A giant metal pot is bubbling on the stove in the kitchen at Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant. Nearly the size of an oil drum, chef Brian Tsao stirs the steaming broth, releasing the lovely aroma of duck ramen.
“The ramen has been cooking at least four days,” chef Brian Szostak explains. “You’ve got to layer those flavors to get that depth, so it’s not as much a stock or a broth, but almost like a meat milk. It’s almost creamy.”
The “Two Brians”, as many people call them, are Brian Szostak, executive chef of Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant and Brian Tsao, former head chef of Mira Sushi and Izakaya restaurant in Manhattan. The two friends, who’ve worked together in the past, recently collaborated on a special Asian-inspired tasting dinner.
“I left the restaurant world to pursue consulting and catering,” Mr. Tsao explained. “Brian called me and said, ‘Let’s do something fun.’ We have such good chemistry that whenever we work together, it’s like getting a band back together and jamming out again.
Mr. Tsao also has the distinction of having beaten celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” in a taco making competition. While he doesn’t miss the daily grind of cooking, the opportunity to cook one night alongside an old friend was a welcome invitation.
“This tasting night is a fun night to get together with my buddy,” Mr. Szostak said. “I helped Brian consult at his restaurant and helped him do a few events and we had a great time together.”
The two chefs collaborated on the five-course menu, incorporating items from the regular menu, along with some new ones.
“It’s comfort food with an Asian twist,” Mr. Szostak explained. “Dinner includes a vegetable, fish, a protein, and ramen. The dessert I give all credit to Licia Kassim, who created the sesame profiterole, that’s to die for.”
Ms. Kassim is the pastry chef for the restaurant and the Loaves & Fishes Cookshop next door.
“It has sesame seeds and also a little tahini,” Ms. Kassim explained. “The toasted coconut is more of a Thai influence, but I think it will work well together.”
On the night of the dinner, the kitchen at Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant is like a college reunion. The two Brians are regaling the kitchen staff with stories and anecdotes, as they prepare each course.
In the dining room, 50 people have come to taste the special menu and anticipation is high.
The first course is a beet salad, served three ways: raw, roasted and pickled, in a mild sake yogurt dressing. It is clean, crisp and refreshing.
The next course is striped bass, with a ginger confit, sweet soy, and herbs. The fish has such a creamy texture, it literally melts in your mouth.
The buffalo ribeye served with a cherry blossom demi-glace and shiitake mushrooms is wonderfully tender and meaty. The side dish of Okinawan sweet potato puree is an absolute revelation. Purple in color and sweet in flavor, they nearly upstage the meat.
Next is the duck ramen, served with Peking Duck style duck leg, noodles, bok choy and a soft egg on top. The duck broth is rich and tangy. Diners eagerly slurp up each drop of goodness.
Dessert is the sesame profiterole. Served with coconut kaffir gelato, in a miso butterscotch sauce and topped with salted cashew brittle, it is absolutely sublime.
After dinner, the two Brians take a well-deserved bow in the dining room and answer diners’ questions.
Diner Jeff Hewson, from West Boylston, Massachusetts, enthusiastically praised the meal.
“It was a great tour around the culinary world in one night,” he said.
Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant owner Sybille Van Kempen was also very happy with the evening.
“I knew we’d have the clientele to appreciate a special evening like this,” she said. “The excitement has been fantastic. It brings people into the restaurant and shows that we’re progressive about our food and we love the hospitality of sharing.”