Resto’s Christian Pappanicholas Thinks Jose Garces’s Rodaballo a la Plantxa Is the Perfect Palate Cleanser

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Rodaballo a la Plantxa Photo: Kirsten Henri

Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Avecs Koren Grieveson talked Belgian hangover pasta with Resto owner Christian Pappanicholas. What's on your plate, Pappanicholas?

Who: Christian Pappanicholas, Owner, Resto, New York
What: Rodaballo a la Plantxa
Where: Tinto, Philadelphia
When: Fall 2009

"Im originally from South Philly and my sister lives in Center City so we often dine there. We had never been and ate probably half the menu, if not the whole menu. Im a big fan of turbot. Its such a meaty fish for the fact that its such a delicate fish. It was just super clean with fennel and citrus and the sauce made from Pastis; youre getting that nice meatiness against something bright and acidic. In Spanish food, you can have such big bold flavors. When youre sitting down eating roast pork and Iberico and cheeses, and drinking lots of good wine, its that perfect palate cleanser. I love rich food, but its so important for me to have something nice and fresh and simple."

Tinto chef-owner Jose Garces responds:

"I think the beauty of the dish lies in the turbot itself. We get a fresh Mediterranean or French turbot and it's of one of the most expensive fish on the market. Having that nice piece of firm, white-fleshed fish is a unique experience on its own. The acidity of the dish was a direct result of looking at the rest of our menu - basically, like he said, we thought "we have to some lighter or more clean dishes." The Basque-inspired sauce pastis is an anise butter sauce. We use citrus juices as the reduction - usually it's an acidic element like white wine, but we use citrus instead. They're added at the end - sometimes if you reduce with citrus, it will get bitter, so the sauce is kind of finished with it. We plate it with fresh citrus segments and confit tomato and we do a fresh shaved baby fennel salad. Then we dust it with fennel pollen. It brings a little bit of texture and reinforces the underlying fennel-anise flavor."