The latest underground and experimental Cobaya Dinner featured Chef Nina "gnocchi queen" Compton, chef de cuisine at Scott Conant's popular Scarpetta in the Fontainebleau hotel on Miami Beach.
Chef Nina can currently be seen showcasing her culinary skills on this season's Top Chef New
Orleans. Those watching know that she has been dominating challenges with almost every dish being well received by the Judges. She has moved on to the great eight and looks primed for a run to the finals. If you haven't been watching now is the time to catch up. You can root her on every Wednesday night at 10 on Bravo.
A couple of weeks prior to our dinner, I joked with Nina that we were going to do a Cobaya quick fire challenge dinner and just toss ingredients at her once the guests were seated. I suspect if pressed she would have done it and crushed it. But all kidding aside, she actually "quick fired" herself by creating the menu that morning. Impressive.
Nina is my style of chef. She has huge range, respects ingredients, balances flavors and cooks with finesse. Those skills blended perfectly together for our Cobaya dinner and resulted in diverse dishes that were great and an excellent overall meal from start to finish.
That makes sense given her culinary background. Nina hails from St. Lucia and after graduating from the CIA she trained in Caribbean, French and Italian kitchens. Her resume includes stints under Daniel Boloud, Alex Lee, Norman Van Aken, Philippe Ruiz and Michael Pirolo.
I've unfortunately neglected Scarpetta over the past few years for various reasons unrelated to the food. I won't make that mistake again and you should't either.
Top Chef New Orleans champion? I hope so. Regardless, she's a winner and a Chowfather/Cobaya Champion for sure.
The Scarpetta patio provided a perfect setting for 40 guinea pigs.
Discreetly nestled within the basket of bread were splendid slices of stromboli.
Nina's amuse-bouche set the tone for the evening. Her scallop crudo was a clean and tasty bite of very nice scallop paired with fennel, orange and pine nuts.
Out next was a terrific trio of sophisticated salumi comprised of whipped morcilla, testa and fegato. I've been craving more of each one of these bites all week.
Nina really showcased her skills with a superb sweetbread dish that included sunchokes, brussels sprouts and black trumpet mushrooms. The sweetbreads were cooked right and the supporting ingredients really elevated the dish. I suspect that you win Top Chef with a dish like this.
Pasta of the sea!! The gnocchi pasta queen delivered a dynamite pasta course that was perfect in every way. Nina served a great gemelli pasta that was cooked perfectly and paired with Key West pink shrimp and ricci di mare. Yes, pasta and uni are two of my favorite things.
How do you follow perfect pasta? with a lardo wrapped monkfish of course. Here, Nina served a meaty and tasty monkfish that was wrapped in lardo and paired with a romesco and prosciutto jus. My only slight gripe of the night was the saltiness of a couple of the bites of this dish.
The last savory dish of the night highlighted a dynamite duo of Pork. Here, Nina wowed us with an incredible confit jowl along with a pancetta spiced loin. Both sat on a delicious butternut squash.
The Confit Pork Jowl up close. Off the charts good.
Dessert was a very nice yogurt mouse with lemon, apple and celery. A nice ending to an enjoyable night.
Scarpetta opens daily for dinner at 6 p.m. Fontainebleau Miami Beach is located at 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.