Inaugural Menu of Menus Pop-Up Dinner Brings Together Great Chefs and Great Food

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Last night, Randy Evans of Haven welcomed Kevin Naderi of Roost and Kevin Bryant of Eleven XI to his restaurant for a one-night-only dinner prepared by the three chefs in honor of Menu of Menus.

The pop-up dinner consisted of four passed hors d'oeuvres followed by four courses and either a cocktail or wine to pair with each course. We previously reported that these would just be drink samples, but ooooh no ... they were whole drink servings, five in total. We were all feeling pretty good by the end of the evening, but not only because of the generous drinks.

The three chefs plus an unexpected guest turn from Evans's partner at Cove Cold Bar inside of Haven, Philippe Gaston, created an amazing meal that really got the crowd excited for the deliciousness to come at Menu of Menus.

The evening began with a series of hors d'oeuvres and drinks in an area of the restaurant that had been cleared out just for the dinner. Naderi produced paella spring rolls topped with smoked tomato and saffron jelly that had a nice seafood flavor and a slight chewiness from the perfectly cooked risotto. Evans made sopecitos, small rounds of masa featuring 44 Farms mole skirt steak and queso fresco on top, and his co-worker, Gaston, showed his chops with a traditional Peruvian-style ceviche.

My favorite of the hors d'oeuvres came from Bryant, who deboned and braised pork shank medallions before stuffing them with herb-infused pickled jalapeños, wrapping them in bacon and giving them a nice glaze in his signature Eleven XI barbecue sauce. They were tender and juicy, with just enough spice to send me back to my flute of prosecco.

The first course was a unique take on ravioli from Gaston, who brought back the oft-neglected aspic to create a sort of raviolo with uni and a side of mixed greens with cilantro pesto and paprika. The aspic was slightly spiced with paprika, providing an interesting contrast to the mild, sweet uni.

Next, Naderi presented local black drum with a light sear on the outside served on a bed of fennel and bacon corn chowder with dill and candied tomatoes. The chowder and the substantial nature of the drum made it a hearty and filling dish. After the second course, the people at my table found ourselves struggling to rally for the next two items.

But rally we did, and it's a good thing, because Bryant pulled out all the stops, first by combining something with liquid nitrogen at the table to create a cloud of fragrant lemongrass and ginger steam that permeated the room. I'm not entirely sure what he did, but it was wildly theatrical and set the stage for his dish, seared scallops on braised pork belly topped with caviar. Surrounding the small tower of protein was more of what tasted like the Eleven XI barbecue sauce, which paired well even with the mild seared scallops, thanks to a heavy dose of citrus.

For dessert, Evans brought it all back home with a take on strawberry shortcake he called "tipsy cake." It was a sort of parfait served family-style in large mason jars. The first layer was a Texas whiskey-soaked poppyseed cake, then Meyer lemon curd, followed by fresh strawberries and, finally, Chantilly cream. Then the entire thing was repeated for eight luscious layers.

In all, the meal was incredibly filling and most definitely delicious. Each chef brought his own unique expertise to the table (literally), and it seemed to me that the guests were beyond pleased with the individual offerings and the evening as a whole. I mean, they had five full drinks, so they'd better be pleased!

Only one complaint was echoed over and over throughout the evening: "We have to wait two whole weeks for Menu of Menus?!"

Sorry, friends. April 8 will be here before we know it!

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