From Truffles To Yuzu Koshō: Michael White On Using Ingredients Outside Of Italian Cuisine - Exclusive

The culinary world knows chef Michael White for his distinctive pasta dishes and ingredient-focused culinary style. White was the mastermind behind a number of Italian fine-dining restaurants in Manhattan, earning a number of Michelin stars along the way (via Esquire).

The pandemic changed things for White, though — as it did for many chefs and restaurateurs. As Grub Street notes, White parted ways with the restaurant group behind his NYC restaurants and left the city for Miami, where he opened the Lido Restaurant at the Four Seasons. But White is back in New York, where, as Esquire notes, he is at the helm of the rebooted Lambs Club. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, White shared how his approach to this new project will be slightly different.

In a departure for the chef, the menu he introduced at the Lambs Club features only two pasta dishes. There is an orecchiette with blue crab, Calabrian chili, and bottarga and a spaghetti dish with marinated eggplant, hand-pulled stracciatella, Calabrian chili, and basil. Asked if he planned on building that out, he told us, "Yeah. I mean, obviously when truffles come into season ... Although, it's not going to be a great truffle season this year. It's so damn hot in Europe right now, but let's hope so. At any rate, we'll definitely do a risotto, a couple pastas, but specials are fun too, using products of the moment. But everything will always be handmade."

While truffles may be elusive this year, White has turned his culinary eye to some ingredients not often associated with Italian cuisine.

Is the Prince of Pasta turning into the King of Koshō?

The Lambs Club is an American Contemporary restaurant that features a range of styles and dishes that span the globe. This has given Michael White the opportunity to use ingredients he rarely worked with previously in his Italian restaurants, something the chef told Tasting Table he is definitely enjoying. "Making a crudo and using maybe a little bit of yuzu koshō, something like that. It's a lot of fun," he told us. "Obviously, you don't use that kind of stuff in Italian cooking."

The crudo currently on the Lamb's Club's summer menu is a Montauk fluke with kumquats and basil, with a tingle of yuzu koshō energizing the entire dish. Yuzu koshō is a Japanese chili citrus paste that packs a punch of all five taste sensations in small quantities. The sweetness comes from the zest and juice from yuzu, sour comes from the pickled yuzu rinds, fermentation adds bitterness and umami, and salt obviously offers the condiment's tanginess. Add a kick of heat from fresh chilis, and it's a true tour de force for your taste buds.

We look forward to seeing what else Michael White has up his sleeve for next season's menu.

The Lambs Club, featuring a new menu by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael White, is now open in New York's Theater District for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.