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A Source of Inspiration: LumDimSum!

16 Dec

For the past two months or so since we’ve launched our website, Anthony and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love you have all shown to us.  We’ve gotten emails, Facebook messages, Tweets, handshakes, phone calls, and even toasts to how the website is developing and how everybody can’t wait until our restaurant is open.  First and foremost, thank you for that kindness, and thank you for reading our website!

Now, I really love giving credit where credit is due, and so I must tell where one of the biggest sources of inspiration for the website came from.

When I worked for Alan at Hatsune Restaurant Group in Beijing and Shanghai in the summer of 2008, he had this girl Kristen as his Director of PR.  Talk about somebody who truly knew everybody – she couldn’t walk into a restaurant or club in the city without knowing the people at at least three different tables.  A Cali girl – very cool and collected by her nature – but also very smart, outgoing, and a great communicator.  Alan struck gold with her, and not only have they become dear friends, but they still work together to this day.

Kristen leveraged her connections and her bright smile and branched out to direct the PR campaigns for a few other restaurant/nightlife groups throughout Beijing, and in doing so, started to brand herself in the process.  Kristen now runs a website dedicated to food, drink, restaurants, nightlife, fashion, charity, art, and the wonderful city of Beijing.

And so every time a new post would appear on Facebook, I’d go to her website and read all about what she had to say.  I kept coming back for more because, for me, it was so fun to read about new restaurants and the new happenings in a city that I love.  I realized that food is fun.  Food is worth reading about, when written the right way.  In some of Kristen’s restaurant reviews I can actually taste the dishes as I read them off the screen.  They’re colorful, they’re driven by images, and they spark the imagination.

That’s what we wanted to get out of this website.  We want to chronicle the opening of The Vaulted Door, we want to share sneak peak menu items with you all, we want to involve you in the opening of the restaurant through contests and competitions, and finally we want you to get as excited about this restaurant as we are – because once we open we certainly want to see you there.

So thank you to Kristen for the inspiration to create our own website – and one more thank you to her for writing some awesome material that really brings me back to a city that I love.  If you’re at all interested in Beijing, food, drink, or anything else that I mentioned, be sure to check out Kristen @ http://www.LumDimSum.com – really great stuff!

And finally, I really believe that Alan hit a gold mine with Kristen.  I think any restaurant that wants to be successful has to have a person like her.  Lots of restaurants and restaurant groups have PR and marketing people that sit in offices and do a very good job – but Kristen is different because she is literally on the street level, eating at the restaurants every night, meeting new people, bringing guests in, and showing them the magic of all of Alan’s restaurants.  She has become one of the faces of Hatsune Restaurant Group – one that Alan certainly appreciates and is thankful for.  Anthony and I will be lucky to find somebody with Kristen’s caliber of personality, intelligence, drive, and passion for what she does.

…we’re now accepting resumes.  Anybody think they can do it? 😉

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Beer Review: Magic Hat #9

14 Dec

This review is a few weeks overdue, but I have a logical explanation for why that is the case.  You see, I went over to Anthony’s house about 4 weeks ago to watch the NY Football Giants take on the lowly scoundrel Dallas Cowgirls (were we supposed to remain unbiased on this website, because I didn’t get that memo).  While watching the game, I indulged in two beverages, both of which happened to be the beer we’re reviewing today.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the beers because the Giants took a beating at the hands of the wimps from Texas.

It wasn’t until today that I was able to brush off the bitterness from the game and adequately enjoy Magic Hat #9.  And enjoy I did, folks.

A little bit about the brewery itself, now.  Magic Hat Brewery has been producing delicious beers since 1994 and is located in Burlington, Vermont — right next to the coat factory(!!).  It is a microbrewery that has grown substantially since its inception – from only a few employees at the time of the brewery’s birth to over 150 today.  They produce 4 year-round beers (#9 being one of them) and typically have 4 seasonal beers in the rotation at any given time.

