Sierra Mar

Dinner – Saturday, April 2, 2016

We met John Cox at a dinner earlier this year – one of the /Shed events hosted by Johnny Ortiz and Leia Layus (both of whom are now, as of this writing, settled in New Mexico). Cox is the executive chef of Sierra Mar, the restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn. Admittedly, the luxury hotel/resort seems like the antithesis of my style – I get antsy at the mere idea of “getting away from it all”. That being said, we were lured to Big Sur by the promise of beautiful hikes, vigorous exercise and yes, Cox’s tasting menu.

Seeds and sprouts
Wild onion flowers, lavash, whipped goat butter

Morro Bay oyster
Sourgrass, red oxalis, sea beans

Foie gras
Hibiscus, sugar pine

Foie gras mousse, dusted with hibiscus powder and topped with a radish flower- all this on a crumbly oat and pine nut shortbread. The serving piece was a real sugar pine, cut in half, shellacked and polished – very cool.

Monterey Bay spot prawn
Avocado, young coconut, kefir lime

The prawn was accompanied by a habanero-mango salsa of sorts – just a tinge of heat to tickle the palate. The broth of kefir lime-infused coconut water was so bright and refreshing. I enjoyed this course greatly.

Cold-smoked pheasant
Beet, young bay laurel leaves

Monterey Bay abalone, roasted in kelp
Big Sur furikake, charred lime, mermaid’s hair

Spring lamb
Nasturtium, wild onion-green garlic soubise

The lamb was encrusted with a black olive-brown butter crumble, which packed a good, briny punch. The saltiness was nicely balanced by the soubise, as well as the garnishes of (I think) chive and mustard blossoms.

Lone Mountain wagyu
Black garlic, bone marrow

The full-blood domestic wagyu came from Lone Mountain Cattle, a New Mexico ranch that I’d not heard of prior to this. I really enjoyed the meat – it struck an excellent balance of marbling and “beefiness” that I sometimes find lacking in Japanese wagyu. The marrow was wrapped in a squid ink baguette crisp. Over the dish, our server shaved flecks of house-made kanbutsu (dried vegetables) tableside – in this case, carrot and golden beet. Their sweet earthiness mellowed the pungency of the black garlic.

Hay-smoked sheep’s milk cheese
Strawberry-rhubarb preserve, acorn bread

Tisanes

Reishi mushroom, mugwort, yarrow

Big Sur garden egg
Citrus sabayon, poppy seed cake

I can probably count the number of times I’ve seen whole egg yolks in desserts on one hand – a missed opportunity, in my book. Here, the yolk was cured in vanilla bean and sugar – delicious. The poppy seed cake was drizzled with condensed milk – oh, I love it so! (blame my Asian upbringing)

Candy cap mushroom
Valrhona chocolate, hazelnuts

Blackberry pâte de fruits, candy cap truffles

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the view from the restaurant (see cover photo). Sierra Mar is perched on the Big Sur cliffside (as are most of the hotel’s guestrooms), and the floor-to-ceiling glass panels offer an unparalleled vista of the Pacific. Watching the sunset from our dining table was special. The food, in many ways, was just as beautiful.

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