Chef Tu David Phu (of An: A Vietnamese Experience) teamed up with Chef Keone Koki (of Commis) and Chef Edward Martinez of (Lazy Bear) and hence T.E.K. at AlaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland, CA. Foodies in the San Francisco Bay Area and fans of these chefs congregated together for this amazing, unique dining experience.
We began our meal on a high note with a cocktail, made by Chef Nelson German of AlaMar. What a special treat to have a cocktail made by the chef himself! If you love blueberries like me, then you will love this! The amount of sweetness was just right, and it tasted like a delicious, “liquored up” blueberry juice. The mint made the drink refreshing.
A few of my favorite dishes were the highlights of the meal. Chef Martinez’s “deconstructed” take on the street corn in Mexico intrigued me at first sight. It was as though he took the actual street corn and demolished it into this pretty presentation in this bowl. As I took a spoonful, I was reminded of the time when I had street corn on the shore in Puerto Vallarta. Familiar and flavorful, especially from the mixture with the cotija cheese, but made in a different approach.
Chef Tu’s Chả Trứng Hấp, which is the Vietnamese steamed egg meatloaf, was a pleasant surprise. Typically, Chả Trứng Hấp looks like a meatloaf. But chef had this within each duck egg. Not only was I impressed by the cool presentation but also by the flavors. The richness of the duck egg made this tastier and brought out more of the comfort feel of eating Chả Trứng Hấp.
Chef Tu hit the ball out of the ballpark with his Bánh Bao, which is the Vietnamese steamed pork bun. It’s exactly what you would expect if you were to go to any Vietnamese grandmother’s house. He got the texture of the bun as well as the familiar seasoning of the pork meat just right. The truffle enhanced the flavor, taste and hominess of Bánh Bao.
Speaking of comfort and hominess, Chef Koki’s tomato course hit the spot. It was like having a tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich with luxurious additions in a bowl. The flavors of the soup with smoked trout roe, onion and thyme were incredible and addictive. I scraped every bit that was left in my bowl.
I usually don’t opt for pork. When prepared and cooked right, it’s delicious. Otherwise, it’s a dry, bland hunk of meat. But I enjoyed this pork course from Chef Koki. The aged pork was cooked to perfection – it was tender and moist. I could really taste the freshness of the herbs and and saltiness of the dried squids.
The finale of the meal was Chef Martinez’s Cremeux. A pretty dessert of milk chocolate, hazelnut praline, and fermented blueberry. The flavors of the ingredients were well-balanced, and the dessert wasn’t as sugary and sweet as I had expected. I think it was due to the nuttiness and slight savoriness of the hazelnuts. It was also fun to pop the sugary chip in mouth at the end. Not as sweet as I thought either!
T.E.K. featuring Chefs Tu David Phu, Edward Martinez and Keone Koki was an incredible experience to see and taste different, creative takes on comfort food from home. It was great to see Chef Tu collaborate with other chefs in one of his pop-ups.
To learn more about more about Chef Tu and An: A Vietnamese Experience, check out their website at http://anavde.com.
All images and content © 2017 Carol Vu, unless otherwise indicated.