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Dining Weeks 2015

Dear All,

Syracuse Downtown Dining Weeks finished with the greatest success ever. The Grass broke records on quantity, quality, and sales. As Downtown Committee always wants, to produce more traffic downtown, more income on a hard month, to introduce different clienteles from other areas to get more familiar with our beloved area.

Lemon Grass staff has done a fantastic job straight forward from three days before Valentine's Day all the way through the first of March. You all were so brave, especially our behind the scene "kitchen" staff. You guys worked so hard to push yourselves against that volume everyday. We would like to thank all of you for making this event so successful and so memorable.

Thanks and hugs to Downtown Committee, you have done the best job, and also for not extending Dining Weeks out officially.

Sincerely,

Max

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Graduation Weekend

Hi Everybody,

I must tell you about this year's Graduation War.

It has been awhile I have put over 80 hours in the kitchen for a single week, along with our new chefs, John and Ing. Both worked a combination of over 150 hours. My oyster and cold line chef Mang, who barely speaks English, was standing shoulder to shoulder for the whole week and has been my best buddy. Neal, my Sous Chef, had everything ordered and all sauces done earlier. Our Graduation Menu changes every year so the estimation on some of our proteins were really off. Thanks to Sam's Club for their wild caught colossal shrimps. We cleared their whole shelf out on Sunday morning. Our Sous Pastry Chef Sone was very strong, not even a single complain from her during this War. She soloed the whole station with just a pat on her back from everybody as needed. The most important staff in the kitchen is the dish jockey team, very best I have seen so far.

Our management did a fantastic job, my front captains, my hosts, Briana - my party coordinator, my senior staff, bartenders, and especially those hard working bus boys who put up great shows for the whole week. Billy and Ploy really dedicated a lot of hours to have missions completed.

Pook and I would like to thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts. Without all of you I may win a couple of battles but not going to win this war.

For the next 2 weeks, you will see adjustments on the menu. I will tweak them left and right to make sure our staffs feel comfortable with all the "usuals." The stations are divided, the new chefs will be in place this week. New creations will keep growing. New York State seasonal supplies will keep coming to our door.

And now let this summer begins.

Your Chef,

Max

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Spring Is Here!

Hi Everybody,

Spring is here for real Ocean is getting warmer. More fresh seafood and toys start to march into our kitchen. Last month trip with Palmer, lead by Kip Palmer and Steve Valentine that provided my staff a private jet to Seafood Expo in Boston, we got a lot of great suppliers.

Up to this point, our Island Creek Oyster Farm and maybe most of farms in the Northeast are in stage of shortage in supplies. As we know we had a real hard winter, oysters are the same way. They did not grow well. Now the weather breaks through, some of them started to spawn and some did not grow up to the point. Ok, we have to depart with Island Creek for awhile, still some suppliers in Duxbury area can provide us for another 3-4 weeks. Last week we tried Kaipara oysters from New Zealand about 2.5 inch deep cup, very cucumber taste-like, great, great flavor. We ordered 600-720 of them but we only got less than 500.  This week we will go back to our favorite Duxbury area. Standish Shore oyster should be 4 inches or longer. I will also get some Belon oyster this week.

Mussels have been a big problem for a while. PEI area is used to be prime area for everybody.
Nowadays they over-harvested them. Their size is getting smaller, as small as the tip of your pinky, and does not have a lot of meat too. We have changed our mussels to Hollander & DeKoning from Maine. This one looks like French mussels or so called Mediterranean mussel but smaller. They are fresh, very sweet and tender. We love them. The other alternative we are getting will be American Blue mussel from Maine. This one is very big and heavy, we are talking about 3 inches and up and the meat is filled up the cup. The problem is the size and thickness of the shell which could make us over-cook some of them easily. We will see what is coming in this week.

Baby squid is on the rise. As we know if the water is warm enough we can get Atlantic squid fresh. Three weeks ago they started to be consistent, they have been on our specials since. Octopus will be our next target. To buy them right, it has to be the one that has a thin skin, is not going to wriggle out and does not make a dark peel un-appetite appearance on the plate. Baby octopus will also be our prime target for the season.

