The trend in the food world these days seems to be pop ups — places that set up at selected spots at a limited time, with a theme and specific menu. In recent years, established restaurants have also done pop ups, bringing their food closer to people other than those living in their own cities.
This weekend my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to go to one of these pop ups — the Culinary Institute’s Pangea. We had learned that the director of Pangea was given limited resources to come up with a concept, turn one of the students’ former dining rooms (if you are not familiar with the Culinary Institute, it is where arguably, the best chefs are trained) into a restaurant, a menu befitting the CIA’s reputation and a specific deadline. What they have come up with is very impressive, an “earth-conscious” menu that takes into consideration the way we “produce and harvest” the food we eat, drawing into it many cultural and culinary techniques while remaining true to the ingredients.
Aside from the house-made sodas (see above photo — my boyfriend ordered the cola, which he said had a very pronounced anis taste and I had the rootbeer which wasn’t sweet enough), we were very excited about the menu. It was an eight-course meal, each course comprised of an individual plate and another for the table, for you to share. We went for lunch, and enjoyed the following:
Plated: Winter Vegetable Broth
crisp vegetables and croutons, curry oil, seaweed, basil
For the Table: Pangea Flatbread
edamame salsa, garlic dal, red beet hummus
Plated: Today’s Seafood Steamed in Retsina Broth
fregola, chard, pine needle fries
For the Table: Seared Arctic Char
ginger glaze, parsnip-pine nut “rice,” seaweed salad
Plated: Roasted Celery Root
thyme, lemon-honey glaze
For the Table: Tagine of House-Smoked Duck
almond-curry sauce, spinach, pickled papaya
Plated: Tropical Fruit-Carrot Sorbet
meringue, brown sugar crumble
For the Table: Hudson Valley Cheese
honey, fruit paste, nut bread
Let me preface my review of the individual courses with this: that I am not particularly fond of soups and that I don’t like curry. But, I loved the winter vegetable broth. It was the perfect blend of salty and herby, and the crunch from the vegetables, which were fresh and dropped onto the broth by the server in front of you on the table. It gave a very warming feeling during a very cold winter day.
The flatbread (see featured photo) was good too, and complimented the soup. Of the three it came with, my boyfriend and I both liked the edamame the best, it being very light and having the right amount of salt and vegetable taste, although I liked them all. The flatbread, though, with its crunch, was very good with the soup all by itself.
The second course wasn’t my favorite, the fries being the best part (I could eat them all day). They were very thin, crunchy and salty, garnished with the pine needles, which we were curious about coming into the experience.
I already mentioned I don’t like curry, so it wouldn’t be surprising that I didn’t like the duck tagine. My boyfriend wasn’t crazy about it either, although for a different reason. He liked the flavor but thought the duck wasn’t cooked right. We soon found out that it was most of the students’ first day at school, and consequently at the restaurant, so that may have been the reason. I liked the flavor of the lemon-honey glazed celery root, but the curry was too strong that I was ready for dessert.
…which was the light, tangy carrot and fruit sorbet. You would have to take a bite of every element in one spoonful, including the sweet meringue and brown sugar crumble, which gave it its texture. It was a perfect end to a great lunch. I was too full to even have a taste of any of the items on the cheese plate, but my boyfriend attested that he enjoyed them.
Overall, it was a great experience. I would not be surprised if we see more and more pop up restaurants, as well as this type of food being served in traditional settings.
If you are planning to go to Pangea, note that it is only going to be open until June 2015.
Pangea Restaurant rating: 7 out of 10