The San Francisco dining scene, ever dynamic, has a new raft of restaurants to savour. One of the edgiest, State Bird Provisions, has become a darling of both foodies and critics. In addition to a palate-challenging menu bursting with fresh, focused flavours, it has taken to sending interesting small dishes around the restaurant on dim sum trolleys. The concept has proven so popular that it is hard to get reservations, although the restaurant does not book the counter seats, which can be had on a first-come, first-served basis.
This sensual dish of rare tuna mixed with avocado and a scented dressing topped with nori chips is a highlight of State Bird’s menu. The chips are better than any potato chips you will ever have. Black garlic is fermented garlic that can be found in Asian grocery stores, particularly Korean ones. (Roasted garlic is the best substitute.) The tuna is cooked slowly in oil as if making a confit.
500 grams (1 pound) albacore tuna loin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika
Enough olive oil to cover tuna while poaching (about 2 cups)
Black garlic aioli
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grape-seed or olive oil
1 clove black or roasted garlic
1 teaspoon togarashi or chili flakes
1 small clove garlic, grated on a microplane
2 tablespoons tamari or light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 nori sheet, cut into triangles
Olive oil left over from poaching tuna
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon white or light soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 avocado, peeled and cut in chunks
To prepare the tuna, salt it on both sides, then rub with paprika. Heat oil in a small skillet on low heat. The oil is ready when a cube of bread tossed in bubbles very gently. Immerse tuna and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until tuna is cooked on the outside but still rare in the centre. Remove to a strainer, then to a plate. Let cool completely.
For the aioli, whisk egg yolk and slowly add oil to emulsify. Add remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For the nori chips, heat oil in a pot or high-sided skillet big enough to hold the tuna in one layer to 350 F (180 C) or until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds. Meanwhile, dissolve cornstarch in water. Dip a nori triangle into mixture. Immediately fry in oil until crisp (about 30 seconds). Drain on metal rack and season with salt immediately. Cool.
For the salad, whisk together lime juice, soy and fish sauce. Toss with avocado chunks in a bowl.
Finally, cut tuna into chunks, then toss with avocado and drizzle with aioli. Transfer to four plates, top each serving with chips and garnish with a pinch of sweet paprika.