My Take on Molecular Gastronomy

When I ate at Moto a few months ago, I realized that Homaro Cantu’s restaurant was, in essence, answering the question: “What if you could do anything with food?” Cantu is the co-host of a show called “Future Food” (which premiered about a year ago) which explores the molecular gastronomy movement.  Cantu is also opening a new restaurant in the next month an a half at the old Otom location (next to Moto on Fulton) which will be called ING – which stands for Imagining New Gastronomy.

I can honestly say I did not enjoy my experience at Moto, at least not enough to merit the somewhat immodest price tag. The aggressively progressive concepts we were served seemed to lack a certain flow or logic – the meal felt disjointed. Rather than witnessing an artist manipulate his medium, the medium appeared to be controlling the artist.

A brief list of some things I ate at Moto (I had the 10 course):

  • Lime foam snowman (complete with tiny face composed of Himalayan sea salt and miniature salt “buttons” on his torso)
  • “Crab cake” – literally cake with crab in it.
  • Mock maki – risotto and sous vide rabit and slow cooked brussel sprouts formed to look like pieces of sushi, with fake ginger and wasabi.
  • Mushroom made of mushrooms – some sort of dehydrated shiitake reconstituted and shaped like a real mushroom, but with the texture of meringue.
  • Black truffle mousse ice cream cake – a play on ice cream cake, ice cream processed to have the light and fluffy texture of an angel food cake.  The flavors in this were absolutely rancid.

Of course, the list goes on.  It seemed what the kitchen was telling diners at Moto was that they could make any food have any combination of taste, texture, temperature, and appearance.  But what I experienced was food without a soul.  The chef’s whimsy was not backed up by food with precise attention to flavor, texture, and balance.  Some dishes did taste good, to be fair.  But there was a lack of restraint which soured the experience for my dining companions and me.

I mentioned in my previous post that different people eat for different reasons.  For me, Moto served only to satisfy my curiosity.  The meal took around four hours, and when it was over (around midnight) I felt both disappointed and relieved.  There’s a sense of removal from the ingredients and an objectification of the food.  Even printed on the edible menus served at the restaurant, there is a notice that “live tweeting is encouraged.”  I was genuinely surprised by this.  At most restaurants of this price level, phones are not even allowed in the dining room.  But perhaps that is the fundamental difference between those restaurants and Moto.

Moto ultimately fails to make any sort of coherent statement on food.  I think Cantu introduces many interesting ideas with great potential, but loses sight of his vision.  Overall, an interesting but dissatisfying experience.

Dinner at Moto – $135, not including beverages, tax, and gratuity

Two Stars:

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