It was Cobaya at first bite....
I enjoyed Chef Hales pork buns so much during my first visit that I sent him a DM via twitter that night to see if he would be interested in participating in a Cobaya dinner. I knew after my first visit that his creative and flavorful food would be perfect for our concept. I also thought that Sakaya would be perfect for our first late night venture.
Chef Hales thanked me for thinking of him and said he would love to participate. I ran the late night Sakaya-Cobaya idea by my co-conspirators and they thought it was a great idea too. Frodnesor took the ball and ran with it, scoring another impressive touchdown.
In the interim, Chef Hales launched Dim Ssam Sundays at the restaurant. After posting the first menu, I sent him a brief message jokingly advising him to save some for Cobaya!!! He assured me that he had more tricks up his sleeve.
I may have been joking but he wasn't kidding...
Cobaya in the Night @ Sakaya sold out within an hour of the initial email which simply stated
"Cobaya on 4/24 at midnight $55.00"
ChowP is still amazed that I'm not the only insane food lover out there.. Hey, I could be looking at buns over at Tootsie's at midnight, right? Just sayin...
Anyway, an adventurous group of 40 met at Sakaya Kitchen at midnight on April 24(ok it was technically the 25th) There were many new faces in the crowd and I unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to meet everyone. Once we were all seated, the dishes started to fly out of the kitchen.
First up were two dishes from his daily menu, Papa's Shrimp & Pork Filipino Egg Rolls and his famous Pork Buns. Chef Hales advised us that Papa was actually his Filipino grandmother and this was her recipe. Papa's egg rolls were served with Fuji vinegar but I didn't have a chance to open the container thanks to the tasty combination of the pork and shrimp filling.
You can usually find Chef Hales' pork buns on the daily menu and they are a favorite of mine. His version features house cured & roasted Boston butt with house pickles, ssamjang sweet chili and a great steamed bun. The pork was tender and tasty, the sauce had a nice flavorful kick to it and the pickles and bun were a perfect compliment. I love these buns!!
Next up were some of his new tricks for Cobaya. He started with Galrlic'd Laughing Bird Shrimp served with chive flower soba noodles. The sweet shrimp and garlic noodles were a nice change of pace. Not my favorite dish of the night but it was enjoyable.
The shrimp was followed by a Bucket of Korean Sweetbreads & Spicy Frog Legs. I loved everything about this dish. It was creative, featured items you don't see often on menus in the area and was packed with flavor. The sweetbreads were seasoned and fried perfectly without sacrificing any of the soft and delicious sweetbreads inside. The frog legs were meaty and seasoned with a nice spicy punch.
It was getting late and I noticed a couple of yawns in the crowd but this was no time to sleep, pork belly was on the horizon... but first was "Chim Quay" quail with pig skin "tsitsaron" and Chinese broccoli. This dish was very enjoyable. The roasted quail was moist and flavored with a nice soy marinade. I also enjoyed the contrasting bitterness of the broccoli. I must admit that it was very difficult to cut Chinese broccoli at 1:55 in the morning with chopsticks....
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of pork belly and I was very excited when I saw it on the menu. Chef Hales' Cobaya pork belly was served with a Vietnamese caramel sauce, ("Nuoc Mau") roasted baby carrots, crispy bone marrow and coconut rice. This was awesome. I'm not a huge fan of sweet food but I really enjoyed the coconut rice. I thought it paired perfectly with the pork belly and crispy bone marrow. The only con was that I only received one small burnt carrot..
I'm not a dessert fan and rarely order it but Chef Hales served my kind of dessert, a blue point oyster pajeon. This was a perfect ending to a great meal. Since Chow P was a sport and stayed home with the chowbabes, I reluctantly gave her Wife Hales' Chocolate Chocolate Cookie bag. Not sure that was a great move because she quickly realized what she missed out on....
Chef Hales and crew did a tremendous job of presenting creative and great tasting treats at a late hour. It was a great group and a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing everyone at future Cobaya's. If you haven't been to one yet I would encourage you to join our google group (Cobaya) and watch your inbox for our next invite. These are selling out fast and the next one should be awesome.
Buena Vista Avenue between 34th & 36th Streets
Miami, FL 33127