Soft shell crab, first of the season, was on our specials last week. We got only a dozen of whale-size in. They were all dressed and we do not like them that much. We prefer live ones but the supplier in the area is so afraid carrying a very high perishable material at that caliber.

Pook asks me to stop writing and just head to work. She is trying new molecular tricks on her new desserts with Tim. I have to go now. We will talk more on spot prawn, shrimp with head on from Hawaii, and North Carolina or Mexico, and our new 8-12 weeks Dry Aged Rib Eye program. The season is here.

See you guy very soon.

Your Chef,

Max

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Extreme Beer Fest

Two weekends ago was my birthday. Okay, that was an excuse to treat myself and go to Boston last week for the Extreme Beer Fest runs by Beer Advocate with my husband. For those of you who started to get beer fever (for the past couple years, craft beer is a hit!), go to www.beeradvocate.com It is like diving into Wikipedia of beer world.

I have been to Brewfest at Fairgrounds before so I thought it would be similar but bigger. Heck NO! What was I thinking? I was blown away! And here is why:

Extreme Beerfest 2014, Boston, MA

Extreme Beerfest 2014, Boston, MA

  • Thousands of people were lined out the door but everyone was so organized and respectful, yes, associate that with non-stop drinking for 3.5 hours straight!
  • Just to pour you beers, they use people from breweries who care and want to educate you, who are proud of their products and have tons of passion to share.
  • Brews and beers were incredibly diverse and original. Many were something I have never heard of and from somewhere I have never been. Allow me to blabber more..

IPAs oftentimes are the main feature. The stronger and or more hoppy, the more people rave it sometimes seems. Nope, not here, not at the EBF, there are a variety of beers from a plethora of micro-breweries both local AND abroad. These breweries bring their cool creations and everyone just has a blast time experiencing new tastes.

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA was pumped through Simcoe hops which were packed in Randall the Enamel Animal, Dogfish Head’s organoleptic hop transducer module, adding more hop flavor to the beer and making it the strongest IPA in the world! (17%)

Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA was pumped through Simcoe hops which were packed in Randall the Enamel Animal, Dogfish Head’s organoleptic hop transducer module, adding more hop flavor to the beer and making it the strongest IPA in the world! (17%)

I think beer like I think food.

First appetizers. Sour beers are IN though not in Syracuse, but there were a lot of Gose and Berliner Weisse. Both are sour wheat German ales. One of the differences would be the saltiness Gose has. I know this may sound a little weird. One thing I am certain is that these will go really well with our lighter Thai dishes such as Tom Yum soup, Lobster & Mango Salad or even Pad Thai and Caramelized Tamarind sauce! Another interesting style on this savory side that would pair similarly is American Wild Ale. They introduce “wild” yeast or bacteria into ales. It could be from treated barrels or sour mash techniques. My favorite was Figaro from Cascade Brewing, Oregon, which is aged in Chardonnay barrels. This is a style I think you will either love or hate. It’s harder to please people with this funky style. Hence it’s harder to make their way up here in this area. I’ll try to request these at Lemon Elephant. It definitely will be fun to make a WILD dinner out of it.

Beers from Watch City Brewing, MA. Our whole selves were on fire after sipping their Fiery Death!

Beers from Watch City Brewing, MA. Our whole selves were on fire after sipping their Fiery Death!

Next course is entrée. I have got Rauchbier for you. Fine, call it “smoked beer”! This was probably our favorite style of the night. So light and refreshing, yet smoky, it is like you are having Kobe on the grill, camping in the woods next to waterfalls! I can drink this all day long. I recommend pairing this with our flash-grilled Kobe with the toasted red bean sauce or steak. And maybe when we do Gai Yang (grilled chicken Thai style) or Northern Thai sausages.

I also love Quad but couldn’t find my favorite at the event. Maybe because I already have my favorite that is hard to beat - St. Bernardus Abt 12. We will talk about quad later then.

