In short, we respect and honor our ingredients and the farmers who make them.
Just as we are committed to finding the finest ingredients and allowing each component to make its contribution to a dish, we believe that we should fill our kitchen with talented chefs and allow each chef to contribute his or her own brand of genius to the menu. We have assembled an amazing team of bright young chefs who like the idea of giving substantial creative input to our menu and taking ownership of the food they prepare. Our team works with the best ingredients from our trusted vendor-partners like Melissa’s and others who source our foods from farmers who raise their animals and grow their produce responsibly, and we invite you to look at our Farmers page to get more information about these trusted producers. Finally, we’ll put passion and love into our craft, creating an ever changing menu of extraordinary, affordable food.
Every Tuesday, the kitchen team will assemble and design a new menu for the week, taking full advantage of the finest available seasonal produce and fresh proteins. No doubt certain items will become frequent visitors on the menu as our customers let us know what their favorites are. But we will always work to keep the menu fresh and exciting and never the “same old thing.”
Nearly every element of every dish we serve has a story. Here are some of our favorites.
That delightfully smoky taste found in many of our dishes comes from hickory smoked bacon or country ham prepared by Allan Benton of Madisonville, Tennessee. We heard that Allan Benton made the best bacon and country ham in American, which probably means the entire world if you like your bacon the American way. We wanted to find out more about his product and found the Benton Smokey Mountain Country Hams website a little sparse on the kind of information we wanted. So we called the number we found on the website. When we reached Allan we asked him to send us a pricelist by email, to which he responded, “Son, you’re talkin’ to a man on a rotary dial telephone, and I’m too busy tending the wood stove to fuss with email.” We knew right then that we’d found a man whose primary concern was curing and smoking the perfect hog. Allan might be called “quirky” by some, but we call him an artisan and we love his bacon. Why would we offer you anything less?
You’ll see the word “Jidori” on our menu a lot. That’s because it’s the only kind of chicken we serve. Jidiori Chickens are raised by Mao Foods, Inc. for discriminating restaurants, including Puck Spago, Splichal Patina, Nobu Matsuhisa and Jason’s Playground.
Jidiori Chickens are raised cage-free in Californias Central Valley, fed all natural grain with no meat byproducts, and without any hormones or steroids. The birds are shipped live daily to Los Angeles where they are processed under strict HACCP guidelines with USDA inspection of every single bird.
Jidiori Chickens arrive in our kitchen within 24 hours of slaughter (usually within 8 hours). Why is this important? Because bacteria begins to grow immediately after slaughter; and unlike beef where aging is sometimes encouraged to tenderize the meat, chicken, like fish and other seafood, is the best tasting and safest when it’s the freshest possible. Many restaurants use old or partially frozen chicken because the product spends a few days at the processor, a day in transit, a few days at the distributor, and a few days at your retailer. A typical chicken may be over a week old before a chef ever sees it. Those chickens are a lot cheaper than Jidiori Chickens, but we think you’re worth the best.
Substantially all of our proteins (other than the Playground Burger) are prepared sous vide (French meaning “under vacuum”). Most meats are cooked in a stressful way, e.g., on a grill or pan that burns the outside of the meat until the inside reaches the desired temperature. The sous-vide process allows us to cook our meats evenly, without burning the outside, while still keeping the inside at the same doneness and the meat juicier.
We start with a piece of meat or poultry and seal it in a plastic bag to which we frequently add some flavor (think marinade). We then insert the sealed bag in an emersion circulator, which is essentially a bath of water maintained at a specified temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 140° F. As the bag and its contents rest in this bath, the meat gradually warms up to the temperature of the water. In other words, it cooks without the trauma of the open flame or the heated grill.
When you order your meat, we liberate it from the plastic bag and sear it quickly to give the meat that familiar cooked look on the outside and to heat it up a bit, but probably not as much as you’re used to with other cooking methods; the center may be cool, but the meat will be fully cooked. We then serve you a piece of tender, juicy meat or poultry that is consistently cooked through and through. It would be a lot easier to throw the raw meat on the grill like they do at most restaurants, but we think youÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ll appreciate the extra effort and the exceptional results.
Much of the beef we serve is “Wa-gyu” (Japanese meaning “Japanese-style beef”), which describes several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense marbling, which makes them more enjoyable to eat because of their naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness. Wagyu cattle’s genetic predisposition also yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. In several areas of Japan, Wagyu is shipped with area names, the best known in America perhaps being “Kobe beef.”
Pictured above are a Wagyu bull and Kobe beef on display in a restaurant in Japan.
We buy Darling Downs Wagyu from Australian Agricultural Company, which maintains a feedlot of 12,000 head of purebred Wagyu and Wagyu/Angus cross in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. The herd is grass fed (no antibiotics or growth hormones!), and grain assisted for the last 300 days according to closely guarded ration formulations passed on by Japanese feed masters. Our Wagyu has certified marble scores of AA3+. Yeah, you guessed it. This stuff is not cheap, but you know what I’m going to say: You’re worth it.