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Monday, January 23, 2012

Private Chef's Dinner at Zé Café!

SUNDAY night, to celebrate the eve of Tết with my sister Kim, we made plans for dinner at Zé Café in midtown east. Zé Café is where Kim's new beau, Dejan is the current chef de cuisine. Chef Vezenkovic decided to showcase his talents for us with a private tasting menu--most of these dishes, you won't find on the menu.*


After some small rolls of olive bread with olive oil, our server brought out a pair of amuse-bouche. The amuse-bouche had a base of celery root mousse beneath a purée of butternut squash with a tiny dose of goat cheese and was topped with panko bread crumbs.

beef carpaccio over buttered toast points

Our starter course was a shared plate of beef carpaccio with shaved bra duro, capers and violet mustard. I was excited to taste the violet mustard, which I'd never had before, while Kim was mad about the crispy fried capers.

warm frisée salad

For our salad course, chef sent two warm frisée salads with candied pecans, dried dark berries, Crater Lake blue cheese and lardons. This salad was so good, I finished it much quicker than I would have liked to. The ingredients of the salad married beautifully; nothing was overdone or fussy... it was just simply delicious. (the lardons were my favorite!)

fruits de mer

Our first main was a plateau de fruits de mer of branzino, Long Island cockles and braised octopus, accompanied with artichokes and crostini topped with a saffron-butter reduction. The densely filled dish seemed almost bottomless as we scooped out spoonful after spoonful of tasty fruits de mer!

seemingly endless delights

Our second main was a decadent duck confit over risotto with white truffle oil and yellow wax beans.

duck confit with risotto

The dish was wonderfully aromatic with a perfectly cooked risotto and duck that just about fell off the bone.

Chef Vezenkovic's thirty-six hour Burgundy braised beef short rib

Our final main (our palates were nearly spent!) was a Burgundy-braised beef short rib with spiced root vegetables, celery root mousse and a veal demi-glace. It was my first time tasting short ribs and Dejan's was exceptional! The meat was so densely-flavored and moist--almost flaky!--and the spiced vegetables, along with the celery root mousse, were flawless.

As Kim and I were just about to finish our final savory course, Chef Dejan came to tell us he was going to join us at the table. A few minutes after joining us, our server brought out our final course: Chef Dejan's key lime pie. (Dejan's temporarily doubling as their pastry chef) And to enjoy with our sweet dish, the manager brought two glasses of "Deseado" sparkling torrontés (2010). With the pie, Dejan was able to impress us one final time--many chefs "don't do pastry." It was the best key lime pie I'd ever had, with a perfect balance of tart and sweet and a crust which was perfectly complementary and un-overbearing.

*If you'd like a taste of some of this menu, the beef carpaccio and burgundy braised short rib is available on Zé Café's à la carte menu.
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