Eat & Drink

Dinner Theater

The new Squeaky Bean is a fully realized restaurant that commands your attention.
January 2013

 

Consider the carrot dish, which takes carrots in four different directions—raw, roasted, dehydrated, and puréed into a warm, orange broth poured tableside. (The dish also includes a cool scoop of kaffir lime and ginger ice cream that melts into the broth.) Here, the various layers of texture, temperature, and sweetness break the monotony typically associated with carrot-centric dishes. 

The Choked Out appetizer is similarly free of cliché. Mackissock starts with baby, Jerusalem, and Chinese artichokes and then puts them through the equivalent of boot camp—searing, poaching, braising, frying. He then arranges the transmogrified remains in a bowl filled with an artichoke milk. Like the carrot dish, the final pouring and filling takes place tableside, and it’s easy to imagine the detailed stage directions the servers have been given: Wait until conversation stops and you have the full attention of your guests. Then, lift the carafe slowly, tip it, and let the liquid cascade dramatically into the bowl. Timing is important. Don’t rush the scene. Diners dig this.

Mackissock loves the tableside pour—fully half of the plates I ordered were accompanied by this bit of theater. Watching the final assembly of a dish was fun the first time. But by the third visit and eighth pour, the routine had begun to seem tired and overdone. 

My favorite dish was the One Potato, Two Potato, where the only obvious drama was in the preparation itself. This dish takes all the best parts of a traditional stuffed
potato—cheese, chives, bacon, broccoli—and turns them into something new and barely recognizable. Holes carved into a slice of sweet potato are filled, alternately, with a green chive–leek sauce, crème fraîche, and a light orange potato purée. A sphere of whipped potato “ice cream” sits off to the side flanked by two fried potato crisps, and the plate is anchored by a glistening cube of pork belly and a few delicate stalks of heirloom broccoli. The visually arresting dish—the potato looks like something from outer space—combines sweet with savory, warm with cool, and chewy with smooth to create the most novel potato presentation I’ve ever encountered.

Novelty is, of course, what drives the Squeaky Bean. The menu often changes weekly, if only partially. The plating makes heavy use of dots and drizzles and foliage and flower petals. Ingredients such as tendon, tongue, and gizzard push local boundaries.

As someone who gets bored easily, I like this kind of improvisation, especially on nights when I need to get outside of myself. But not everyone will, and likely not every week. The Squeaky Bean is a special-occasion restaurant—the kind of place you go when you want to add to your dining repertoire and where it becomes apparent, as Shakespeare said, all the world is a stage.

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