OK, enter temperature code and then press pound sign…Photo: Melissa Hom
Sam Mason, the former star pastry chef at wd-50, will be launching his own restaurant and lounge, Tailor, at the beginning of March. In the weeks leading up to then, he’ll take us behind the scenes of a hot restaurant opening.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about equipment this week. We’re working away at new recipes, and it would be great if we had all the equipment that we’re going to be using. We finally got our circulator, but it’s wired for 220 volts, and the test kitchen is 110. Argh! The temperature control you can get with these machines is incredible. If you soft-boil an egg at exactly 65.5 degrees centigrade for an hour, you’re going to get the most perfect egg you could ever imagine, as the proteins respond exactly as you want them to, the white perfectly coagulated and the yolk just barely solidified. And you can get that product every time. Try that by dipping your finger in hot water! It’s pricey, $1,000, but so worth it. Other kinds of equipment we might try to get refurbished. Not all of them, of course: An ice-cream machine, or anything with gears and moving parts, you want brand-new. But something solid-state, like a convection oven? They last for ten years, and you’re looking at a difference of maybe $5,000.
We’re also thinking about some design issues. We haven’t gotten far into it, but I looked at some plates the other day. They didn’t feel right as far as the vibe goes. They were too shiny, too modern, too fancy. We want everything to be a little old-timey, a little antiquated. We were even thinking of having the silverware intentionally tarnished. We would get some nice silverware, and then beat it up a little, so that it looked like something your grandmother had. We want the design to be very untimely, and the food to be totally cutting-edge.
Meanwhile, Fran and I are still working away in the test kitchen. We have a new dish that I’m excited about: It’s a pineapple mousse with Dungeness crab meat inside it, wrapped in a sheet of pineapple braised with caramel and black cardamom. We’ll serve it with serrano ham, baked into a chiplike texture, and two kinds of pine nuts: one raw and one a purée, garnished with Thai basil. We like that one, but we need feedback. We don’t want any yes-men.”