Five American chefs reinventing caviar

Farmed caviar has come a long way, largely due to advances in research and science. With wild caviar banned in the US since 2016, five American chefs from across the country have turned to farmed caviar as a substitute, using it in creative ways to showcase its salty splendour. If you’re travelling to the US and craving a little bit of a roe-dy time, here is where to go.

 

1. Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin, New York City

On the Menu: A warm sashimi of kingfish is topped with dollops of caviar and served tableside with shallots, garlic, white wine, mussel stock, butter, and lemon juice.
Caviar of Choice: Asian Amur Golden Hybrid from China.

“In blind tastings, we decided it is the best we can find on the market. The eggs are bigger and the colour is more appealing – a dark gold mixed with grey. The flavour lingers longer than most, and is very creamy and a bit nutty, with a freshness like the wind coming off the ocean. . . . Wild caviar was inconsistent. When it was amazing, you would want it all the time. But it could also be very bad. Today, the farm raised is much more consistent. The best is about 90 percent as good as the best wild was at the time. There is a level of refinement that only wild sturgeons can do."

Le Bernardin

2. Joshua Skenes, Saison, San Francisco

On the Menu: Early in his tasting menu, Skenes serves “a ton of caviar in a big chalice,” accompanied by egg custard, sauce made with Petaluma cheese, a kelp glaze, and a crisp buttermilk biscuit made with wild-boar fat.
Caviar of Choice: Saison Reserve caviar, a proprietary caviar made in California using farmed white-sturgeon roe. Limited quantities are sold at the restaurant.

“We use the highest-quality eggs and cure them specifically for our taste, using our smoked salt made from seawater. It needs to be a decent size and have a good pop with a little resistance when you push into it. The cure is clean and even, so each grain is individual from the others and it has an almost springy texture and a clean, pure flavour. We serve around an ounce and a half of caviar per person. We’re very generous with it because it doesn’t taste the same if you have just a dinky little bit. At that point, you should serve something else." 

Saison

3. Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago

On the Menu: Achatz eases diners into his avant-garde tasting menu with a classic caviar service: A generous portion is presented in a block of ice accompanied by egg custard, truffles, fines herbes, pickled onion, and toasted brioche.
Caviar of Choice: Plaza Osetra Gold Russian-sturgeon caviar sustainably farmed in Bulgaria.

“This Bulgarian caviar has a beautiful texture, a high level of creaminess, and nuances like vanilla, brown spices, and some fish notes – all these underlying layers. That’s why we go with this particular farm. They are eco-friendly, but they also have in the back of their minds what caviar used to taste like. The last thing that you want in this ingredient – which epitomises luxury and rarity and celebration – is a product that has muddy, dirty flavours."

Alinea

4. Barbara Lynch, Menton, Boston

On the Menu: Lynch’s signature butter soup with poached shellfish is topped with honey foam and a scoop of caviar.
Caviar of Choice: Snake River Royal white-sturgeon caviar sustainably farmed in Idaho.

“The Royal white is a little brinier, a tad smaller than osetra – which we use in our caviar service – and you can eat a lot of it. It’s also not as fatty, but it’s delicious. I had 2 ounces of it last week to celebrate with a friend – we ate it on a baguette with fresh butter from Diane St. Clair and loads of caviar. The next day I had it with an omelette. . . . The butter soup is really just sweet butter and shellfish – lobster, scallops, crab, pieces of shrimp, mussels. So you have a simple, peasanty dish, and the caviar brings it to the next level."

Menton

5. Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco

On the Menu: Tusk, who always features caviar on his tasting menu, is currently serving it as a first course with fromage-blanc mousse, cold avocado sauce, and a scattering of coriander blossoms. Yes, that is a sturgeon decorating the plate.
Caviar of Choice: Caviar Galilee Prime osetra farmed in Israel.

“This caviar has a buttery finish that I like with the cool, creamy avocado. We’ve also used Sterling caviar and Tsar Nicoulai [both from California], if one is tasting better at a particular moment. We taste them each time they arrive. . . . Using avocado is part of going toward a more vegetable-focused menu. It’s a nice surprise, too – there’s a lot more to creating dishes with caviar than blinis and so forth. People like not getting it in the traditional fashion."

Quince

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Published January 13, 2017
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