By Sara Johnson
Editor’s Note: This is another installment in our “One Dish” series—a look at how restaurants are using sous vide around the world, from the perspective of a single menu item.
Located in the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Service Bar is helmed by Executive Chef Avishar Barua. He uses sous vide throughout the menu, including in his impressive Koji Half Rohan Duck featuring Ginger Scallion Breast, Confit Thigh, Hainanese Duck Rice, and Duck Sauces. We spoke with Barua about the dish over email.
The Dish: Koji Half Rohan Duck
The Restaurant: Service Bar, Columbus, OH
SV: When did you create the Koji Half Rohan Duck?
AB: We experimented with the duck in late 2018 via our secret kitchen menu. After a few weeks we realized that in its starting form the dish had gained enough momentum for us to place it on our primary menu.
What was the inspiration for the dish?
Duck is often difficult to sell outside its individual constituents in Columbus, and we grew weary of the ubiquitous over-confit thigh and flabby seared duck breast with “insert fruit here” sauce and demi-glace. We were enamored by the flavor and quality of the Rohan duck that D’Artagnan [food delivery service] was offering, and we wanted to find a way to sell it from our perspective. We were also craving Hainanese Chicken Rice and were inspired by its usage of stock and fat to make the rice. This was the foundation of the inspiration of the dish.
Tell us about the ingredients.
There are many ingredients, but the majority of them are based around utilization of the entire Rohan duck. After that we use a ratio of 1:4 sticky rice to jasmine rice, a little bit of celtuce, and an excess of 25 ingredients to make up the three mandatory accompanying sauces!
Why did you decide to use sous vide to prepare this dish?
Sous vide has been something that I have been a proponent of ever since I had to build my own circulator because it was inaccessible to me as a home cook and nearly impossible to legally execute in a restaurant! Like every other cooking technique, it has an important part in this dish. We use sous vide to ensure that we simultaneously pasteurize and perfectly cook every duck breast to 135.5°F (57.5°C).
When this previous variable is made constant, our staff can then focus on making sure the subcutaneous fat is pre-rendered and the final breast is perfectly crispy, and also ensure that the thigh is separately cooked, warmed, and fried to our liking (154.4°F/68°C for 18 hours in an aromatic bath of ginger scallion–infused duck fat). The chamber sealer helps us compress the celtuce for a crisp pickle, and de-gas the fluid gel to allow a more unctuous and clearer consistency for the Duck Sauce. Chamber sealing products also ensures consistent portioning and proper tracking of expiration date for food safety. Though it is not impossible to do without, sous vide certainly helps reduce human error that is prone to happen in a busy and heavily limited space like our kitchen. We prioritize a consistent product over our own egos whenever a guest is paying for the experience!
Are there any other dishes that you use sous vide for in your restaurant? If so, which ones?
The majority of our dishes are touched by a variation of a sous vide technique at some point. It can involve cooking short-ribs for two days in an intense reduction of bourbon and hoisin sauce, using our combi to set the texture on a halibut or scallop, pre-hydrating the rice for a risotto, poaching carrots in their own juice, or even in breaking down whole chickens into their respective parts and cooking them appropriately for our whole chicken service. The importance of sous vide is never understated in our kitchen—we don’t really have the luxury of space, so it helps us keep organized and consistent!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Images courtesy Avishar Barua.
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