Ever heard of a restaurant that changes its concept every month and even has an end date? John Fraser, who owns the Michelin-star Dovetail restaurant in New York, has opened a creative restaurant in New York City, USA that will last only nine months. Since starting the restaurant, What Happens When, in January, Fraser and his partners have created a new art-inspired menu and ambience each month. They drew inspiration from American jazz and the flavours of New Orleans. The 35-year-old California native spoke about his new cooking outlet.
Q: Is What Happens When a pop-up restaurant?
A: No, I would discourage using that word, and I’ve done a few pop-up restaurants. It denotes a place that’s not their own and cooks for a limited time like a week, and with a borrowed staff and borrowed ideas. This is really a restaurant. It just happens to have an end date.
A: We are going with the concept that every month it will change. Every month, we are going to change the design and the food and the composition of the music. It’s really more like a sort of circus than a restaurant."
Q: This is something you always wanted to do?
A: As a creative person, I found myself at Dovetail working every single day and within the brand of Dovetail, there is only so much creativity we can express. So I wanted to open a different outlet for myself. And, this way it also allows me to selfishly collaborate with other creative people and grow personally.
Q: Compare Dovetail and What Happens When?
A: When you put them side by side, they are equally refined. They are equally well thought out. But one of them is riskier. There is a certain bucket list feeling and just have a good time with it, as opposed to Dovetail where we take a lot of time and care.
Q: Would you consider opening What Happens When at another location once its nine-month run is over?
A: I don’t know. It’s really kind of fun to not have to think about what’s next. The only thing we have to think about is next month. That’s one of the things that make this exciting. You can just focus in on the moment.
Spinach and artichoke dip
Ingredients to prepare artichokes for the dip:
4 large globe artichokes
2 tb canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, cut into large dices
1 head garlic, split in half and crushed
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups white wine
Juice of 6 lemons
Method: In a pot, heat oil. Add the onion and sprinkle salt, stir until lightly caramelised. Add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook for 30 sec and add white wine. Cook the white wine until reduced to 1/4 cup and add 8 cups water, juice of 1 lemon and season with salt and simmer. Prepare a water bath of the remaining juice of 5 lemons and 8 cups water to keep the artichokes from discolouring. Remove the outer leaves of the artichoke and discard until you reach light yellow coloured leaves inside. Cut off the bottom of the stem and the top 3/4 of the artichoke leaves. Using a paring knife, trim down around the outside of the artichoke until all the tough green outside is removed and does not appear fibrous. Dip the artichoke in lemon water as you go. Using a spoon, scoop down into the center of the choke and scrap out the fuzzy purple center of the choke. Keep the cleaned artichoke submerged in the lemon water until you finish cleaning the remaining chokes. When all are cleaned, place them in a pot and strain the cooking liquid over them, add any extra water to keep them submerged. Turn the stove to medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. Turn off the heat and let cool in the liquid.
Ingredients for the dip:
6 cooked artichokes
85 gm basil
450 gm washed spinach
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 cup canola oil
3 dashes tabasco sauce
Method: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 3 tbs of salt. Prepare a bath of 8 cups of water and 3 cups of ice to shock and cool the spinach. Add the basil to the pot and stir, cook for 1-1/2 min and add the spinach and stir. Cook for 20 sec and then place in the ice water. When the spinach and basil is cool, remove from the ice water to a colander and press out the extra water with your hand. Chop the spinach and put in mixing bowl. Cut 4 artichokes into 1/4 inch size dice and also place in the bowl. In a blender add the remaining 2 artichokes, egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the artichoke cooking liquid. Turn on the blender medium and drizzle in the olive oil and canola oil to form an emulsion, season with salt. Add this to the spinach and chopped artichokes. Season with more salt and the tabasco as necessary.
Recipe by chef John Fraser