I’m chef Frank Baudelaire of the three Michelin star restaurant Ambiance, and today I’m going to tell you a little about us, and also guide you through the process of making our world-famous dish, Toad Curry.
We started Ambiance in a little corner of Marseilles three years ago to give the locals an experience like none other. We wanted to provide them with exotic food that finds its roots in thought-provoking philosophy. We desired to tantalize all their senses. We also wanted to create a raw, gritty atmosphere for our patrons to counterbalance the ‘food and thought experience,’ by infusing it with emotion.
The building that houses us is purposefully derelict. You’ll find cable wires sticking out, charred cushions and damp wallpaper. Our patrons sit on tree stumps. We do not give them forks and spoons to eat. There is something feral about eating with your hands. It takes us back to our ancestors who hunted animals and tore the meat out of their flesh with their fingers. Our oppressive aura makes our patrons reconnect with their forefathers. You’ll find some of our clients howling for food. It’s the atmosphere. It makes them dig into collective consciousness and regress to a time when shrieks and monosyllabic yells were the only ways human beings communicated.
Moving on, one of our mottoes here is: “Food should make you think in the abstract. It should create in the mind’s eye surreal images and should provoke spontaneous change that leads to multiple parallel trains of thought that run with high velocity like the prose of Jack Kerouac. Food should make you lust for the avant-garde with an incomparable intensity.” And to put this to practice, we play avant-garde pieces by bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and The Aristocrats in the background while our clients dig in. I won’t go into details, but there was a patron of ours named Todd Morrison who went on to paint abstract expressionist pieces the day after he ate here. He’d never touched a paintbrush in his life before. Google him.
Finally, I want to talk about Toad curry. Now our Toad curry is unlike anything you’ve ever eaten. We borrow from molecular gastronomy, Indian and Afghan cuisine to create it. Sometimes our patrons have peak experiences and visions after eating it. It’s an otherworldly experience.
We hunt for Toads in the wilderness and bring them back alive. We then place them while they’re still kicking in a pot of water. We slowly heat the water, and gradually increase the temperature. The Toad doesn’t feel the increase in temperature and gets accustomed to it, before suddenly dying. We do this because it softens Toad meat. It gives it a texture, unlike any other. We then drop the Toad into liquid nitrogen which gives the dish its crunchiness. Finally, we smash the Toad with a hammer on a cooking board until it looks like an abstract painting.
We take this painting and boil it, braise it, bone it, butterfly it, and blend it, before coddling it, curing it, dressing it and deep frying it. Finally, we deglaze it, grind it and infuse it with a secret sauce, and there you have it, Toad Curry.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)