Fall-flavored Fine Dining
Sometimes when we dine out during fall, we actually want something more than pumpkin-spiced whatever. Sometimes we want novel, thoughtful interpretations of the season, incorporating timely and locally derived ingredients prepared in a unique fashion with some thread of cohesion. Imagine that. Nothing quite achieves such glory as a well orchestrated seasonal tasting menu, like the new fall menus rolling out at 42 Grams and Sixteen, two fine dining masterworks on opposite sides of town. While both may skew modern and high-end, each offers its own distinct approach to service style, ambience, and of course, cuisine.
(Cultured barley porridge in the making at 42 Grams. Photo: 42 Grams)
For 42 Grams' latest menu iteration, the diminutive Uptown restaurant is turning to the globe for inspiration. You know, pretty simple. It marks the third major menu shift for the restaurant, manned by chef/owner Jake Bickelhaupt. The talented culinarian examined the global melting pot fare of the U.S. and his homeland for his latest amalgam of dishes, paring things down for refined simplicity along the way. Spanning the spectrum of textures, techniques, flavors, and preparations, 42 Grams' latest multi-course prix fixe contains dishes sure to recalibrate your expectations for autumnal dining. Bouncing around the globe for background, the new menu includes items such as cultured barley porridge with crispy pork jowl, pig heart, housemade barley koji, and grapefruit; Skuna Bay salmon brined in barrel-aged forbidden forest lapsang souchong tea, with spent malted barley and hops sourdough, housemade miso, and chanterelle mushroom dashi; and A5 miyazaki Wagyu marinated with housemade barrel-aged fermented soy sauce, grilled over binchotan coals and served with beef and bone marrow, umeboshi jus, and red shiso. Friendly reminder that 42 Grams is BYO and reservations must be made in advance here.
While 42 Grams looks broadly for inspiration, Sixteen gets more introspective with its latest seasonal tasting menu. Literally inspired by the individuals responsible for the dining experience at the meticulous restaurant, Sixteen's new degustation pays homage to the folks who make it tick: line cooks, sous chefs, dishwashers, farmers, servers, and others. The menu opens with snacks and small plates that honor specific members of the Sixteen brigade, such as pumpkin and ricotta byrek inspired by the Albanian heritage of one of the restaurant's expediters, pine-smoked venison with cranberry and caribou moss inspired by the hunting passions of a long-time cook, and classic turtle soup as a nod to one of Sixteen's captain's time spent in New Orleans.
Next, guests imbark down one of two dining routes. One path focuses on the kitchen's culinary mentors, while the other focuses on the team's cooking styles and their influences. The "Inspirations From Our Past" menu includes three dishes of New Zealand langoustine as an homage to three revered chefs that executive chef Thomas Lents has worked with. The "Inspirations From Within" menu format features three small dishes of wild sturgeon and ossetra caviar, spotlighting the varying styles, strengths, and skills of Lents, chef Heisinger, and chef Montanez.
The next section of the menu is called "Connections" and showcases individuals who connect Sixteen to wild and rare ingredients, with options including matsutake mushroom with warm foie gras mousse, currant, duck heart, and mizuna, or Comte souffle with truffle, walnut, and roast pear.
The third section is dubbed "Relationships," all about the restaurant's relationships with special purveyors, who often specificially raise ingredients for the restaurant. These dishes include "Trust Build Through Time," turbot from Brittany in two preparations, and "Personalized Through Friendship," with poussin and hay in two preparations.
Then things get sweet with snacks by pastry chef Aya Fukai. Dessert begins with four small bites that mimic the snacks at the start of the meal, dually inspired by folks behind the scenes at Sixteen. These include pear sorbet with Earl Grey tea, ripe pear and pear pate de fruit inspired by Seedling Orchard's Peter Klein and his adoration for ripe pears; Opera tortes of almond joconde with coffee buttercream and Manjari ganache, which serves as a nod to Fukai recently teaching a cook how to make Opera torte; and baba au bourbon with chocolate cake soaked in bourbon syrup, served with lime Chantilly and chocolate crunch, an ode to a cook and his love of bourbon.
Finally, it's time for full dessert plates, each one commemorating two front-of-house managers and their backgrounds. "Bringing the Cellar to the Floor" is made with chocolate and red Bordeaux in black walnut cake with prunes, mascarpone, and frozen Tainori mousse, all of which serves to showcase sommelier and restaurant director Dan Pilkey. Then there's the "Captain's Transformation into a Leader," an apple and fenugreek dessert with apple cake, maple yogurt, fenugreek ice cream, and lemon balm, inspired by manager Jessica McGlynn's memories visiting Michigan's Franklin Cider Mill with her father.
All in all, not your typical fall menus.
- Matt Kirouac