Jordan Kahn's use of tree slabs and glass terrariums in lieu of dinner plates may induce eye rolling, but the former pastry chef is gifted in the art of weaving together incongruent textures and flavors. Could that pile of raw and pickled mushrooms—obscured by a mound of young fir branches, wild herbs, and fried reindeer moss—be decomposing on a forest floor somewhere? Maybe, but you'll be glad it's in front of you now.
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There's a do-or-die bravado at work here. Jordan Kahn sics himself on Vietnamese cuisine, combining lime, fish sauce, and a floating market's trove of herbs with a bag of tricks learned while he was a pastry chef for Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz. Whether an interpretation or an homage, his dishes hum with creativity. Leaves of verbena meringue soften the flavors of sugarcane-cured trout. Rendered Chinese sausage—almost toffeelike—whips around the char of seared savoy cabbage that's been deglazed with fish sauce. Congee packs comfort and complexity when mixed with garlic chips, black malt, and uni. The tumbler layered with chicory, coconut bavarois, peanut croquant, and basil captures the spirit of Vietnamese iced coffee. Kahn's not above yielding to tradition, but his food rings truest when he arrives at a dish through his own sensibility.