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[Edinburgh] The Kitchin


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#1 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 02:25 PM

I had a lot of dining recommendations for my trip to Scotland, but The Kitchin is the one I was looking forward to the most. Of my entire U.K. expedition, this was one of the two most memorable meals (the other being a grouse dinner I have yet to write up). A stunningly glorious meal as I am still recalling the most amazing razor clam I have ever tasted...

Dampierre 1er Cru Cuvée des Ambassadeurs, Champagne, France N/V
Amuse – Cauliflower soup with apple and crème Fraiche. A simple way to start a meal, but already showing bold moves to put a crème fraiche in a white, creamy soup. One would anticipate too similar textures being boring, but it was anything but. So often a cream of any vegetable soup tends towards the grainy, but this was absolutely perfectly smooth with a subtle base of coriander and the crème fraiche was not a hindrance in any way. The single beet root slice was eaten almost immediately and I regret not savoring it more slowly with the rest of the soup.

Dry Riesling Donhoff, Nahe, Germany, 2007
Razorfish (Spoots) from Arisaig, served with diced vegetables, chorizo, and lemon confit. Largest razor clam I have every seen; eight inches at least in length. It was studded with the smallest brunoise I have ever experienced with only the bites of razor clam being slightly larger than the vegetables. I had initially dismissed any additional servings of bread as I did not want to fill up, but in experiencing the elegance of the creamy lemon confit beurre blanc, I requested more bread to get every drop. It was that good.

Chardonnay Swamp Reserve, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 2006
Snails & Bone Marrow – roasted bone marrow served with sautéed snails from Devon, Iberico ham, and Scottish grolles with quail egg.
As with the razor clam, I was astonished at the size of the serving. In this case, the marrow was served “open face” with all the marrow easily accessible under the unctuous offering of snails, quail egg, and ham. My only complaint on the dish was that only a small toast bit was offered to scoop up the ample marrow, but I still had some bread left so all was fine. Intensely rich, the snails were not at all chewy with the addition of the Iberico ham being the only non-Scottish ingredient in the dish. Rich and satisfying, I knew I had to start pacing myself based on the confluence of flavors being presented.

Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, Alsace, France 2006
Pig’s Head & Langoustine, boned and rolled pig’s head, served with roasted tail of langoustine from Anstruther, and a crispy ear salad.
Inside was pork cheek and on top, fried pig ear. Bringing it all together was a collection of wilted lettuce greens, a creamy sauce akin to the most decadent tartare, and a rich circle of sauce. The langostine was perfectly cooked with no hint of being either under cooked and flabby or overcooked and hard. The thin layer of fried slivered pigs ears provided a great salt and textural crunch to the richness of the pig jowl.

Pinot Noir Hautes Cotes de Beaune, Domaine Delagrange, Burgundy, France, 2006
Poached halibut from Scrabster, served with ink pasta and a samphire sauce. I have to admit that I am not sure what samphire sauce is. With bits of saffron, I can honestly say I have never had a more stunningly perfect hunk of halibut. The “asparagus of the sea” bites were a bright juxtaposition of crunchy delight next to the tender and smooth fish and vegetables. Hints of saffron brought the dish together.

Mourvedre Yalumba, Borassa Valley, Australia, 2007

Venison – saddle of roe deer from Humbie, served with pumpkin, celeriac, roasted apple from Moira’s garden, and pepper sauce. A rather classic example of a protein offering with a root vegetable puree, a few slivers of vegetable that are fried to offer a crunchy texture, and some wilted greens. So incredibly tender

Mas Ameil, Maury, France, 2007
Cheese; Gabietou (ewe), Trappes (walnut cheese), Mont Briac (South France), Criffel (Dumfries), and Ealisa Craig (goat). Gorgeous cheese cart and points on being offered a wide selection of Scottish cheeses.

Recioto Della Valpolicelloa, Tommasi, Italy, 2006
Dark chocolate tart with served figs, chestnuts, and port ice cream. A perfect culmination to a fabulous evening. I have gotten tired of U.S. restaurants feeling the need to offer two and three desserts. One is fine for me and this was neither too sweet nor too heavy. I am only used to California figs and these Turkish offerings are milder and fatter.

A note on service; the waiters and waitresses are definitely international – from Australia, Barcelona, and France. They were young, energetic, and provided impeccable service without being over-bearing. I had to laugh that two or three times my napkin slid off my lap to the floor. Before I could realize it, a brand new cloth was offered even though the "dirty" one that had hit the floor would have sufficed. The room is elegant and modern. I am glad I had an early seating for a Friday night, there were two large parties which arrived at 8:00ish made the room rather loud. But I have found a reason to return to Edinburgh to eat Kitchin's stunningly brilliant food.

