In two short years since coming to West End Bistro from Eric Ripert’s flagship New York City restaurant, Le Bernardin, Chef de Cuisine Joe Palma has quickly made a name for himself in DC. So it was with great pleasure that I got the chance to sample Chef Palma’s newest offerings for the spring menu at West End Bistro. I was not disappointed. Both Chef Palma’s reputation for simple, fresh ingredients and his southern heritage shone through in his newest creations. Details and pictures after the jump.
The first addition to the menu is a chicken-fried pork belly, garnished with a citrus-almond salad and pepper oil. For those unfamiliar, pork belly is the area of the pig from which bacon is produced, so of course it is delicious. In its uncured form, it is a marvelous, fatty cut of pork, usually grilled or browned. Chef Palma has taken pork belly and chicken-fried it, resulting in a crisp cube that yields its fatty richness upon being cut. The pork belly was balanced by a refreshing citrus salad and pepper oil that added a spicy brightness to the unctuous pork.
The second course was triggerfish, a semi-tropical fish popular in the south, served over buckwheat (soba) noodles and pho broth and garnished with carrots and radishes. This south-meets-east combination worked in many ways, especially the salty pho broth, which goes very well fish, but the carrot garnish really did not do much for me. I got little, if any, taste from the garnish, and I felt that exceedingly crunchy texture of the carrots and other vegetables drew the diner away from the more delicate texture of the triggerfish. However, the real star of this course was the side dish: grits cooked with truffle oil and topped with mushrooms. I love grits; they are my ultimate comfort food, and these were perhaps the best grits I have ever eaten (and probably at least 5% responsible for my early demise).
For the final main course we sampled braised short rib, an often-overlooked cut of beef, that is one of my favorites. Chef Palma’s short rib was cooked sous-vide for sixteen hours before being glazed with a sorghum-tobacco sauce and placed on top of a mound of sweet Carolina Gold rice. The sorghum-tobacco glaze imparted a wonderful bold smokiness that I was not expecting, but perfectly complemented the meat and balanced the sweetness from the coconut rice.
These new items are a testament to Chef Palma’s creativity, and will make a wonderful addition to West End Bistro’s spring menu. Look for them to appear soon.