A friend messaged me late one evening to say, “Just one seat left for a pop up dinner with chef Laurant Gras… grab it before its gone!”. So I did! And I am so glad I did. This two-day pop in Brushstroke restaurant’s 8-seater sushi bar was sold out in minutes. And why not?! Chef Laurant Gras is a 3-Michelin star chef who has quite a cult-like following among savvy diners as well as young, up and coming chefs in the industry. In fact, at this dinner I happened to sit next to two such rising stars who flew in all the way from Chicago and New Orleans, for one night, just to attend this dinner.
I can’t even begin to describe how special this experience was. Sitting front and center, in an intimate 8-seater sushi bar space with one of the world’s best chefs. What a rare treat! Through the scintillating twelve course dinner, I sat there spellbound, trying not to miss a single word or gesture by the chef. French by birth, with experience at many famous restaurants around the world under his belt, chef Gras is most recently known for his 3 Michelin starred success at L20 in Chicago.
I have experienced his French style cooking at another pop up in Brooklyn earlier this year and so I assumed that to be chef Gras’ strength. But, at Brushstroke, he surprised me by showcasing his knowledge and mastery over Japanese ingredients and flavors which he integrated into the courses. Quite a few ingredients were actually imported from Japan for this meal. Chef later told me that his knowledge of Japanese cuisine comes simply from his visits to Japan and eating his way through the country.
At this pop-up, the magic started from the very first course when we were served Unagi croissants with pickles. The croissant dough was made with fresh milled flour and dashi, filled with grilled unagi and brushed with wagyu fat. Wow! Chef is a master at fermentation. One star-ingredient that showed up in multiple courses and in multiple ways was his year-long fermented chili miso paste. He used it to cure Kampachi for about a week which resulted in deep jamon-like flavors. So delicious! Another cool transformation that he devised was his salted concorde grapes. The salt curing resulted in remarkably deep color and flavor extracted from the grapes, offering depths that you find in a beautiful, luxurious wine. Incredible!
Chef Gras is currently not working at any restaurants. He recently launched a company to share his knowledge and provide consulting services to restaurants around the world. He told me that while he loves to cook, he is not planning on spending all his waking hours in another restaurant kitchen. So, a happy solution for him is to do these pop-ups from time to time at various venues. But watch out, these are hard events to get into. His next pop up in January is already sold out… and this was before he even spread the word about it on social media! Can you believe it?!
The 12 course pop-up at Brushstroke was priced at $150 plus tax and tip, excluding drinks. Not a bad price for the amount of love and effort chef Gras puts into developing the dishes and flavors. … not to mention the intimate dining experience you get.
To learn about chef Laurant Gras’ upcoming pop-ups, just have to follow him on Instagram @laurantgras. Hmm…. maybe it was foolish of me to tell you about it…. more competition for those coveted seats! DANG!!!