You could just sit there and admire the red curry duck.
The sauce carries an adobe tinge, like deep sunset reflecting off a mesa. There is a warmth cast by the ruddy light – earthy, with rising waves of heat that quiver against the meat. A smoky cure floats over slices of duck breast, which carries the curry with it, leaving you with a deep, nutty savor.
Drops of pineapple tempered by the grill find herbal sweetness in the sauce. Touched to pickled grapes, the curry flares, sending arrows like cracked black pepper soaring.
And this from a dish served not at a white-tablecloth restaurant, but at a brewpub.
“Our beer program is very unique,” explains Chef Stephen Paulson. “I really wanted to have some elevated dishes.”
Yes, the beer. Mixed fermentation and barrel aging yields acetic, intricate brews. But the food can be mesmerizing.
At Yeast of Eden, a new feature in Carmel Plaza, they filet whole fish tableside. And their version of simple bistro steak frites involves Wagyu beef. On the other hand, the kitchen also prepares street tacos and paté chaud, a Vietnamese-style meat pie measuring a mellow sesame bun against sausage with a lazy heat and hoarse salt that craves a touch of the brazen sauce. In combination, the bite develops fruity sweetness and a screech of vinegar that somehow brings everything into a clever balance.
There are welcome surprises throughout the menu. Paulson sears the center cut New York strip he uses for the steak frites in duck fat. The leaner cut may not show off Wagyu’s wares as well as others, but the result is still plush. And the meat has a mineral undertone that suggests grass-fed.
And there’s something else. He dusts the plate with scallion ash. That’s right – carbon flecks that are scant on their own, but when logged in dripping juices from the Wagyu take on an earthiness that lends depth to the rich, rustic crust on the meat.
“I like to not throw anything away,” Paulson says, explaining that he uses bruised scallions – the stuff he won’t plate for show – dehydrates them over low heat for a day and then cranks the oven. Meat trimmed from the steak makes its way into the beef tartare, which is like draping your palate in Wagyu cashmere.
To start the red curry duck (a dinner menu item), the chef rubs it with miso and orange zest before secluding it for 20 days to develop flavor. The curry itself is adjusted from an old Thai recipe involving kaffir lime leaves, chilies, cilantro – “There’s like 18 ingredients,” he observes.
For a ramekin of jasmine rice that rides alongside the curry duck, Paulson and his team oven-toast the grains and dress them in lemongrass, ginger, garlic and more, as well as slivers of crispy shallot (“which is quite a process, as well,” Paulson points out).
That’s a lot of work. But it makes Yeast of Eden a destination for food, as well as sour beer.
YEAST OF EDEN Mission between Ocean and Seventh (Carmel Plaza), Carmel. 11:30am-11pm daily. 293-8621, yoebeer.com