Origin Stories:The Once and Future Sorbet

Paul Liebrandt Revamps His Legendary Apple-Wasabi Palate Cleanser

“Almost everybody who ate that little morsel thought it was the best thing they ever tasted.”

–  Former New York Times restaurant critic William Grimes, in the documentary A Matter of Taste: Paul Liebrandt

New Take on a Classic: Apple-Wasabi 2012

Anybody who’s followed Paul Liebrandt from his earliest days in New York will be familiar with the dish to which William Grimes refers in the above-quoted snippet from the recent HBO documentary.

During his brief tenure at Atlas restaurant, on Manhattan’s Central Park South, from late-summer 2000 until fall 2001, Paul introduced what might be the only “signature” palate cleanser in the annals of modern cuisine: his Apple-Wasabi Sorbet.

The genesis of the sorbet is described in detail in the book Paul and I are writing. (You can read a little about it at the top of this site’s book page.) Hailing as he did from the three-star dining temples of Europe, Paul found the notion of including a palate-cleansing sorbet on the menu appealing, but wanted to take it to the next level. For the sample chapter that was included in our book proposal, we penned a description of its genesis, in Paul’s voice, of course:

“It was a telling exercise in developing a dish instinctually that began with a combination that intrigued me: crisp, tart green apple and icy, hot wasabi. It was a satisfying sorbet, but I wanted it to have more of a presence in the meal, to linger on the palate. So I tuned to Moulin de Peneton olive oil from Provence (it actually has a slight hint of banana, what I think of as a greenness), and finished it off with a grain of Maldon sea salt, perched atop the sorbet like an ice flake. By the time the dish debuted on the menu, I had the idea of waiters finishing it at the table with a drizzle of the oil.”

For all of the attention it received at Atlas, once he left that restaurant, Paul never served the sorbet again. Not at Papillon, which made perfect sense. Not at Gilt, where it would have been right at home. And not at Corton. Until now…. 

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