Dessert course, thinking of stout? Maybe, maybe not..you name it. Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout by 4 Hands, Maple Orange Imperial Caramel Cream Ale by Due South, Hickory Smoked Barleywine by Trophy that tastes baconie and would be perfect for our Maple Bacon Ice Cream. Or a Euro Strong Lager “Baby Maker” by Jack’s Abby, a sweet creamy bourbon barrel aged wine lager, could pair well with our Apple Bread Pudding. Yet my favorite and to end today's blog is Avery Brewing’s “Tweak”, a 16.03% Imperial Stout with such a refined foamy/creamy coffee, roasty, bitter sweet taste. This to-die-for would pair so well with my favorite dessert Chocolate Pyramid. Yum!

Some of these breweries used to send beers up here but not anymore (Allagash).

Beers from Right Brain Brewery, MI. Very interesting features we have seen that night.

Beers from Right Brain Brewery, MI. Very interesting features we have seen that night.

Seriously, these beers should be carried up in this area and we need to change this. Of course, I will try my best to get them up here, but we need you all to come check them out and be the real judge. 

Hungry now, gotta grab a dish or two from the kitchen. Jealous? Stop by and join us!

See you soon,

Ploy

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Ploy

Hello, Everyone. I’m Ploy- I introduced myself when I just started working here. Having gained Chef Max’s trust throughout these past two years as well as gained a ton of experience, I guess I just got promoted – I can contribute to the Lemon Grass blog!

Among other tasks, I am responsible for cocktails, spirits and beers at the Lemon Elephant (borrowing from the Bill Horrace Band, “Lemon Elefant” who plays here every other Friday on the Elephant side. Come check them and other bands out on a weekend night!

Back to the blog, all suggestions and feedback especially with our spirit and beer selection are most welcome! My email is lemongrasspc@gmail.com Now you can tell me what drinks make you say “YES, I love this” or “Meh...” or even “Yikes!”, I want to hear all about it, please.

Talk to you soon!

Ploy – say it like “em-PLOY-ee”

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Welcome Back

Hi Everybody,

It has been more than a year I was away from all my fans. A lot of my buddies keep teasing me and start to call me a quitter. Well, I'm back with several stories to tell.

Starting from a good excuse, on the second of February, 2013, we designed to expand our investment by putting an offer to purchase the Onondaga Music Building next door which were homes of our good friends "Vinyl" and "Daisy Duke's" - or "the Duke's" as I call. We closed that deal in August. So far the building is home of our equipments and we may sit on them that way for a couple of years. We will let you know on what will be our next moves.

Let's talk about food for this season.

The Grass changed to our Spring menu three weeks ago. We understand this winter isn't that friendly. We are so afraid to make a move too early, shamelessly we did it anyway. Started with savory side, two weeks ago, strawberries from California are now on our Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese. Today we may get different strawberries, they are small and deep in flavor. I hope to have ones like in Japan or France by Tuesday the twenty-fifth. With Pook's help we'd like to get strawberry shortcake out by this week. Sure enough this is just for special hand-sell only. Please follow us on Facebook for details on how we are going to deconstruct them.


We are also increasing our raw and semi-raw section by adding our salmon with avocado over lemon mustard sauce, and Tuna Tataki with shredded Persian cucumber, citrus dressing and scallion ginger sesame puree. Both items are on the menu now. Adding this week is Mango and Lobster Salad with watercress and mango vanilla vinaigrette. Whole lobsters will be here on the same day. As mentioned above, you will receive lobster on a half shell, all cleaned. The lobster dish is finished with toasted macadamia and roasted sweet coconut flakes which we are still working on it.

Let's talk about entrees. Our Massaman Curry and Green Curry are the best-selling curries now. We have to unveil the truth that both are number one and two best-selling curries in the world, with the correct cooking method, there will not be any question. 

So far please enjoy what we were and are offering this week, I promise all of you this is just to start the season.

Your Chef,

Max

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April 22, 2013

Hi Everybody,

After I have tried so hard to get my blog on for at least 3-4 more articles, my assistant suggested they were too heavy. They were not fun anymore. Alright, let's do it again then.

We have posted our last blog a long while ago, so I will catch up to all of you.

