Listen here, folks, because I’m about to drop some seriously profound philosophizing on you. Like, these go to 11-level philosophizing. Ready? Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll. Food shows like Iron Chef and Top Chef get far more viewers than any weekly televised concert would, and personalities from these shows – Anthony Bourdain and Tom Colicchio – are selling out live performance venues like the Paramount, and bigger, all across the country. Women fawn over them as they sign autographs and wave to the flashing bulbs. Rising chefs, often heavily inked and smoking cigarettes, wield their finely tuned instruments in places like “kitchen stadium” to create works of art that could and should rival the creativity and industriousness of stand-outs from other artistic media.
Personally, this comparison has never been as obvious to me as when we went recently to a pop-up restaurant – all the rage these days! – at the Jefferson Theater, where the food was on the stage, and the band played up to it from the stands. It was as if music itself was bowing to the new king, bathing all that flank steak and mahi-mahi in melodic applause.
And worthy of applause it was. Budding rock star chefs and sous chefs from Mas, Tavola, and Palladio put together an appealing three-course menu that managed to be both familiar and adventurous. My lamb skewer could have used a little more seasoning (though the salad/garnish it came with comprised a few of my favorite bites of the evening – always a good sign), and the olive oil rosemary cake was only good, but everything else was top notch. The potato poppers and spice-rubbed flank steak with blue cheese mayo and wickedly good fried smashed potatoes was not the boldest of dishes but hit all the right comfort notes, while the unusual Boer Bok – a kind of African goat – mingled with pork belly and cabbage in a zesty tomato-bell pepper sauce to evoke BBQ as fine dining. Vegetarians were in luck, too, with a crispy tofu and honey-chipotle glaze that melted in your mouth after a satisfying crunch. Add a rich grappa brownie to the end of the meal and you have a stunning performance.
The servers were attentive and the band – The New Best Recipe – offered up a tight, mellow performance at just the right volume. You could easily talk over dinner or go down and sit on the hay bales to enjoy the music more deliberately. Overall, it was a charming experience and a very unusual Sunday night. Red Light and The Jefferson Theater are planning four pop-up restaurants a year, and we’re extremely curious to see what they do next. Rock & Rolls, maybe?