BY JESSICA VOELKER, JULIET IZON, AND ADAM ERACE
When it comes to American culinary innovation, no one geographic swath has the monopoly. From coast to coast, chefs in the country’s top kitchens have added sous vide to their kitchen tool kits and created some remarkably innovative dishes. We’ve already explored the East Coast and the South and Midwest in this series; now we’re looking at the best things to eat in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland.
At West Hollywood hot spot Estrella (8800 Sunset Blvd.), chef Dakota Weiss used the sous vide technique on a recent hanger steak dish, served with Brussels sprouts and truffle butter. “Cooking sous vide helps to…tenderize it, making it super juicy and delicious,” the former Top Chef contestant explains.
A few miles east at L’Assiette Steak Frites (7166 Melrose Ave.), the chefs cook each steak for four to four-and-a-half hours at an exact temperature (135 degrees for medium rare, for example) before the meat makes a quick trip to the pan to sear an outer crust. The result is a juicy, savory main course—and very happy diners. But it’s not simply meat that LA chefs are cooking with sous vide.
Baroo (5706 Santa Monica Blvd.), one of the West Coast’s most buzzworthy newcomers, uses the method to create a “63-Degree Egg,” which can be added to the restaurant’s Asian Fever rice bowl, made with lemongrass, coconut foam, and crispy shrimp chips.
San Francisco Bay Area
From caught-that-day Dungeness crab to the fabled peaches of Frog Hollow Farm, the Bay Area’s raw ingredients provide ample inspiration for the prodigious local talent. At Atelier Crenn (3127 Fillmore St.), Dominique Crenn earned two Michelin stars for spinning fairy-tale whimsy into tasting-menu dishes like le Jardin—blooming with sous vide root vegetables and a “soil” of wild rice and quinoa.
With an open kitchen flanked by shimmering copper pots, Joshua Skenes’ Saison (178 Townsend St.) presents 22 ever-changing courses (think smoke-finished local fish and dry-aged pigeon).
But no sous vide destination list could be complete without Thomas Keller, the man who literally wrote the book on sous vide (2008’s Under Pressure, co-authored with Michael Ruhlman—see our interview with Keller here and our review of the book here). Many celebrated chefs came of age in the kitchen of Keller’s The French Laundry (6640 Washington St.), housed in a farmhouse in Yountville, about an hour north of the city. Nearby, carnivorous types in search of something more casual should try the chef’s Ad Hoc (6476 Washington St.), where the daily menu might include succulent sous vide baby back or short ribs.
Back in town, hungry drinkers grab happy hour (Monday–Saturday, 5:30 to 7) at Ichi Sushi (3369 Mission St.), home to some seriously tasty yuzu-marinated chicken wings, slow-cooked sous vide before turning crispy-crusted in the deep fryer.
Since its days as a Gold Rush town, Seattle has maintained a stubborn come-as-you-are ethos. Yet for 67 years, steakhouse stalwart Canlis (2576 Aurora Ave. N.) has successfully defied its city’s casual dress code, welcoming a well-heeled clientele to swoon over lake views while sampling dishes that run the gamut from luscious filet mignon to a tasting menu palate cleanser of white chocolate and pineapple foam.
About five miles away on Capitol Hill, owner Chris Cvetkovich plays it bold at Nue (1519 14th Ave.), a noisy, tchotchke-lined magnet for adventurous eaters undaunted by elbow-to-elbow dining. The chef harnesses sous vide to transform tough chicken hearts into velvety morsels before finishing them in a deep fryer.
Credit the City of Roses’ collaborative chef community for its edible riches: Good ideas pass quickly from kitchen to kitchen, and it’s easy (and delicious) to taste the results in every dish.
At the pioneering Le Pigeon (738 E. Burnside St.), Gabriel Rucker has employed sous vide to dye scallops black with squid ink (to contrast with the creamy white interior), tenderize artichoke garnishes, and slow-cook a terrine of figs and foie gras. Sous vide terrines and foie gras are also on offer at John Gorham’s rollicking, red-walled Toro Bravo (120 NE Russell St.), where locals wash down Andalucían-style snacks with sherry-laced cocktails.
Newcomer Farm Spirit (1414 SE Morrison St.) brings multicourse cooking to the meat-eschewing crowd with vegan small plates that include water-cooked carrots blackened over cast iron, and a seasonal salad dressed with puréed sous vide peaches. Just a few blocks over at Trifecta (726 SE 6th Ave.), diners slide into generous booths to sip a selection from the “Wood-Fired Cocktail” menu, made with smoky infusions prepared sous vide.
In fact, these flavor-boasting liquids pop up on menus all over Portlandia—witness the signature sangria mixed with house-infused brandy at José Chesa’s Ataula (1818 NW 23rd Pl.). The spicy drink pairs perfectly with a dish of luscious blood sausage and prawns topped with a wobbly slow-poached sous vide egg.
In our hunt to discover new takes on classic dishes and document the next wave of culinary innovation, we’re criss-crossing the U.S. and sharing the most inspiring foodie finds. Next in this series: sous vide dining in the South and Midwest.
Searching for culinary innovation or modern takes on traditional foodie favorites? Check out our guide to find the best sous vide dishes along the East Coast.
Dedicated to the Art & Science of Sous Vide
The first publication devoted to the art and science of sous vide cooking, featuring innovative recipes, visual inspiration, expert techniques for cooking sous vide at home, and exclusive interviews with world-class chefs.