Variety: Not Quite Pale Ale

Color: Burnt orange & gold

Nose: Apricot

Palate: Subtle peach and wheat notes; apricot

ABV: 5.1%

Hops: Cascade (originally developed in Oregon and named for the Cascade Mountains, this hop is typically used in pale ales and IPAs); Apollo (less commonly-known, developed in 2000 in California)

Malts: Pale (basis of pale ales, very cheap and mass-produced); Crystal (also used in pale ales and produce strong, sweet, toffee-like flavors)

Finish: Smooth malt middle with a tinge of tangy, sweet hops in the finish

Now, what the heck do I mean by ‘Not Quite Pale Ale’???  Actually, that is the term that the company uses to describe this beer, and it is pretty spot on.  Pale ales are typically defined by their hops, and this beer is not particularly hoppy.

To tell you the truth, I really enjoyed this beer (when I wasn’t pairing it with a Giants loss).  There’s an almost light richness to it, and in that I mean that the flavors are certainly complex, but they shine through in an easy, clean beer.  One of the things that hit me most was the color of this beer – the orange hue that it had was inviting and warm and almost telling of a caramel sweetness – which is present then in the fruity nose.

Another thing I really liked about drinking this beer was the story behind the brewery itself.  I’m a huge fan of microbreweries that tell a story with their beer.  I can totally imagine the workers at Magic Hat being really friendly, down-to-earth, rocker-types.

Fun Fact: They name a lot of their beers after music, and it is suspected (though never has been admitted) that the #9 beer is a tribute to The Beatles song, ‘Revolution #9.’

Keys To Tasting: Drink this beer in a frosty mug, and no other way.  It is good out of the bottle.  But put this bad boy in a frosty mug and enjoy the heavenly delights of ice cold brewed ‘magic’.

Food Pairings: I think the ideal food pairing for this beer would be something with a little bit of spice but not too overwhelming.  For instance, a mild Indian or Thai dish, or even some good old fashioned American BBQ with a tinge of spiciness.

A very good beer, certainly worth drinking.  Sippable and pleasant, shrouded in a bit of mysterious fruity and hoppy flavor.

 

 

Sushi Roll Contest: Finalists Announced!!!

12 Dec

After much ado and some wild, rampant speculation (!!), the results are in.  Anthony and I sat down today and put our creative caps on to sort through the many wonderful submissions that all of you so artfully crafted.

The finalists for the creative sushi contest are as follows:

-Maki roll with steak tartar, mixed with sriracha hot sauce and bits of scallion.  Sear both sides after the roll is cut and drizzle with teriyaki sauce (Cat Chenkus)

-Thin sliced beef cooked in Chinese hot pot, fresh coriander and sesame seeds, with a dipping sauce of sesame oil, fresh chopped garlic, and oyster sauce (Yuxi Liu)

-Deep-fried mini sliced potatoes (mini French fries) inside of maki roll with flavored cream cheese (Joe Mongeluzzi)

-Hamburger roll (Steve Mizrahi)

And even though it was supposed to be a Final 4, we wanted to add one more, a delicious-sounding dessert roll with tons of originality!

-Maki roll with the sushi rice sugared and drizzled in chocolate.  The inside of the roll is fresh seasonal fruit (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, banana).  Deep fry the roll, tempura style, and serve with two garnishes – mint-infused white chocolate as wasabi, and super-thin sliced cantaloupe as ginger (Corey Dineen)

We were overwhelmed with the amount of submissions we received.  For a restaurant that hasn’t opened yet, we have a lot of really good people that are pulling for us and following our every move!  We sincerely appreciate those of you who bravely submitted rolls, and for that we’re rewarding everybody who did not reach the finals a $20 gift certificate. Thank you all!!!

As for the finalists, Anthony and I truly believe that we have 5 really great looking rolls that will vie for a shot on the menu.  We’ll post an update on when the final tasting competition will be within the next week.  Until then, just picture those rolls – if you know what’s good for you, you’ll be licking your lips just thinking about them!

What Is Entrepreneurship And How Does It Relate To Restaurants?

