The mouth picks up on something, like Spider Man’s spider-sense. The lips spread, a smile grows, and saliva manifests. Treasure awaits. This isn’t the gold and silver found at the bottom of the Pacific, but Chef Onil Chibás’ parade of flavors.
Sunday nights along East Washington Boulevard in East Pasadena feature closed businesses and restaurants except for one, Onil’s pop-up space, Deluxe 1717. Inside, renaissance women and men warm several seats across an elongated table. Onil and his crew bring them 10-courses of pleasure.
Citrus is the feast’s theme. The clean-tasting Blood Orange Caprese amuse-bouche does what it’s supposed to do, warm the gut up for the first round: a Grapefruit Avocado Tart and a spread of Citrus Cured Salmon with Finger Lime “Caviar.” Brighter than the stuff in between poppyseed bagels and cream cheese, like sashimi, the mild tang is pleasant to be eaten by itself and doesn’t need to be muted by heavy dairy and carbs.
Leading up to the midpoint is the Greek Avgolemono Soup. A quail egg sits atop a nest of phyllo dough floating above a pool of rice porridge with hints of fresh oregano and dill. If pictures people take are worth a thousand words, this one’s worth a few thousand more.
A simple scallop crudo with tangerines and mango hits the tongue and melts. Rather than slimy and squishy, the textures are quite the opposite…smooth like an Asian influenced aguachile.
Onil shows the versatility of a scallop by searing and melding them with a Yuzu and Blood Orange Beurre Blanc. Despite being more opaque with a nice grizzle on top, there’s nothing chewy about the dish. It’s tenderness makes one think the bivalve has been marinating for hours on end.
Tables laden with delicacies you have never dreamed up lie in wait. The shade of the Chicken Confit’s golden skin is something not even Rothko could imagine. Kumquat salsa enhances the Thai green curry and coconut grits creating a warm ambrosia in the mouth.
Be careful not to eat too much Injera (Ethiopian flatbread) with the lemongrass and Berber braised beef cheeks because dessert is just around the corner.
But then again, who are we kidding? When dessert comes in the form of a slightly charred almond cake with orange flan and a citrus herb salad, it’s going to be gone in less than 60 seconds.
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Article written by Monis Rose from RestaurantFiction.com