For adventurous diners, now is the time to check out Private Social, new home to renowned chef Najat Kaanache, whose resume includes two years working at culinary summit El Bulli. Kaanache is currently in that blissful period of devising menu items and working with local goods, without yet having to mind the bottom line.
Joined by trusted associates, including Charles Accivatti, she's picked up the pieces of a broken kitchen, establishing an atmosphere that's both severe and serene. The room is as quiet as a library or, better yet, a laboratory, as each dish gets tended to with scientific precision.
Here, she applies sauce to a cheese course called "On Pure Ground."
The "Edible Dali" is food as art, with a cracker formed from three sheets of phyllo painted with truffle oil and baked until crisp. It comes with a painter's palette bearing flavored sauces such as tomato and mushroom. You use the brush to paint the sauces onto the cracker.
Candied fried chicken lollipop is a starter with skewered chicken fingers placed into glass vessels containing dry ice. An herb chicken stock is poured over the dry ice so that the emerging smoke interacts with the cotton candy. The stock is also poured into two shot glasses so diners can taste it hot.
Charles Accivat and Najat Kaanache work side by side. Accivat uses a system of notes to expedite while Kaanache applies finishing touches to every dish.
When orders are ready, the servers line up El Bulli-style with trays to tote the food to the dining room.
On Pure Ground is a goat cheese salad named for the husband-and-wife farm in Stephenville, Texas, that provides the cheese. The salad includes cherry tomatoes, "foraged fruits," and microgreens from Chef's Gardens — farmer Lee Jones — in Ohio.
Chefs working the line at Private Social.
Sous chef prepares Private Social's rib-eye that incorporates some of the flavors with which Kaanache grew up.
A dry-aged steak is rubbed with cumin, turmeric, curry and smoked salt, then vacuum sealed overnight. It's cooked sous vide until rare, then grilled to order. It's sliced, drizzled with house-made Nutella, then served with petite carrots, potato wedges and smoked barbecue sauce sweetened with agave.
The mini-doughnuts are an homage to Kaanache's father, who made them for her and her brothers one Sunday a month. When she grew up, they were not sweet but neutral, like bread, and served with hot vegetable soup.
At Private Social, the accompanying sauce changes every day; it might be chicken stock or a sweet-and-spicy truffled barbecue.
Chicken (at left) is a sliced breast served with roasted russet wedges and "rocher" (rounded spoonful) of sweet potatoes, pearl onions and wilted sour cherries. The scallops (right) come on a plate painted with squid ink and kalamata, on a base of smoked cauliflower puree with petite vegetables and microgreens.
Seared scallop is topped with truffle-infused white chocolate that's caramelized; it comes with root vegetables and a pouf of "watermelon air" froth.