Caviar has long been considered one of the chef’s most luxe party tricks—and rightly so. It’s been lauded by royalty for centuries, comes with an impressive price tag, and is judged on an array of characteristics, from texture and color to age and flavor. As such, it’s generally been reserved for the special occasions of the world—Michelin-starred dining, black tie outings, weddings of the century, and (of course) New Year’s. Until recently.
Lately, those high-brow kitchen credentials aren’t stopping chefs from implementing the upscale ingredient into everyday dishes, from cacio e pepe (Portsmith, Chicago), to French fries (The Guild Club, Costa Mesa).
“I think chefs are more apt to use caviar more freely now because gastronomy has changed, overall—they’re treating it as an ingredient and not as a status symbol, so they don’t feel that they’ll be judged as stuffy or pretentious,” he says. “That garage band, irreverent mindset that many chefs have adapted has allowed us to put a bowl of potato chips, a tin of caviar, and some crème fraîche on a table, and to serve it with a Miller High Life—and that’s a good thing.”
From pierogies to tortillas, here are eight ways these exclusive eggs are popping up on plates nationwide—just in time to crack open the NYE Champagne and Champagne of Beers alike.
Private Batch Caviar at Saison, San Francisco
A commitment to high quality ingredients and a prowess for the art of fire cooking serve as the MO at this SOMA restaurant, helmed by chef Joshua Skenes. The two practices come together seamlessly in the private batch caviar course, a portion of the restaurant’s own label of roe that is wrapped and tied in seaweed, warmed by the fire, and served tableside to guests. If it’s serious eggs you’re after, these are it: The restaurant worked for five years with a single caviar producer to search out the perfect variation, which they then cure with their own smoked salt. The dish has won raves from his peers, with Top Chef winner Mei Lin naming one of the best dishes she ate all year. And Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold exclaiming, “It’s the single best caviar dish I’ve had, ever.”
The Oyster Pie at Bellemore, Chicago
If The Great Gatsby and A Midsummer Night’s Dream were to collide in some kind of urban foraging dream, the results would resemble Karen Herold’s interior handiwork of this West Loop newcomer—where the cuisine is no less whimsy-packed. Take, for example, the Hawaiian rolls, which are accompanied by ham cultured butter, smoked sesame seeds, and pumpkin stewed in the reduced grape must, saba, or the venison tartare that’s met with grilled trumpet mushrooms and Tokyo turnips. And then, there’s the oyster pie, a tiny but memorable pastry with layers of oyster custard, osetra caviar, crème fraîche, and dill. Served with a pour of the Moet & Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage Champagne, it’s equal parts creamy, bright, and decadent.
Caviar Bumps at Born & Raised, San Diego
This recently opened steakhouse may be working with a Michelin-starred chef and a $6.5 million budget, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have a little fun. Case in point with the “caviar bumps,” an off-menu order of the restaurant’s private-label California White Sturgeon Caviar that was carefully sourced with The Caviar Company. Upon request, a half ounce is spooned onto the hands of diners—for free. Sure, slurping caviar off the back of your hand may seem déclassé, but it has its merits: Without rivaling any other ingredients, the flavor of the eggs shines brighter than ever.
Poppy’s Caviar at Henrietta Red, Nashville
Family plays a big role at this beautiful Germantown eatery, where Nashville native and chef Julia Sullivan runs the show. In addition to being named for Sullivan’s grandparents, the restaurant features eats inspired by kin—including the Poppy’s Caviar, an elevated twist on a no-frills dish her dad made growing up. With Tennessee Paddlefish Caviar perched atop sour cream and green onion vinaigrette, then served alongside housemade crackers, consider it the appetizer for everything and everyone, all the time.
Potato Pierogies at Regards to Edith, Chicago
This recently opened restaurant draws inspiration from the immigrant communities of Chicago’s Maxwell Street neighborhood, including the prominent Polish population. Compelled to put a contemporary twist on a Polish favorite, chef Eric Michael tops potato pierogis with salmon roe, grated eggs, pickled red onions, and smoked crème fraîche. Find it on the “Good China” portion of the menu, nestled between upscale apps of pork cheek pot roast and matzo ball soup with foie gras schmaltz.
The Bagels & Lox Cone at Bazaar Meat by José Andrés, Las Vegas
One way to ready yourself for the meat-centric courses to come at this Vegas restaurant is with something a bit more bite-sized. After baking off crispy, thin crepe cones, chef José Andrés fills them with dill and lemon cream cheese and tops them with marinated salmon roe, black sesame seeds, and dill. The end results? A much more finessed version of the bagel and lox we know and love.
Late Night Caviar Bites at Waypoint, Cambridge
Coastal fare meets modern techniques at this Cambridge-situated restaurant, where a menu from chef Michael Scelfo features everything from uni bucatini to crab French fries. It was a locally beloved dessert—and late nights—that served as inspiration for this caviar fix. “It’s a spin on a Boston cream doughnut, but with salty fish eggs,” he says. “The flavors are all classic to caviar service, but are served in a fun, one-bite way, suiting our late-night culture and making premium caviar accessible for a variety of guests.”
The Caviar Tortilla at One Fifth, Houston
Timing is everything for this Houston restaurant—it features an entirely new concept every year, with the debut of One Fifth Romance Languages—the foods of Italy, Spain and France—debuting this September. With Spanish cuisine top of mind for chef Chris Shepherd, along came a gussied up Spanish tortilla. Because according to him, “what’s better than eggs on eggs?” After cooking up an omelet of potatoes, eggs, and onions, he tops it all off with piquillo peppers, marcona almond relish, and a healthy dollop of Hackleback caviar.