Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tru's Levitating Dish, Monkey Business & More

This amuse of house-made potato crisp, crème fraîche and reserve Kaluga caviar from Tru really is levitating. (Photos: Tru)

When Tru Executive Chef Anthony Martin first told me about a so-called "levitating" caviar dish he recently created for the restaurant's latest menu, I gave him some serious side eye. It just didn't seem possible.

So I had to go see for myself. That dish, an amuse of house-made potato crisp, crème fraîche and reserve Kaluga caviar, miraculously and momentarily floated in the air and set the pace for the next 14 plates to come.

"It's kind of an out-of-this-world (experience)," said Martin to his astonished staff in this amazing video (set to the music of rap star Lil' Wayne) of the dish in action. Alas, he'll only divulge this little tidbit about the magic: magnets, polarity and temperature. I actually don't blame him!

The "naturally inspired" collection of "Array of River Salmon."

Martin came to Tru almost four years ago to work as a sous chef and was groomed to take over as executive chef/partner in late 2009. Previously, he worked at the three-starred Michelin rated Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.

This is a chef who is quickly coming into his own, and he credits much of that influence to the time he clocked at Robuchon. "I learned many techniques that have helped shaped my menus today," he said.

In his current and upcoming menus, Martin showcases a little gimmicky flavor as with Levitation, but his biggest goal is to wow his customers with dishes that actually taste good.

The elaborate "Compliments of George" banana-focused dessert.

In the 15 dishes I sampled, one of the biggest standouts was the Array of River Salmon, which he plans to serve at the upcoming Taste of the Nation event at Navy Pier. It's an elaborate display of one of his signature "naturally inspired" collections.

Three components of salmon (herb mousse-stuffed, cured and smoked) are arranged with meticulous placements of cherry bomb radishes, crispy pumpernickel, red ribbon sorrel and crème fraîche on a polished silver tray filled with river rocks—evoking a pebbly stream on a chilly morning. He'll definitely have to do a simpler variation of it at TOTN, but guests should get the point.

"Linens Out To Dry" is an homage to Martin's grandmother. (Photo: 312 Dining Diva)

As a former visual arts student, Martin approaches each presentation with an authentic artistic eye. In the case of Compliments of George, a brand-new, banana-focused dessert, he commissioned an artist to create a few dozen functional monkey sculptures that would dramatically display the sweet touches of vanilla parfait, compressed pineapple and banana accents.

Linens Out To Dry is an homage to his paternal grandmother, who fell ill earlier this year. Martin himself created several dozen of these wooden structures for a benefit in Aspen last week. Each one is designed to look like a clothesline, and instead of actual linens, the pins hold up flavor strips in pear & fennel and Granny Smith Apple & Aleppo pepper. During our dinner, the transitional dish arrived with the sorbet, and right before a parade of desserts.

This is how Martin's mind works. He showed me a series of sketches of upcoming dishes set to appear on the menu soon. Each one was more spectacular than the next.

This guy is on a roll . . .

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