Sashimi chef Tony Messina uses West coast oysters — preferably Kusshi, Kumamoto or Shigoku — for this preparation, which he insists is simpler than it sounds.
He starts by putting musk melon, mirin, elderflower, verjus and green apple in a sous-vide bag and compressing it.
“Not only does it change the texture, but it adds a great amount of flavor,” he said.
Separately, he uses a rotary evaporator to distill a shallot, using five different pressure settings to do so. He generally discards the distillate at the lowest-pressure setting because it’s too pungent. Then he distills it four more times at a successively higher pressure, using the second, third and fourth “layers” of distillate, as the fifth one is usually too weak, he said.
He uses the compressed melon and the shallot essence in his mignonette, which also contains oxalis (wood sorrel), green apple, salt and citric acid. At the last minute he also adds tonburi, also known as “land caviar,” which are the processed seeds of the Japanese cypress tree.
He spoons that on top of the oyster along with some basil seeds that have been pickled in red shiso vinegar. To make that vinegar, he rubs red shiso leaves with salt and lets them sit for 2 to 3 days. Then he rinses the leaves, covers them with white vinegar, honey and mirin, and lets it sit for about a year.
He also uses that vinegar in a yellowtail preparation, he said.
He finishes the dish with a foam made by adding a little gelatin to grapefruit juice and Darjeeling tea, which he then squirts out of a nitrous-oxide canister.
Each oyster is $4, but customers can also have it topped with sea urchin and Israeli osetra caviar for an additional $2.