Taste this!

Taste this!

CorrespondentSeptember 9, 2005 

In this era of unprecedented ethnic variety and superstar chefs vying for our attention with ever more fanciful creations, it isn't boredom that is our palate's greatest nemesis. It's overstimulation.

After working our way through enough menus peppered with descriptions such as "pan-seared grouper with grilled calamari, mashed Yukon gold potatoes, snow peas, tomato compote and bouillabaisse," even the most adventurous palate recoils from the constant chatter of novelty and yearns for the soothing whisper of simplicity.

On rare occasion, though, we discover a dish that gives us both -- novelty and simplicity -- in sublime union. These are the truly inspired dishes, the ones we will return to time and again. The tempura French green beans served as an appetizer at Porter's City Tavern are just such a dish.

Chef Jeremy Sabo doesn't claim to have invented the concept of tempura-battered vegetables. The Japanese beat him to the punch on that one by several hundred years.

But the Japanese never imagined serving tempura the way they do at Porter's, accompanied by a mild Cajun mayonnaise whose subtle peppery notes bring out a side of the beans never revealed by the salty sweetness of the traditional tempura dipping sauce.

The execution lives up to the concept, too, the beans crisp-tender under a crust so delicate it's translucent. And the presentation, in a parchment-lined galvanized metal pail, is evocative of a French bistro.

The dish is a culinary hat trick, you might say, bringing together elements of cuisines from three continents. That it does so with such elegant simplicity makes it a winner in my book.

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