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#2 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 09:41 PM

This write-up is going to sound more critical than I'm going to mean it be, so please bear in mind that I very much LIKED The Kitchin.

The Kitchin, named after chef/owner Tom Kitchin (and his wife), is another of the wave of fancy Leith restaurants. Well, not THAT fancy. It's in a commercial development on the water, part of a line of restaurants, bars, and shops that are not very promising. It's less formal than Martin Wishart, but not materially less expensive. So it's one of those new-line restaurants that serve very ambitious food, but with less formal service and ambience than you used to expect for food with such ambition. Happily, it's also one of the places where service doesn't suffer one iota from the decrease in formality. No, service is top-notch here. And, notwithstanding the decrease in formality, I very much like the dining room and bar (where they have the grace [or enlightened avarice] to ask if you'd like to stop for a drink before going to your table -- even if you're not early for your reservation).

The concept here is farm-to-table, supposedly top-level ingredients presented in a way calculated to bring out their basic qualities.

I support all that in theory, but I generally find that, especially when such restaurants aspire to be fancy, they instead become insipid. Blue Hill in New York is a prime example. I liked The Kitchin a lot more than Blue Hill. But I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the new London restaurant Hedone.

Now you might say I queered my meal here by going for a special main dish, a traditional offering of grouse in bread sauce with game chips. How can the kitchen show off its qualities when I hamper its creativity by ordering a main course that's strictly by-the-book? I could answer by noting that when Hedone served grouse, it did so in a non-traditional recipe. But that's not fair: I don't want to discourage anyone from serving this best of all game birds in the manner that time has shown to be nearly perfect. Moreover, the grouse was fantastic, the bread sauce even better than at Wilton's in London (although the liver part wasn't as good as at Wilton's, and the portion size -- for a whopping 35 pound supplement [at lunch!] -- was pretty sorry in terms of value for money, even if I couldn't have possibly eaten more mid-day).

So let me talk instead about my appetizer. This too was a special. The waiter breathlessly informed that this was THE SIXTH DAY that ceps were available from the Border Country, and offered a choice of three different preparations (for a "wee supplement" -- do people really talk like that in Scotland or was he trained by the restaurant?). I got a bunch of sauteed ceps, heavily buttered, with some raw ones grated on top, accompanying some cured pork, maybe with an egg in it (I can't really remember, but current restaurant fashion virtually demands an egg in a dish like that). This was fine, but just not that interesting.

So comparing The Kitchin to another ingredient-driven restaurant, Hedone, I say:

Hedone's choice ingredients are simply more interesting. They aren't only top-quality, but also things you don't see anywhere. The Kitchin's ingredients may well be extremely fresh and of top quality -- but as NYC's Wylie Dufresne once remarked, isn't that the least you can expect of a top restaurant?

Hedone's cooking, while not completely consistent, is more interesting than The Kitchin's. The Kitchin tends too much to the approach of, use excellent ingredients and stay out of their way. Hedone actually plays with them -- which to me is what they deserve.

As I said at the start, this all makes The Kitchin sound like a worse restaurant than I think it is. I enjoyed my meal here. But I don't think it's quite as good as its supporters would have it. Probably just as a matter of preference. (Meaning: I prefer Martin Wishart.) If you like this kind of food (and are anywhere near Leith), don't hesitate.
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#3 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 09:44 PM

cepes
Why not mayo?

#4 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 10:01 PM

Note correction. (Note also that I managed to spell "ceps" with a "c" in the Martin Wishart thread.)

I was taught that in English (as opposed to French) we spell it without a final "e". OTOH, I was taught a lot of stupid shit.
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#5 Suzanne F

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 10:04 PM

cepes

No, actually, ceps is perfectly acceptable. "Cepes" however is not: s/b cèpes.

I support all that in theory, but I generally find that, especially when such restaurants aspire to be fancy, they instead become insipid. Blue Hill in New York is a prime example. I liked The Kitchin a lot more than Blue Hill.


I would not blame a whole class of restaurants for what I believe is entirely the fault of the Blue Hill kitchen and its leadership.

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#6 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 10:12 PM


cepes

No, actually, ceps is perfectly acceptable. "Cepes" however is not: s/b cèpes..


In Bonner's defense, he was correcting my original, clearly wrong "seps" (which is what happens when you dash off long pieces between phone calls).
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#7 irnscrabblechf52

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 02:02 PM

Note correction. (Note also that I managed to spell "ceps" with a "c" in the Martin Wishart thread.)

I was taught that in English (as opposed to French) we spell it without a final "e". OTOH, I was taught a lot of stupid shit.


both are acceptable in scrabble for what it's worth
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