casual Parisian restaurants. Yeah, so why the sandwich shop?

I know that various chefs are involved in lots of different projects – roaming restaurants, food trucks, whatever, but that’s usually in addition to a more traditional restaurant. His own website covers his rather extensive experience pretty well, so I guess he just loves sandwiches with an Asian twist.

I was curious to see if Xie Xie, Angelo’s sandwich “project”, was praise and brag-worthy. Xie Xie (pronounced shay-shay) is Mandarin for thank you. What that has to do with the price of eggs, I’m not sure.

On a recent, absolutely steamy, day in New York, I headed over to 45th and Ninth to meet a friend for a look-see and a must-taste.

The shop has a Pinkberry vibe about it. I like its clean modern interior.

Okay, down to the food. The bad news first. Only four out of the five sandwiches on the menu were available that day! BUT I don’t even remember which one was sold out, because we weren’t planning to order that one anyway.

More bad news. They were out of the “1000 Year Old” Ice Cream Sandwich and the gentleman in charge (not Angelo, he wasn’t there) wasn’t terribly apologetic or actually all that charming to begin with.

On to the good news. The first sandwich we had was the one that Angelo made on the Quickfire Challenge. In the shop, they used tilapia instead of flounder. It was called Fish Cha Ca La Vong with Onion Jam, Sriracha Mayonnaise and Dill.

What a sandwich! Each element was perfect. The bread was crusty and seemed just baked. The fish was flaky and moist. The tons of dill and parsley gave a wonderful freshness. The onion jam was sweet and concentrated and the Sriracha Mayo left a nice spicy taste on the tongue. All together, it made a wow of a sandwich! Plus it was very original. I’ve never had anything like it.

The second (and last) sandwich we sampled was the Asian Lobster Roll with Kewpie Mayo, Tarragon and Crispy Shallots.

Kewpie or Japanese Mayonnaise (was) first made in Japan in 1925 and…is yellower, richer and more creamy than the standard American or European mayonnaise. Made with rice vinegar, instead of distilled vinegar makes it especially complimentary to Japanese cuisine.

This was a super-mayonnaise-y (which is heaven to me) mixture of lobster and tarragon served on a soft (maybe a tiny bit sweet?) roll. It was jam-packed with lobster and really, really tasty. But I’ve had lobster salad before, so it was the other one that was really revolutionary.

I will definitely go back and try the other three sandwiches. Hopefully, next time, the 1000 year ice cream sandwich won’t be extinct.

You may be able to taste Angelo’s sandwiches at a shop near you. He hopes to open 11 more in the next few years. If he wins Top Chef, maybe there will be one on every street corner.


Anonymous said...

What fun that you were able to do that! I've been trying to find a time to go to Bryan Voltaggio's restaurant but it's always booked up.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

45th and 9th? That's the same block my husband's office is on. I'm surprised he never mentioned it to me. I guess he can't go there anyway since he's trying to do the non-gluten thing. I shouldn't go there either, but I'm so curious now! It's only 5 blocks from my NY office. I have been having wya too many gluten cheats lately!

Emily said...

Cooool! I'm so glad you did this! I wish I could have came with you.

Was it that busy in there? I bet it starts getting busy in there. He is doing really well in the challenges. I don't really like him that much, but maybe he'll grow on me.

Sue said...

Hiya Tom,
I've read wonderful things about Bryan's restaurant. Can you imagine how hard it would be to get in if he had actually WON Top Chef?

You should get him to bring YOU one of those sandwiches...on a non gluten-free day, of course.

You and me both!!!

It GOT busy, but at noon, it was empty, except for take out orders.