Tamara Palmer

Chefs Shine at MUTEK San Francisco

Tamara Palmer
Chefs Shine at MUTEK San Francisco

As a DJ, fan and professional chronicler of techno and experimental electronic music, I was thrilled when Montreal's MUTEK, which is billed as the International festival of digital music and creativity, announced the first San Francisco edition, which took place in May. But my experience there was a complete surprise!

Having never been to the Canadian event, I wasn't aware of how MUTEK works with the local food scene for tie-in events and dining opportunities until organizers announced that ticket holders of the San Francisco fest would have a crack at preferred reservations for pop-up dinners hosted by Feastly.

The week before MUTEK, I attended my first Feastly pop-up dinner in Venice, which was a very entertaining evening. Chef AC Boral, with help from his friends and his mother, prepared the first installment of Enter the 36 Courses, a dinner series that pays tribute to the discography of Staten Island's own Wu-Tang Clan. We figured out that night that Wu-Tang Flan — Filipino leche flan flecked with gold leaf and served with chantilly cream — is, indeed, something to fuck with, and the evening spent laughing, singing, head-nodding and nibbling was a great introduction to the Feastly ethos.

Back in San Francisco, I was introduced to Istanbul Modern, one of Feastly's top teams, through the MUTEK artist brunch, which was held in a SoMa kitchen. Laura Millan and Sayat Ozyilmaz have been hosting a full schedule of pop-up meals for two years and hope to open their first restaurant, Noosh, before the end of the year. Noosh will push beyond Istanbul Modern's boundaries to incorporate neighboring and global influences. According to Eater, Noosh's investor sought out the couple almost immediately after eating at one of their Feastly events.

They produced casual bites for the brunch, including a Turkish fava bean stew with a six-minute egg, garlic yogurt and Yemenite z'houg, feta and dill pillows and strawberry kaymak ice cream. Simple and beautiful, they showed off refined techniques honed while working at fine restaurants; Laura has cooked for Saison, Cafe Boulud, Eleven Madison Park and Mugaritz, while Sayat worked for Mourad, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Le Bernardin. This restaurant will be one to watch.

 

 Sayat Ozyilmaz of Istanbul Modern serves his Turkish fava bean stew with six-minute egg. (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

Sayat Ozyilmaz of Istanbul Modern serves his Turkish fava bean stew with six-minute egg. (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

 Champorado tart, quesong puti cheese, satsuma, roasted beets and Tinapa sarsa. (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

Champorado tart, quesong puti cheese, satsuma, roasted beets and Tinapa sarsa. (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

Later that night, I was excited to finally try chef Francis Ang's Pinoy Heritage seasonal tasting menu, which he also produces via Feastly in San Francisco. I was a big fan of Francis' imaginative work as a pastry chef at a hotel restaurant called Fifth Floor, which morphed into the unfortunately named Dirty Habit a few years back. I found him to be one of the most talented and artistic pastry chefs in the city.

After leaving the hotel, Francis traveled throughout the Philippines for culinary inspiration for Pinoy Heritage, which is both savory and sweet, and definitely educates his diners to flavors and techniques that can't otherwise be found in San Francisco. His spring tasting started with a  Champorado tart, a remix of chocolate rice porridge with a tart shell made of puffed rice and unsweetened Philippine chocolate, homemade quesong puti cheese, satsuma, roasted beets and Tinapa sarsa, a smoked fish and herb sauce.

 Dungeness crab arroz caldo with green garlic, crab dashi and nasturtium (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

Dungeness crab arroz caldo with green garlic, crab dashi and nasturtium (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

He moved on to a Dungeness crab arroz caldo with green garlic, crab dashi and nasturtium, which he sprayed with some kind of magical calamansi essence at the table, and handmade pancit with yellow curry, asparagus, peas and Palapa Maguindanao (toasted coconut with aromatic herbs).

The pancit was accompanied by pork belly humba, a popular dish in Visayas and some parts of Mindanao in the Philippines that's cooked adobo style with aromatic spices such as star anise and mandarin orange peels and served with shimeji shrooms, lotus root and pickled mustard seeds. 

Next was a rabbit course prepared by sous chef Danica, an ode to spring with Inihaw na Kuneho, a trio of rabbit skewers including a rabbit longanisa sausage with a cane vinegar and quail egg dip and heirloom carrot with seeds.

 Strawberry tinagtag with banana cremeux and tsokolate batirol (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

Strawberry tinagtag with banana cremeux and tsokolate batirol (Photo: Tamara Palmer)

I knew that the three desserts that finished the meal would be completely exquisite: mango sago, a tapioca pudding with coconut milk; strawberry tinagtag, a rice fritter with banana cremeux and tsokolate batirol (Filipino hot chocolate) that was created for a dinner at the James Beard House; and black sesame epasol (pictured up top), little balls of coconut glutinous rice mochi coated in toasted rice flour. Francis doesn't have imminent plans to open a permanent restaurant since he's happy with his Feastly events, but he also told me that he's not adverse if solid investment opportunities come his way.

While I looked forward to MUTEK mainly to see one of my favorite groups (Underground Resistance) play live, it was wonderful to also discover the talents of these local but world-wise chefs. Keep an eye out for MUTEK 2019!