10 Dec

This past Wednesday night I got the chance to reengage with my entrepreneurial roots at an intimate gathering of about 30 graduates of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where we all came together to both congratulate and hear more of (the man I’m proud to say was) my professor Buck Goldstein’s new book, Engines of Innovation.  That was a run-on sentence, I think.

Now I’m not sure if it was because they were all UNC grads or if it was just a coincidence, but the people around me were all so brilliant, but more importantly, they were passionate about entrepreneurship.  You see, Buck’s new book (which he co-authored with the Chancellor of our university, Holden Thorp) seeks to shift the paradigm that entrepreneurship is a ‘dirty word’ and in fact unite entrepreneurs with academics at our nation’s top research universities with the hope of solving the world’s most difficult problems.  A special thanks to Doug Hamilton and Brian Fenty (two UNC grads, do you see a theme here?) for hosting the wonderful event!

Buck put it so eloquently when he described what entrepreneurship actually is.  The coming together of innovation and execution, Buck said, is what breeds entrepreneurship.  One without the other is useless.  And then Buck told a quick story.  A few weeks earlier at a similar event in North Carolina, Dean Smith (legendary UNC basketball coach, one of the greatest of all time) showed up uninvited and was sitting in the first row as Buck was giving his speech.  When he was explaining his thesis about innovation and execution, he likened it to Smith’s career, where he could have been as innovative as he was, but without executing on a daily basis, nobody would remember his name (and some names like Michael Jordan, James Worth, Sam Perkins, Bob McAdoo, and Vince Carter probably wouldn’t have meant so much as they do to us today).  Coach thanked Buck with the finger point that Michael Jordan made famous, acknowledging whoever gave him the assist (but actually was a Dean Smith trademark).

So we know now what entrepreneurship is.  How then, does it have anything to do with restaurants?

Let’s tackle innovation first.  I remember it clear as day, one of the most important lessons I ever learned about the restaurant industry.  Jenn, Will, and I were sitting as interns at the back table, adjacent to the upstairs bar, at Shanghai’s new Kagen Teppanyaki.  Alan was sitting on the other side of the table, and I remember vividly how the polished hibachi grill was so similar in color to his wristwatch that was clanking against it as he spoke.  “The restaurant industry is war.”  Three years later and I now know exactly what he meant that day.  In an industry that evolves daily, you must constantly innovate to stay ahead of your competitors.  When a potential guest walks down the street, she has hundreds of restaurants to choose from.  Why will she choose yours?  You have to innovate on so many different levels, which is why so many restaurants fail to succeed in the long run.  From a culinary, hospitality, service, decor, management, and advertising standpoint, you can have teams of people working to make your concept innovative, but if they fall behind for even one second, the restaurant next door just surpassed you.

And execution?  That is plain to see – without executing operationally on a day to day (and even minute to minute) basis, your restaurant will go down quickly and in flames.  Kitchen doesn’t produce, the guests leave.  The guests leave, the employees don’t make money.  The employees don’t make money, they leave.  Then the owner is left sitting there trying to eat the rest of the inventory before it goes rotten!  That can happen within a matter of weeks, literally, and that is why execution and operations are imperative for success.

Now, you have a team that is innovative and constantly staying on top of the game.  They’re always aware of what the competition is doing and always one step ahead on every level.  But the restaurant doesn’t execute their findings.  The restaurant goes down.  That is why entrepreneurship is the coming together of the two concepts.  It is only when innovative minds are paired with those who can execute that success will be near.

Finally, I’ll bring it a little closer to home and talk about the relationship between Anthony and myself.  While we both have the ability to be innovators and executors (we’re not talking head chopping here, folks), I would say that Anthony is much more of the doer while I am much more of the thinker.  I have always found it magical that I could name some ingredients and Anthony could put together a top-10 meal that I have ever tasted.  He’s like a bulldog in the kitchen – he puts his head down and produces exquisite products.  On the other hand, I’m more of a big-picture person.  While I believe Anthony sees the details and then builds upon them, I see the innovative finished product and then work my way down to the details.  The first time I saw the building that Anthony and I are targeting for The Vaulted Door, I immediately imagined a Saturday night dinner service taking place there.  From there, I worked my way down and built a plan to get to that point – layout, design, branding, competitive analysis, marketing plan, and eventually the financial that fit with and reflected the given plan.  It all started for me, though, with a vision of the finished product.