Staff, we have changed most of our new staff from last year. The last one leaving us for her own good is Alyssa, she will continue to start her career in NYC in May. She will be missed, especially our sales team. We all wish her well. Now, I have to take a small management job too, not just designing and inventing food alone.

Well, for the food, we started to play with fresh and ripe mangoes. So far we are using Champagne Mango which has less fiber. It can be super smooth and sweet. You can see fresh ripe mangoes on our lunch and dinner menus.

Burrata cheese is on! I have adjusted them along with mango, chili/peach preserved compote and minced pistachio. Indian mango dressing accompanies all individual green leaves and shaved fennel.

Again with the same cheese, we all understand mango will leave this stage in 2 months tops. For sure, we still admire Burrata cheese and we want the cheese to stay over this summer. I have talked to Neal, my Sous Chef, to develop tangy roasted sweet pepper soup to contrast with super creamy touch on your tongue of the cheese. We all came up with the soup that made a transition of the seasons, from winter to spring by using avocado salsa as a bond. We sold plenty of them for preview.

Artichoke is coming. Neal is also developing a soup of puree choke with Frangelico or hazelnut liqueur. My idea is to get the flavor of the choke and the sweetness of liqueur with further crunch of toasted hazelnut for an exchange of texture. We are trying to make a choke chip. You should get some preview by next week.

Moreover, we are in progress of shrimp dumpling in wonton shell with chili, garlic, black bean, chili oil and shredded young leek. This will take 2 more weeks.

Soft shell crab is also in. We got 3 dozens of them last Friday and they are already sold out. We will have more coming in this week. For sure, we use our sherry wine batter and flash fry them. The sauce will be the same one as it used to be for the past 20 years. Kow Soy version will be available for entree as well.

The last one for today, we have added an extra curry on, just sauteed, no coconut milk, spicy, with roasted sweet coconut flakes, baby Chinese long beans and a lot of lime leaves. For Prig Pow fans, we have added Prig Pow sauce into this Red Curry to create a dimension on your palate. I hope you will enjoy this new curry. Oh, it is called Prig Khing Curry. I'm sorry this is spicy with no way to tone it down. It has the same attitude as our Green Curry.

Thanks for your patience and I wish to please you more as the season proceeds.

Sincerely,

Your chef,

Max

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August 27, 2012

Hi Everybody,

I am now paying my dues after close to 6 1/2 weeks away from my office. All the work has piled up over my head. Vince, my new Chef de Cuisine, is doing well. He's been trying to put this kitchen to work the way it belongs, and he did it on time with the new season starting.

Since we're talking about Vince, I may have to say something about this guy. When we first interviewed him (actually, we did interview him a first, second and third time) we wanted him to be our Bistro chef, but he went way beyond that point, and he deserved a promotion.

The truth is, he doesn't just have great skills in the kitchen, but his cooking skills and flavor profile both are very good. He created 6-7 new dishes for our menu, plus a daily special in the Bistro. His Bistro sale is getting better and better every day.

I am working on a new menu for both lunch and dinner. Part of it is based on new preparation on Bistro protein and on different flavor profiles. Some of them are on the lunch menu now. The rest will be on the dinner menu next week. Curries seem to be dishes that I really worry about more than anything else. As a chef, I think we went too far for the past several years allowing customers to apply any protein with their curry selection. This created a situation where some of the protein should not have been served without the right cooking method. From now on, the Grass will be more serious with its curries. Our curry will be beyond basic. I hope you will enjoy our creations in this section.

Your serious chef,

Max

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July 18, 2012

Hi Everybody,

My past three days have been fantastic! I visited two remarkable places that I have to talk about.

I went to a ramen place, and I attached their website onto the blog. We went their at 4pm, and with only a little wait we were all set to sit next to each other. Just 4 minutes later the place was packed again and a line had formed. Like most good places, it was small, but this one sat close to 18 people at a time. The broth was a different style, and the condiment was pickled ginger with finely chopped, spicy pickled kale. I have to say, it was one of the best bowls of noodles I have had in my life.

