Marcus Samuelsson was actually in the kitchen at Aquavit, on Monday, during lunch.
That might sound a little condescending, but Marcus is the chef-owner of Aquavit, not the executive chef (that would be the able and always-gracious Johan Svensson), so he doesn't really need to be there.
But he came out, said hello and chatted a bit with me and my lunch companions, publicist Jeffrey Ward and chef Rodelio Aglibot. Jeffrey's from Rockit Ranch Productions, a restaurant company based in the Chicago area. One of its newer restaurants is Sunda, where Rodelio's the chef. He calls his food “New Asian,” which he thinks sounds less hackneyed than "pan-Asian" and less lame than "fusion," and I think he's right.
I'd interviewed Rodelio before, when he was at Yi Cuisine in Los Angeles, and he always was doing interesting things with food
(sweet avocado mousse with lychee sorbet and raspberry sauce, garnished with candied jalapeño; eggs benedict with kurobuta pork adobo, instead of Canadian bacon, in puff pastry — this was back in 2004-2005), so it was good to finally meet him.
He's about to add a lunch menu that will have ramen and his own take on such Hawaiian items as plate lunch and loco moco. He also does a great-sounding Thai fried chicken, which he marinates in coconut milk with various Thai flavors, simmers it to an internal temperature of 160, and then coats it in rice flour and deep fries it.
But today, this is what I ate:
chilled watercress soup with tuna tartare, watermelon, egg and caviar
a mid-course sent out by Marcus of braised short ribs with leeks, pumpkin seed pesto and sweet potato
Gravlax and shrimp sandwich with avocado, egg and espresso mustard sauce,
then we split an Arctic Circle (goat cheese parfait with blueberry sorbet and passionfruit curd)
and I finished it off with an expresso.