Based on what Buck believes to be the definition of entrepreneurship, I think Anthony and I are on the right track – the innovator and the executor coming together to form Long Island’s favorite restaurant.  I like the way that sounds.


Sushi Roll Contest Update

3 Dec

The rolls are in!  Even though it is just getting started, I can tell that this contest is going to be even better than Anthony or I anticipated.  The rolls that you all submitted have made me SO HUNGRY for sushi!  Such creativity too!  Traditional Japanese rolls, rolls with fruit, dessert rolls, Chinese-inspired rolls, Italian rolls (if that one wins, we’re going to have to call it ‘The Never Fugghedaboutit’).  You guys reached out into the universe of creative food and thought up some really awesome dishes – one roll even had a Milky Way in it!

Now you don’t really care about all that jibber-jabber – you want to know who the Final 4 are!  Well, wait one second for that, because we got so many submissions that Anthony and I are going to take about a week to figure this all out.

Stay tuned for pictures, finalists, reviews, and much more on this great competition.  And remember, the winner will get a spot on our opening menu!

Thanks again to all of you who participated – we really appreciate the love!

 

 

The Performance Continuum

27 Oct

I was going to start off by writing ‘The worst thing you could do is want to be good at something,’ but I decided against it because that, in fact, isn’t the truth.  There are plenty of things I just want to be good at.  I don’t want to be the best piano and saxophone player in the world, but I do want to be able to play them fairly well.  I don’t want to be an Olympic runner, but I do want to be in good shape.  So that’s not a good example, because we can’t be world-class in all that we do.  It is unrealistic and trying to do so would take a lot of the fun out of life, I believe.

However, when you find something that makes you happy and something you want to do for your life, there is no other way to go about it but striving to be the best.  What does it take to be the best, then?  Being the best is a combination of a lot of things – natural abilities, applying what you learn, being mentored by the greats, etc.  But the biggest thing is striving for perfection.

One of the most influential scenes in any movie, for me, was in ‘Remember the Titans’ during the championship game when Coach Boone tells his players at halftime to play their hardest, and “win or lose” they are still champions.  Julius, a star defensive player on the team, interrupts the coach and says: “No, it ain’t Coach. With all due respect, uh, you demanded more of us. You demanded perfection. Now, I ain’t saying that I’m perfect, ’cause I’m not. And I ain’t gonna never be. None of us are. But we have won every single game we have played till now. So this team is perfect. We stepped out on that field that way tonight. And, uh, if it’s all the same to you, Coach Boone, that’s how we want to leave it.”

Julius was right when he said that none of us will ever be perfect.  That is fine.  But the only way to maximize our potential in this life is to strive for the unattainable perfection.  We reach for what cannot be reached and, in doing so, we climb to heights we never dreamed imaginable.

When it comes to restaurants, it is imperative that everything we do is at a level ‘above and beyond’ what others are expecting and hoping for.  My friend and mentor Alan Wong once told me that, “The restaurant industry is war.  You have to win the war to be successful.”  The only way to win the war is to go above and beyond in everything that you do and always striving to reach that level of perfection.  The first step in being the best is wanting to be the best.  The second step is doing everything to the absolute best of your ability and always striving to step your game up to the next level.  It’s about never settling, always striving, never wavering in your pursuit to be the best.

The final thing to realize is that ‘good’ is the enemy of success.  Too many times we do something well and then settle at that level.  We don’t push harder to become great; we don’t go above and beyond.

Whether it is in a restaurant or not, when you set your mind to something make sure you go above and beyond to reach where you want to go.  Always strive to be the best and never give up until you get there.

