By Brandon Hernández
Photos by Jeff "Turbo" Corrigan
While AVENUE 5 Restaurant and Bar is well known for its haute cuisine and comfort food, what the average diner nibbling on truffle fries may not see is the Frankensteinian process of mad mixologist, Mike Yen.
Behind the bar of this Bankers Hill eatery, Yen is just as likely to brandish liquid nitrogen as he is a martini shaker, creating alcohol-infused goodies and molecular cocktails that are more often gobbled than gulped.
Yen's take on the Bloody Mary looks just like a cherry tomato, utilizing a culinary process known as "spherification" to chemically solidify the vodka-based drink.
"Suspended in the sphere is a segment of shrimp," Yen says. "What looks like leaves on top is actually a celery-lime gelée that I make by pouring a combination of celery juice, lime juice and salt in a silicone mold and setting it with gelatin."
His Liquid Nitrogen Lychee Martini is a deep-freeze delight, comprising pureed lychee, Soho lychee liqueur, vodka, lemon juice and Cointreau orange liqueur. Yen pours the mixture into a bowl of liquid nitrogen that's -320 degrees Fahrenheit. The result, once scooped into a dish, has the taste and texture of a silky sorbet.
Yen's even got dessert covered, offering an inspired take on the childhood campfire classic, S'mores. His adults-only version features homemade graham crackers infused with honey and Jack Daniels, a Godiva chocolate liqueur square and a marshmallow sphere.
"For the chocolate portion, I make silicon molds of actual squares broken off of a chocolate bar, then set the liqueur with gelatin in the molds," he says. "The marshmallow sphere is made from Stoli Vanil vodka and marshmallows. I suspend a chocolate chip in the sphere, then cut out a slice and brûlée (caramelize) it to create the charred flavor we associate with S'mores."
In August, look for Yen on the Cooking Channel, where he'll be demonstrating the method behind this sweet treats. Or, drop in AVENUE 5 Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays for an attitude-adjusting bite when Yen is on the job. For a sample, simply inquire-his molecular masterpieces are an amuse bouche for regulars, returning guests and those in the know.
2760 5th Avenue, Bankers Hill