Monday, February 8, 2016

Californian-Style Mussel Curry

The title "Hook and Ladder Manufacturing" might have got this Californian comfort-food restaurant mistaken for a fire engine factory. But once entered, it readily reveals itself as a casual-swanky place to chill, celebrate, get tipsy and be merrily gluttonous. To embrace and showcase Californian products is its mission. Both its kitchen and full bar are mainly supplied by local farms, ranches, wineries and breweries. Dining there, one cannot help but feel like a California loyalist.

The other night, I was quite ecstatic to spot the green-curry mussels on their happy hour menu. It stood as the lone Asian-inspired item among the vast sea of American and Italian dishes. Well, it turned out to be different from what I expected but not necessarily in a bad way. While the broth was too thin to be qualified as a curry, it did contain all the right spices. The lemongrass and kaffir took center stage in the flavor profile as they should. And the chef wasn't at all timid with the heat. The cauliflower worked amicably as an unassuming supporting cast. The croutons, however, were an oddly interesting addition. Yes, they added crunch. Yes, they added color contrast as well. And yet, their presence felt a bit incongruous, a bit intrusive, like a loud-mouthed American exchange student in a peaceful Asian home. Having said that, I did love the dish. I enjoyed it a lot despite the crouton invasion. And one more thing I must mention: the branded lemon rind in my Old-Fashioned was pretty rad. 

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