Please read more on the website that we have provided: http://whiteonricecouple.com/travel/tonkotsu-kyushu-ramen

The second place I want to talk about was a Japanese BBQ. Last night we went out just try try to learn the culture of dining. We passed hundreds of restaurants on a 30 minute walk. I have learned a great deal about how these restaurants really work with this type of demographic. At the end of that half hour, I spotted a place deep in an alley way. It was a small whole in the wall. Do not bother to ask me what it is called. It has 16 seats at the most. They have about six mini hoods over their small tables with real charcoal burners.

We tried to look at the menu, but of course, no English! My kid looked at me like, "Daddy, do your chef's trick, then." So, i walked up to the chef , and after 5 minutes we became best friends just through body language. I found out that they have only beef and pork. With my finger on my belly, he gave me pork belly! We also had beef cheeks, beef belly, and by sticking out my tongue he gave me beef tongue! We had tripe, sirloin, pork loin and more!

All of the meat came with different sauces. this was just one of the most remarkable meals. The quality of the meat was far beyond superior. It came close to Kobe quality.

I still have more things to talk about, like the Isetan food court, but I'll save that for the next blog!

Your chef,

Max

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Meet the New Management!

Alyssa

Hello there!

Following up from Max's introduction, my name is Alyssa, and I have been working with the wonderful Lemon Grass team for just about two months now. After studying hotel, restaurant and tourism management at SUNY Plattsburgh, I must say I honestly never saw myself choosing a career path in the restaurant industry. I just didn't think it was for me. However, to my surprise, I have been enjoying (almost) every minute of my time here, and I am eager to continue to work under Max & Pook and further my knowledge in restaurant management.

Along with my background in hospitality management, I also majored in journalism and minored in business. I spent most of my spare time at SUNY Plattsburgh managing the school's collegiate newspaper and writing for the local daily. I therefore gained a great deal of experience in writing and communications and a passion for interacting with and meeting new people. This position has been a great match for me, as it has given me the opportunity to put my different skill sets to work.

And, of course, there's always fun to be had when you're working under someone who has quite the reputation in wine management and selection. I must say, and Max will surely get a kick out of this admission, I'm enjoying my wine education the most thus far (like mother, like daughter, I suppose!). A piece of me has always wanted to own and operate a winery of my own. Maybe one day, but until then I have found a home working with some of the best and continuing to further my knowledge of fine dining management. I invite you to join me on this journey, as any feedback our guests provide will allow us to better our overall goal of meeting your utmost expectations!

Alyssa or, as Max prefers, Liss

Ploy

"Ploy, like emPLOYee," that's the way i oftentimes introduce myself to people. It's quite a unique name, but a very common one for Thai girls. Three years ago I came to the States for my master's degree in International Relations at Maxwell School. My original plan was 16 months with a goal of becoming a mediator in a war zone (Yes, I'm serious! All I have ever wanted is to help better this world). I got an offer in DC after I graduated, but I turned it down (Idealistic? Young? Too confident? ... maybe). For personal reasons, I stayed in Syracuse. It was probably the toughest time I have ever had in my entire life because I used to get what I want when I want (I always can earn it somehow), but a career goal in Syracuse was a different story, no matter how hard I tried. One professor even said I should write a book about my life here and sell it instead!

Two months ago, through a friend of my husband, I got to meet Max. We had quite a long talk/ interview. I never worked in a restaurant. i can cook and clean ... my mom had a homemade bakery at one point, I told Max. I think he was unsure of me since he talked to me about my decision with this place quite a lot on the beginning. Maybe he still is ... oh well. I call him and his wife "R" (in Thai this means uncle/aunt), not because he told me so but simply because I feel so. As Mom often complains, no one can tell me to do anything!) And I think that's why I now feel like this is my family restaurant that i want to cherish. I love being active, and I don't mind hard work. I'm now, but I believe I can be a good Operations Manager. I'd love to learn more, hear your advice and listen to people's opinions. I want to be better (the best in a little while - hah!), that's my goal as of right now. Looking forward to spending time with you!

With hope,

Ploy

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