Corey Lee's technique is so exquisite, his sensitivity to aesthetics so acute, that the culinary language he's developing is certain to rival that of Vladimir Nabokov or David Foster Wallace.
Chef-owner Corey Lee is only in his thirties, but has worked in the kitchens of eight three-star Michelin restaurants. Most recently, he was the chef de cuisine at French Laundry.
One of the most artful is an edible amber container, as translucent as glass, that layers braised pork belly, kimchi creme fraiche and foam, holding a single chilled oyster. The waiter - they could all have a perfect score in a test of what's on the plate - told us to eat it in one bite. It was an implosion of sharp and soft, hot and cold, pungent and creamy. When we asked about the container, he took us through the process of making kimchi stock, which is poured out and air-dried enough so it could be shaped into delicate petal-like cups before being dehydrated into a crisp, candy-like film.
I was just as amazed with the texture of the mock shark's fin soup, which has become one of Lee's signature dishes. Using a hydrocolloid gel, Lee replicates the translucent filaments and distinct texture of the fins, and floats them in a rich broth made from double chicken stock and ham. He adds a Western touch with truffle custard nested in the bottom of the bowl. Each of Lee's combinations is indescribably complex, but the flavors are well integrated and the techniques are time consuming ...
On the wheels of the street-cart movement, in an economic time by no means robust, a French Laundry disciple is attempting to reinvent a dining genre in a city called casual. Food-lovers worldwide are booking up former French Laundry chef-de-cuisine Corey Lee's tiny new restaurant, located in part of the former Hawthorne Lane. This is a tasting menu kind of place; it allows to experience the breadth of the Asian-inflected menu (example: a dish of sea urchin and almond tofu, caviar, sparkling grape).