When a 'Top Chef' Restaurant Isn't a 'Top Chef' Restaurant
Get Fresh Table and Market seemed like it might provide exactly the sort of dishes that Our Man Sietsema railed against yesterday--busy, Top Chef-y sorts of dishes, listed on menus so wordy they're exhausting. Why did it seem that way? Because Mark Simmons, a former Top Chef contestant is in the kitchen, along with co-chef and owner Juventino Avila (the menu is a collaboration between the two of them). Plus, both Simmons and Avila worked at Double Crown, which is a Top Chef-y sort of spot--flavors, techniques, and ingredients from around the world flying around maniacally, with results that are sometimes delicious and sometimes just not.
Actually, Get Fresh Table and Market is a perfectly comfortable, simple neighborhood restaurant. No single dish has more ingredients than necessary, and each is seasoned brilliantly. Seared scallops in massaman curry with rice and striped bass (just salt and peppered) with saffron potato puree are both examples of that relative simplicity. But best of all are the smoked, pickled mussels, which arrive bobbing in a little jar full of murky liquid. The fat yellow and cream-colored bivalves are cold-smoked first, and then go for a bath in a pickling liquid that includes star anise and fennel. The results are firm mussels that taste mildly of the sea, smoky and tart. People use the word "addictive" too freely, but these really are that.
Simmons, reached at the restaurant, said that if he had to survive on a desert island with just one food, he'd take the pickled mussels.
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