It's not secret the restaurant industry is tough. Every day, moth, and year, someone is trying to create to be the nest big thing. Guests are pretty savvy these days, and they've seen it all—it takes a lot to wow them. But I would hazard to guess that Chefs Club by Food & Wine is doing just that. The idea behind Chefs Club is a brave one. We've all heard the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen," but that's exactly what Chefs Club embraces. Chefs who might never otherwise open a restaurant in New York get to flex their culinary chops here, and guests who may never otherwise taste their food get a good chance to do that.
On the design front, it's not easy feat to impress guests these days, either. Good link to the designer who dares to put another Edison bulb in the dining room. But the Rockwell-designed space at Chefs Club is stunning. What's old is new again, again. We've seen the elements before—concert, marble, brick, steel, wood—but here they feel fresh, and they come together to create a dining room that is handsome, sophisticated, and very New York. I particularly love the open kitchen, and the way Rockwell has incorporated seating almost within the kitchen itself.
What most inspired me for this month's dish was not any one visual comment (There were simply too many to choose from), but the way in which Rockwell takes classic elements and makes them feel new. Steak tartar for example, is mot certainly in the pantheon of classic French dishes. I love a good steak tartare, but I wanted to change things up a bit, so here, I use lamb. Lamb is one of my favorite proteins to work with, and it;s important to get the absolute freshest lamb you can find, preferably grass-fed. The brown butter vinaigrette lends a hint of tastiness. Then i add a small dollop of sheep's milk yogurt, season with garlic, lemon, and mint to give the tartare a delicate brightness. Individually, the flavors might be familiar enough, but together I hope they inspire something new.
Serves six as a starter
12 ounces grass fed lamb loin or top round, chilled and finely diced
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove garlic, grated on a micro plane
1/4 brown butter vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/4 cup sheep's milk yogurt (recipe follows)
6 quail egg yolks
2 rosemart leaves, minced
~ zest of one lemon
~ fresh horseradish
~ sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Sheep's milk yogurt
1/4 cup full fat, plain sheep's milk yogurt
1 clove garlic, grated on a micro plane
1/4 cup minced mint leaves
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~ zest and juice of 1 lemon
~ Sea salt and fresh paper to taste
Combine all ingredients.
or the Brown Butter Vinaigrette
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon pine nuts
1 clove garlic, grated on a micro plate
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Moscatel vinegar
~ juice of 1 lemon or yuzu
~ salt and pepper to taste
To make the brown butter vinaigrette, clarify and then brown the butter, discarding the milk solids. Add the pine nuts and gently toast, infusing the butter with their flavor. Once nuts are light golden, strain and reserve. Whisk in the grate garlic to the brown butter and se aside. In a small bowl, combine honey, vinegar and citrus juice. Whisk together. Slowly drizzle in the brown butter/garlic mixture and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For the tartare
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the minced lamb, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and brown vinaigrette and mix together thoroughly, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
On six small, chilled plates, smear 1 tablespoon of sheep's milk yogurt on the base of the plat and add 2 ounces of lamb tartare, making a small well in the meat. Add 1 quail egg yolk, season with sea salt. Finish with a generous micro plane of fresh horseradish and a sprinkling if rosemary leaves and the pine nuts.
Seamus Mullen is an award-winning New York-based chef; owner of Tertulia, El Colmado Butchery; and culinary director of Sea Containers restraint at Mondrian London. he is the author of the cookbook Hero Food.