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Chef Michael Schlow got his first taste of doing a lot with a little when he was on Top Chef Masters, cooking with only a microwave, toaster oven, and hot plate for a dorm room challenge. The kitchen at Conosci, the posh restaurant next to Alta Strada accessed through a velvet-curtained tunnel, doesn’t have much more in terms of cooking equipment. The restaurant was originally a crudo bar with limited cooked dishes, but Schlow and team are retooling the concept to include an expanded menu. Three dishes demonstrate how creative he can get with just a toaster oven, induction burner, and rice cooker.
Giant sweet shrimp carpaccio with sea salt, basil, and lardo toast ($18):
Schlow uses a toaster oven to crisp up crostini, laying a thin slice of lardo on the bread to melt at the last minute before topping it with a raw sweet shrimp that’s marinated for eight minutes in yuzu and togarashi. Topping the simplistic dish is sea salt, olive oil, and micro basil.
Mushrooms with green onion compote and hazelnut frico chips ($13):
Using an induction burner, Schlow sears off a mix of four to six varieties of mushrooms. Next, he hits them with a mushroom “juice” and a ginger scallion compote, both of which he warms in the toaster oven. While Schlow admits he bakes the Parmesan-hazelnut frico chips next door at Alta Strada, he only does so because of the volume required. A toaster oven would otherwise suffice.
Risotto with local crab, uni, green onions, and chiles ($18):
Schlow uses an induction burner to prepare the risotto, which is flavored primarily with shellfish stock, miso paste, light soy sauce, and chiles. Maryland lump crab and an oversized tongue of Santa Barbara sea urchin make the dish decadent.
Conosci, 465 K St. NW; (202) 629-4662; conoscidc.com
Photos by Laura Hayes