Chef Laurent Quenioux, Chef Thi Tran and Nguyen Tran from Starry Kitchen hosted a secret 7 courses weed + Chinese herb dinner last Sunday at a private residence somewhere in Encino. My husband and I were some of the lucky ones chosen to attend the event based on our answers to a funny questionnaire. In fact it was my husband’s answers that got picked! I guess he did a better job in showing how much we’d like to attend.
My experiences with edible weed are cookies or brownies which usually have unpleasant grassy taste, so it was interesting to see how fresh marijuana leaves would be incorporated into the cooking. Our host Nguyen Tran stressed that they intent to use the herb as ingredients and not meant to make us high. In addition, the dinner uses Chinese herbs that are mostly unknown to people outside of Asia but are familiar to me as I grew up drinking Chinese herbal medicine.
The details were given to us few days prior and the instruction was to meet at a supermarket parking lot in the Valley where they would pick us up in a van with a “Grammar rodeo” sign (a Simpson reference) on it. It was byob so we brought a bottle of white and red each based on their wine pairing recommendation.
Mixologists were there making specialty cocktails. Here’s one with cannabis-infused sesame oil. It was quite strong (I’m a lightweight however) and the sesame oil did provide an interesting but subtle flavor. They gave us 3 more cannabis-infused cocktails throughout the night.
Four tables were set in the living room. On the top left pix are our host and chefs of the night. My impression is that most of the attendees were from the press and people who seem to know the host/chefs personally one way or another. We seem to be one of the few non-related people who got in through the questionnaire? At our table, there’re two writers from High time Magazine and the famous food writer Jonathan Gold!
Amuse Bouche: Logan, winter melon, hamachi, duck breast
Chef Laurent always love to start with hamachi. The Logan and winter melon shot was sweet and refreshing. The duck breast is thin, prosciutto-like. It’s a amuse bouche with a lot of flavors, great start!
1st course: Papaya soup with american ginseng, wild boar, partridge, salsify
The picture was taken before they pour the soup. The soup is sweet and very Chinese tasting due to the ginseng, salsify and the apricot almond in it. It was the star of the dish, nice depth and flavors. My roasted partridge was a little overdone and dry. The braised wild boar was however tender and soft.
So far no sight of cannabis yet, but I was feeling the effect already from the cocktails.
2nd course: Silky bantam Chicken, chicken skin, avocado, pink grapefruit, cannabis leaves, cirturs oil, pickled beets, solomon’s seal
Finally a dish with actual cannabis leaves! Bantam chicken is known as “black chicken” in Chinese, it has white feature and dark skin. It was prepared like a galantine, and it tasted like a galantine. The fried chicken skin was very bacon-like. The cannabis leave didn’t have that overwhelming grassy taste you would expect. It worked as a side green you ete the chicken with.
A note on the ingredients: Solomon’s Seal is a herb used often in Chinese medicine (it has a much more boring name in Chinese, call 玉竹, or Jade bamboo) and often used in soup. I’m guessing it was used during poaching of the chicken.
Another very Chinese tasting dish, particularly due to the Angelica root and Goji berries (wolfberries). Angelica root has a very distinctive flavor and is very common in Chinese medicine. Its slightly bitter flavor balanced well with the rich, melt-in-you-mouth spare ribs and pork belly, and the the goji berries gave a touch of sweetness. It’s one of my favorites of the night.
4th course: Spot Prawns, herbal lobster “jus”, head tempura, favas, peas
The “herbal lobster jus” tasted very marijuana-ish sans the grassy-ness to me, yet there’s no marijuana in it. The herb in question was tarragon. The flavor overall was intense, rich and buttery. The crisp peas gave a good clean crisp balance. It is another of my favorites.
For me, the “effect” started to kick in by this point.
5th course: Monkfish, cannabis epazote pesto, nettles, shiso and young carrots.
This dish perhaps was the most “lethal” when comes to cannabis intoxication. You could taste it a lot. The congee was great, almost risotto-like. The fish was just alright for me as I’m not a fan of the texture.
By this point I was very very full and the “effect” grew stronger…
Osmanthus is known as “five flower” in Chinese which has a distintive flavor and is known for “cooling down” your chi. The osmanthus Panna cotta reminded me of Chinese osmanthus pudding you could sometimes get in Dim sum restaurant. It went well with the tartness of the sorbet. We all had a “whhaatt” reaction to the asparagus. Palate cleansing I suppose?
Here’s a picture I took with the amazing Jonathan Gold who sat next to me! You can read his review of the dinner here. The journalist from New Yorker and NPR were also there, I can’t wait to read their experience on it.
The price for the dinner was $150 which includes everything (tax and tips). It was quite pricey but in the end, I’m glad we went. The experience alone worth it. The people we met were fun to talk to and it was great to hear personally from Jonathan Gold that he actually read Potatomato! It was nice to talk to him about good Chinese food in LA and he answered our long time question about why there’s no good Turkish resturant in LA.
Even though our host stressed how they’ve greatly reduce the effects of the herb and that diners shouldn’t have feel much, by the end of the meal, I was fully “effected”. Perhaps I’m just such a lightweight as it’s not a regular habit of mine. It stayed with me in a more constant manner than the inhaling method. I felt it till the next morning. I went to work with glassy eyes, though I have to say it actually made me me more concentrated!
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