 


Why Wine?

23 Oct

The world of wine is beyond fascinating to me. It is daunting yet welcoming, infinite yet personal.  Wine is an experience all in itself.  While it is often pictured with a food pairing, the depth of the world of wine is far-reaching.  Imagine walking into a store like Walmart or Target and, at first, only understanding what is going on on the first shelf of Aisle 1.  But you keep going back.  You won’t let the big-bad store intimidate you.  Soon you’ve mastered the first aisle and you’re confidently moving on.  One day, maybe, you’ll have the entire mega mart at your disposal.  The only thing that matters is that you go back and continue your journey, because wine is certainly that: a trip through countries, regions, cities, varietals, vintages, colors, smells, and tastes.

My first step into the world of wine came during my junior year of college.  Before then I hadn’t drunk much wine in my life.  I remember at my first communion drinking the wine and hating it – little did I know that 45-times-sipped church wine wasn’t the best representation, nor was it a very good idea to base my judgments on my memories from 2nd grade.  Fast forward 13 years later and I’m standing in World Market in Raleigh, North Carolina staring at a monstrous collection of wine with no clue what to buy my girlfriend Taylor’s mother for Easter.  No way I can show up to the house with nothing in my hands!  Thankfully Taylor pointed out that her mom was a fan of riesling – not that I knew what that even meant.  She helped me pick a bottle and it ended up being great.  I left that market with a glimmer of hope – the door had been cracked opened into the world of wine, but I was still far too intimidated to push forward and jump in.

A few months later I’m in Beijing, China and my fellow interns and I walk into Med, one of Alan’s restaurants, and see a wine tasting going on.  Now, try to picture this: Med is located in a complex called Block8 which has 6 different venues within the one building.  The entrance to Med is right off the side of i-Ultra Lounge, and directly to the left of the entrance is a private dining room surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling, wrap-around, glass-enclosed, mahogany wine rack.  Alan isn’t classified as a Master Sommelier (because they actually have those), but he is a master sommelier, if you know what I’m saying.  The guy knows a ton about wine, loves to drink it, loves to pair it with food, and loves to teach about it.  It all kind of hit me that day, as I was standing there, surrounded by thousands of bottles of beautiful wine, looking in on a wine tasting in the restaurant of my mentor who was so immersed in that wonderful world: that was a place I wanted to be; I was ready to take the plunge.

One year after and I’m sitting at a beverage tasting at Blue Smoke.  As a manager, every month or so we’re required to give presentations to the entire service staff about a specific wine, liquor, beer, etc.  More than any restaurant that I have ever seen, Blue Smoke emphasizes the importance of teaching the staff, and in doing so fosters not only a great knowledge of what is being sold, but also a sense of community and shared purpose among the staff.  The masterminds behind the program at Blue Smoke are Beverage Director Tinika Green and GM Kari Matthews.  They do a tremendous job in both sharing their knowledge of beverages to the staff and also pushing the rest to delve into their world.  I remember it clear as day.  Even a few months into my tenure at Blue Smoke, I still was mostly partial to drinking sweet white wines.  It was during a tasting that we were learning about a Valpolicella (actually an Amarone from the Valpolicella wine-making area of Italy) when my eyes were opened to the full world of wine.  I turned to Tinika and she saw my face nodding, she said, “that’s good right?”  I didn’t even know what to say.  I had discovered the first aisle of my Walmart.  My appreciation for wine hit its first peak and it hasn’t stopped rising since that day.

Wine is a journey.  There is so much to know about it, and it is my firm belief that nobody will ever know everything about it.  Very few will ever even master it.  But to love wine is to love life, because wine is one of the most beautiful creations of this green earth.  It means something different to everybody who drinks it.  But all should respect it, and in doing so, should seek to understand as much of it as possible.

