Functional Food at Bouley-Garcia
by Mollie Chen
If you should ever find yourself lucky enough to be invited to Chef David Bouley's test kitchen, don't think twice. The tricked out Tribeca loft is close to my ideal apartment: cushy leather couches, shelves crammed with cookbooks, a gleaming open kitchen, and a chalkboard wall (for when that culinary inspiration hits). I was there last week for a special dinner to preview what Bouley and celeb nutritionist Oz Garcia have in store for their forthcoming restaurant at the Baccarat Hotel and Residences at Temenos, Anguilla. The night started out with Hendrick's and fennel martinis and ended, many dishes later, with an airy chocolate soufflé with a molten adzuki bean core. Over four hours (the time it takes to eat nine courses), the pair successfully indoctrinated me into the world of food functionality--not hard when you are being fed "good bacteria" in the form of Chatham cod with hon shimeji and baby shiitake mushrooms in black truffle dashi.
Bouley has been interested in the intersection of health and food for 15 years now, since he first started developing healthy recipes for kids. In his test kitchen, he plays the role of nutrition zealot meets mad scientist, coming up with creative ways to highlight the beneficial aspects of food without losing out on richness. Nothing against an austere plate of greens and grilled fish, but I'd rather eat one of Bouley's stealthily healthful creations: lobster with pencil asparagus and trumpet mushrooms was served with a lush, velvety miso-yuzu sauce that packed the probiotic benefits of 35 yogurts (and contained not a smidge of butter).
Before dinner, the chef conducted a mini lecture on oils. Pumpkin seed oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil--all have benefits far greater than olive oil. "Remember this stuff?" he asked, brandishing a bottle of cod liver oil. "Now they make it with lemon. I take a shot of it before bed every night."
As for Garcia, he admits that he has come a long way from the 1970s, when he thought
he "could save the world with brown rice." Now, he said, "I know people want to be entertained by food. The functionality of the food should be transparent." When it opens this spring, Bouley-Garcia will draw from Mediterranean and Japanese cuisines, using healthy oils and seafood, plus super-ingredients like koji, a type of mold loaded with good bacteria. All of this is great news for Caribbean-bound travelers, since until recent years it was easier to find truffles than well-cooked fish in the islands.
Bouley isn't ignoring his New York fans, though: In February, he and Japanese chef Yoshiki Tsuji plan to open Brushtroke in Tribeca. Designed by Takashi Sugimoto of the uber-hip Japanese design firm, Super Potato, the three-story restaurant will have a kaiseki component, a lounge area, and a traditional dining room.