05 August, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane...Heading To Slims To Get Some Darn Good Food!

Slim's in SF
Image courtesy of kaylan3.
No, this is not an ode to the John Denver song, but it does involve a little music. Slim's, the live-music venue in the SOMA neighborhood of SF (and my former employer where I worked as a bartender for five years), has started operating "pop-up" restaurants on Monday nights in August when no music shows are scheduled. "Pop-up" you may ask, "What is that exactly?" According to the Pop-Up Restaurants group on Facebook, it is "A venue that is turned into a restaurant featuring a chef and culinary team that is normally not in that kitchen or venue for a limited period of time." It's sort of like saying that the humans who run a restaurant, own a personal catering business, and/or are a freelance chef go moonlight at someone else's establishment as a one-off thing. 

The Jetset Chef (right) with sous chef Michaela Rahorst.
This can take the form of a small stand outside on the sidewalk in front of a permanent restaurant that charges like a temporary booth would at a festival. It could mean a rotating group of people who regularly get together at a non-residential warehouse space or someone's house and charge a set price "entrance fee" for the meal. It also means that an up-and-coming chef who previously had a set cooking gig working regular hours in a kitchen, has decided to buck that trend and go the freelance route. The latter scenario is the story of Alex Marsh, the chef who hosted Slim's very first Pop-up restaurant on the 1st of August. Marsh, also known as The Jetset Chef, has quite the resumé of professional cooking positions (Brick, Solstice, Delfina, Campton Place, Redwood Park, One Market), but it was the work he did and experiences he had when he left the States and went on the road to toil away in random places in other countries that he seems most proud of. It is not that he had to put aside all of the technical skills and formalities acquired in American kitchens, but if you just show up unannounced at the backdoor of a restaurant in Spain and ask nicely to help work the line for the night - and they say Yes - you better be ready to go with THEIR flow! When I chatted with Marsh at the Slim's Pop-up, it was obvious that, like myself, he had been bitten by the international travel bug and would never be complete unless he could continue to venture out of bounds of his home country. Clearly, if his creativity and adeptness in the kitchen is any reflection of the side effects of needing to travel the world in search of food, he has indeed benefited from this affliction!

"So what about the food," you wonder. Chef Marsh and his sous chef Michaela Rahorst (formerly of Frances restaurant and now about to head off on her own travel adventures in France) offered five options that night. The menu was as follows with photos of a few of the dishes:

Nectarine & Artichoke Salad with Greek yogurt, basil & lime – $6

Frito Misto (batter-dipped & fried) of Baby Vegetables with fennel, Torpedo onions & aioli (a fancy mayonnaise) – $6

Scallop Crudo (raw) with Artichoke with lemon, mache (a kind of lettuce), fennel pollen – $10

Scallop Crudo with Artichoke

Braised Lamb Cheeks with broccoli rabe (a thinner broccoli shaped more like asparagus) & lemon gremolata (chopped herb condiment) – $10

Braised Lamb Cheeks

Honey Glazed Pork Short Ribs with tea-smoked leeks, citrus jus (a thin sauce made from the meat's juices) -$10

Honey Glazed Pork Short Ribs

As you can see, we ate well that evening! The lamb cheeks melted in your mouth and were not as "gamey" as you might expect (even though I do not mind that kind of strong flavor), and the slight bitterness of the tender broccoli rabe complimented well. The thick pork ribs were a crowd favorite with their salty sweetness that formed a bit of a crust from the honey, and I appreciated that the ribs were saturated in seasoned liquid, not coated in gooey sauce. And the scallops - how fresh-looking and beautifully plated are they? I washed everything down with a light Pinot Noir, good conversation with friends at my table, and the ambient sounds of DJ Rex Parfait. It made what is a side project for Slim's and Chef Marsh, into a proper night out on the town for me. Cheers!

To find out where you can find the Jetset Chef next, check out his website here (he has a great blog there too). To see who will be popping up at Slim's next week, look at their August schedule here.

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