Thursday, November 01, 2012

One Night Only

The One Night Only Project is a series of dinners, which I hesitate to describe as “underground,” but fuck it: if the shoe fits, drink champagne from it. This culinary Xanadu was dreamed up by well-known local television personality Julien Perry and locavore cheerleader Melissa Peterman. The culinary rap sheets of these two women is as long as a whale cock, and so when I was invited to attend a dinner created by Ma’Ono owner Mark Fuller, I jumped at the chance the way your mom jumps at the chance to attend a Truffaut retrospective. Look at your mom, showing interest in something besides methamphetamines!

Anyway, the One Night Only dinners typically move around from venue to venue, but this time it was held at the Velvet Underground Dining Experience, a small banquet room in South Lake Union which is as stylish as its acronym, VUDE, is gross-sounding.

Mark Fuller was cooking Mexican food, paired with beers from the Georgetown Brewing Company. I admit I was skeptical. After all, Fuller is known for a polished and modern take on Hawaiian comfort food. Would he be able to pull it off? Read on and you’ll see.

We started with passed appetizers: pork croutons with clam salsa. “Crouton” here is a misnomer. Let’s get one thing straight, this was a fucking pork rind with stuff on top of it. But the pork rind was mildly salty and airy, with the brittle snap of a brisk walk through a wooded land on an autumn day, which all good pork rinds should have. I’ve only had tastier pork rinds at La Bete. These were topped with a small pile of smoked clam salsa: colorful cubes of bell pepper and tomato were interspersed here and there with diced chunks of heavily smoked clams and a brunoise of crunchy jicama. The smoke flavor was a welcome addition to the pork rind, and the salsa was bright and fresh.

A pork and rice meatball soup was fucking tasty. Downy meatballs , dense slices of chorizo, and grilled potato splashed around in a plunge pool of a savory and spicy broth, glimmering topaz which sported a very subtle yet undeniable heat. This was garnished with a slice of avocado.

Next up were tacos: I have NEVER HAD TACOS LIKE THIS BEFORE. People like to wax rhapsodic about tacos, but that’s usually because they have never tasted something which is ACTUALLY DELICIOUS, like white asparagus, or a bone-in Wagyu ribeye, or a galantine with an interior garnish of smoked chicken breast and foie gras. Tacos are cheap, sure, but so are potatoes, and Pommes Robuchon is way better than the average taco. I don’t get the obsession lots of chumps have with tacos.

Until now.

Crispy shreds of carnitas were packed into handmade tortillas, ivory, soft, and creamy in a way that was unlike any tortilla I’ve ever eaten. On top was a salsa of tomatillo and white onion. On the side was a bowl of handmade queso which was very good but a little salty for my taste. Accompanying the tacos were grilled red jalapenos. These were a mine field of Scoville units. I ate 2 tacos, each topped with a pepper. The first was pleasantly spicy but the second one was a fucking raging capsaicin inferno which caused the tears to roll silently down my face like a stoic widow in a New England cemetery. All I needed were sunglasses, a leafless winter tree, and a black umbrella to complete this tableau. Still, it would take more than a freakishly spicy jalapeno to ruin these tacos; that’s how magnificent they were.

Charcoal grilled skirt steak was great. I could eat an entire skirt’s worth of this steak. In fact I could eat an entire WEDDING DRESS of this steak. It was pleasantly charred on the outside, grilled to a pleasing, vaginal medium inside, with a spicy and tangy marinade of cumin and lime. This was garnished with scallion rings and accompanied by these soft cornmeal biscuits which were filled, jelly donut style, with a thin layer of refried beans.

Next up was a cucumber and shrimp salpicon. “Salpicon” is Spanish for “a bunch of shit chopped up like a motherfucker.” The salpicon had a whole bunch of ingredients: shrimp, banana peppers, chunks of cucumber, radishes, all very fresh tasting but I couldn’t understand how, exactly, this mélange should be eaten. There were no tortillas in evidence. Should you just spoon the salpicon into your mouth? Or was it meant to be used as a condiment? Some people were spooning it atop their slices of grilled skirt steak, which was probably the best option, but personally I just chowed down on it.

By this point I was getting pretty damn full but we still had two more courses to conquer. The first was the Tamale of Disappointment: a big loaf of cornmeal was filled with a rubbery white skein of Beecher’s Jack Cheese. I should also point out that the Tamale of Disappointment had a weird, humid, tropical funk that smelled like what I imagine the Predator smells like. The Tamale of Disappointment donned a dark brown sash of chocolate sauce, grainy and bitter, like an old photograph of your mom. I expected this sauce to taste like a melted Hershey Bar but as the name suggests, I was sadly, sadly disappointed. This was accompanied by a couple chunks of roasted sweet potato for some reason.

Dessert, however, was great: a big bowl of dolce de leche rice pudding, finely grained and light. Puddled on top was a shallow pool of horchata, a few slippery mango wedges, and a scattered topping of Corn Pops. At first I thought these were some artisan “corn pops” somehow manufactured by Fuller’s crew using advanced tech, but no: clearly visible from my seat was the actual box of Kellogg’s Corn Pops, with its bright yellow and red pop-art label, sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. The mouthfeel of this pudding was superb: it was like my tongue writhing around between satin sheets. It was sweet, but not cloying, with notes of cinnamon provided by the horchata, and of course the fruity black pepperiness of the mango.

The One Night Only Project is an interesting idea. At $150 per person, it’s a bit pricey, though I don’t consider the cost obscene, considering that you can get as much alcohol as you can pour into your piehole, and tip and tax is included. Plus, the food is impeccable. Mark Fuller is a seasoned veteran, and the food is prepared by his hand-picked cabal. Besides, this isn’t 2006, when every chump with middling knife skills would declare a meal at his house an “underground dinner,” propped it up with a lame code word and a flimsy thesis about “community,” and then make friends of friends pay $100 to watch him drizzle truffle oil over everything.One Night Only is, instead, a demonstration of power. The menus are lyrical songs, each dish a stanza written by a professional fully in command of the vocabulary of cuisine. It’s a chef’s playground.

One Night Only’s next dinner is Saturday, November 3rd, and will feature a fucking crazy barbecue feast prepared by Chef Eric Hellner of the Metropolitan Grill, with wine pairing by Master Sommelier Thomas Price. Tickets are still available. If you miss this I pity you.

Rating: 8.5 tacos out of 10

Tickets to the One Night Only Project are available here.

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