Chef Chat, Part 3: Kevin Bryant of The Capitol at St. Germain - The Tasting
"Ménage à foie," pictured here, the seared foie gras
Photos by Mai Pham
Yesterday, we chatted with The Capitol at St. Germain's Executive Chef, Kevin Bryant, about how he made his way up the ranks the "hard knocks" way by working in the high-end Tony's kitchen, getting corporate training at the Landry's Aquarium concept, and then working for country music singer George Strait as a private chef, where he had an unlimited budget and could exercise creativity how he wanted. We also learned about what he's trying to do with the menu at The Capitol, and today we taste some of his food.
The Capitol at St. Germain is all about shared plates. The portions are tapas-size, so the best thing to do is order a bunch of plates and taste a little of each. I looked at the menu and my eyes immediately zeroed in on the cheekily named "Ménage à foie." I love foie gras, so it was a must-try. And it didn't disappoint. We received a four-sectioned plate with three different preparations of foie gras. The first one I tried was a crispy foie gras sphere, where foie gras was enclosed in a crispy breaded shell, and shaped into a round ball set atop a lavender crema.
Foie gras spheres are like foie gras truffles. Bite into them, and they gush with foie gras...
As you bit into the sphere, a hot flood of foie gras gushed out of it, and it was definitely fun to eat. Next up was the generously portioned pan-seared foie gras with local fruit compote. You can't go wrong with pan-seared foie gras, and this one, with the sweetness of the fresh compote, was well-executed and delicious. The third preparation was a foie gras torchon with "hot damn" candied shallots, which was shaped like a small rectangle terrine and could be scooped this up with one of the crispy croutons provided in the fourth compartment.
Moving on, we had two well-size lump crab cakes that, I venture to say, would definitely pass a Maryland Crab Cake-eater test. Pan-seared to a slight golden crisp on the outside, these were all crab and super-tasty, arguably some of the best ones I've had a a while. There was a minimum of bread as filler, the lump crab meat was sweet and fresh, and I could have easily hoarded one of these small plates, which had two cakes, all to my self.
Two well-portioned crab cakes would have made Maryland proud
Next came the duck breast, which had been seared, thinly sliced, and served sashimi-esque-style in thin rectangle squares that easily could be shared among friends. Served with a wild strawberry essence and raspberry sauce that lined the plate in a fantastical criss-cross pattern, the duck had been expertly prepared so that the fat was completely rendered, the skin was well-crisped, and the meat was pink, but not too, rare-medium-rare.
The duck breast slices were so easy to plop in your mouth, we ate more than half before I took this pic
I also quite enjoyed the bison bites, essentially large meatballs made of ground bison that had been stuffed with mozzarella, seared, and then served with a spiced marinara sauce. I don't recall seeing bison on many menus, and this was a tasty, fun-to-eat rendition of a healthy red meat.
Bison meatballs. So good. All I needed was spaghetti noodles...
Desserts at The Capitol are meant to be shared, and we received another four-sectioned dessert plate, this time, with a lavender creme brulee, a white chocolate cheesecake, a house-made mango sorbet, and a bread pudding. As I sat nibbling on each of the desserts, I couldn't help but wish that other restaurants would follow this model, offering an assortment of small desserts so that everyone at the table could try a bite of each. Of the four, the white chocolate cheesecake was a winner for me, followed closely by the mango sorbet and the lavender creme brulee.
Our quadra-dessert sampler
Of note, the drinks at the The Capitol at St. Germain are also excellent. The ones with St. Germain elderflower essence are served in these tall retro glasses with a tall silver spoon that doubles as a straw.
About mid-way through the tasting, a jazz-trio took the stage with some instrumental jazz, and it transformed the somewhat formal vibe of restaurant, giving it an almost mellow, lounge-y feel. That's what you can expect when you dine there -- well-executed food that's easy to share among friends, a swanky, supper-club-downtown vibe, and great live music (there's no cover charge) that elevates the entire experience.
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