I’m happy to say I’ve got to be somewhere near aisle 4 or 5 in my Walmart of wine.  I’m comfortable drinking, tasting, describing, and teaching about wine.  I’m nowhere near where I want to one day be, but I’m getting there.  A few weeks ago I was in Shanghai, China at the grand opening party for Alan’s restaurant Haiku.  I was drinking a glass of wine and talking to my friend, one of the bartenders.  He asked me what it tasted like and I explained to him the fruits it tasted like in Chinese.  He read the bottle (which I could not read) and looked up in amazement.  I had described the wine exactly how it said on the bottle – in Chinese!  I acted confident and that I knew that would happen, but it actually surprised me a little.  I was proud.

I’m getting there.  The best part about it is that there’s nowhere to get.  It is just more knowledge and more understanding – and along the way, a lot more wine!

In a Vietnamese Restaurant in Shanghai, China

Enjoying Fresh Coconut Juice After Two Delicious

Glasses of Wine – Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon

Richard and I at Block8 in Front of Med’s Beautiful Wine Cellar

The Vaulted Door Sushi Roll Competition

21 Oct

Do you have what it takes to get onto The Vaulted Door’s sushi menu?  We’re challenging you – all of our friends, colleagues, readers, and fans – to come up with the most creative and best tasting roll for a chance to make it onto our opening menu.  We’re going to do this with all of our menu categories, so we wanted to start off with the most fun and imaginative one of them all: sushi rolls.

Who? Anybody!  I promise you that there will be no partiality granted towards close friends – this is really to see who is the best!

What? A competition to see who can tell us how to make the best-tasting, most creative roll they can imagine

When? The competition has been extended.  The due date for all roll submissions will be December 1, 2010.  During the week following the deadline, Anthony and I will narrow the rolls down to 4 finalists: ‘The Final Four.’  We will then invite all four finalists to the tasting  and judging of the rolls.  We will have guests there to watch the competition.  Chef Anthony will then prepare all of the rolls and our panel of judges will choose the best roll.

Where? This competition is all about creativity.  It all comes from your brain, from your heart, from your palette.  Think of what you would love to see in a roll and make sure it is something that has never been done.  Create, imagine, innovate.  At home, at a restaurant, at school – anywhere!  Our competition will take place at a secret location that will be announced as the date draws nearer.

Why? We are all about our guests, and we want to be able to feature your creations on our menu.  That way, every time you come to the best restaurant on Long Island, you’ll be able to say that you have been part of it.

I want to stress one thing: CREATIVITY above all.  As of now, we have 10 rolls on our menu and they are all creative masterpieces from Anthony and Ryan’s minds.  We’re looking to make it 11 rolls; help us finish our sushi menu with the most imaginative, artistic, and inspired roll of all.  Remember – sushi is not only about ingredients, but also how it is plated (get crazy with this one) and what it is garnished with.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: December 1, 2010

Email Submissions Directly to Ryan @ rperlowin@gmail.com

Best of luck!

What a Cool Presentation!

Seared Kobe Beef, Avocado, Red Onion, Chimichurri sauce

A Beautiful Cotton Candy Sunset

20 Oct

I spent a few hours at Anthony’s house this afternoon and left right around dinnertime, about 6pm.  As we walked out of his house, we looked out onto one of the most beautiful sunsets (in terms of color, not setting).  I snapped a quick picture on my phone and when I got home got the picture onto the computer.  When I thought about what it looked like, the colors kept remind me of cotton candy – a layering of bright pink and dull blue sitting on a paper stick and so ready to be eaten.  I could really go for some cotton candy right now.

Tonight’s Sunset.

A Cotton Candy Tree.

How Good Does This Look?

 

Because of my cotton candy craze right now, I’m going to go into the city next week and eat at a Japanese restaurant on St. Mark’s Street that Yuxi and I always go to.  They have very traditional dishes such as raw octopus in a light butter sauce, all types of yakitori (skewers), and it was here that I was introduced to plum wine – or Umeshu in Japanese – and have since been in love.  And the best part of the restaurant is that they give each guest a shot glass worth of cotton candy sugar and have a machine outside that you can make your own pink and blue treat!  I’ll review them next week.

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