For about a month, I was thinking about getting a part time job cooking at night. I have learned a lot at Etno, but there is a finite amount that can be done at our humble, gourmet sandwich and burger shop. So while I had no intentions of leaving my job, I wanted to work in another kitchen to hone my skills, learn new techniques, and be exposed to a different menu.
Currently, I work with a lot of meat: pounding jerky thin, cleaning chicken, making cevapcici (sausage) and chicken gyro meat from scratch, portioning burger meat. I have my hands on countless pounds of meat all day, (insert rude joke here), so when a line cook position at Mana Food Bar opened up, I became very interested after reading their reviews. Mana is a small plate vegetarian restaurant, conveniently located less than a half mile from my apartment. So, before pursuing the job, my vegetarian-almost-vegan girlfriend and I dined in at the bar on a very busy Friday night.
We began with a couple glasses of wine and a cold item sampler featuring three items: avocado, arugula, and tomato w/pickled red onion and roasted garlic chili dressing, panzanella bread salad w/ciabatta bread, shallots, tomato, cucumber, basil, and red wine garlic vinaigrette, and, finally, homemade pickles w/radish, red onion, and green beens. After the cold trio, we were feeling a bit underwhelmed. The salads were underdressed and not seasoned properly, the dressings were pretty boring, and the ingredients all seemed very limp, the basil and tomatoes in particular. I really like pickles and I found the pickled radish and green beans to be really bad. In particular, the beans tasted like they were canned. We ordered four hot dishes all in their smaller size: bi bim bop w/hot pepper miso, vegetables, brown rice, and a sunny side up egg, bulgogi w/seared tofu and soy shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash filled ravioli w/garlic, arugula, walnuts, and asiago cheese, and one of their much hyped Mana sliders, a mini veggie burger w/brown rice and mushrooms and spicy mayo. The hot food was much improved, though we were completely pleased with our food. The bi bim bop served it’s purpose well, the runny egg acted as the sauce and the dish had a nice pop to it. The ravioli had a nice taste, but the filling was very dense and barely even lukewarm, I also thought the dish could have used more seasoning, just some simple salt and pepper, maybe toast the walnuts as well. The tofu and mushrooms were marinated in soy sauce and I’m guessing balsamic vinegar as well and that was pretty much all you could taste, the tofu did have a nice sear to it. The Mana slider was excellent and the inspiration for this post, but I’ll get to that in a bit. They have a happy hour deal w/two sliders and a beer for $7, definitely something I’m going to check out from time to time. All in all, the food was okay at best, with a couple of high points being the bi bim bop and the Mana slider, but an overall lack of proper seasoning and execution let out some of the hot air during this visit.
So after eating there, my girlfriend told me my food was better already and it wasn’t even close. Pretty much diminished any desire I had to work there. I think their food is fine, though slightly overpriced for the portion sizes. The execution is what was lacking that night, I’m sure they have had and will have better days. The Mana slider was an excellent rendition of a veggie burger, so good that I had to try to emulate Mana’s brown rice and mushroom slider a week later. A random friend of a friend who attended my dinner, my girlfriend, and myself were all able to compare the two version’s and mine prevailed. But don’t take my word, see for yourself! My recipe was inspired from my visit to Mana and this food blog. And as for my job search, turns out it’s a good thing I stayed loyal at Etno. We are currently expanding from 17 seats in a quick service neighborhood grill to 150 seats w/a full service bar, an all-weather beer garden, and a totally revamped and expanded menu. Exciting times for me as I learned I’ll have a leading role on the kitchen team that will be several times larger than our current team. New menu, new techniques, new kitchen, and a chance to learn from an extremely talented executive chef, my culinary dream that began a little more than a year ago is quickly turning into a career and a chance to be a part of an even more exciting restaurant project that should be open sometime in 2013.
Brown rice and mushroom sliders w/asian slaw: 14-18 sliders (1-3 per person, depending on size)
- 1 lb cremini, sliced very thin
- 1/4 lb shitake, sliced very thin
- 2 smallish Spanish onions, finely diced
- 1/4 jalapeno, very finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tbsp oregano or thyme, minced
- 1 tbsp parsley, minced
- 2-3 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- goat cheese for topping
- scallions cut on bias for topping
- olive oil
- salt and pepper throughout and to taste
Cook rice according to directions, stir once while cooking to bring out more of the starches, which will help the form of the patty. Marinate sliced mushrooms w/soy sauce and balsamic vinegar as well as salt and pepper for about 15 minutes, don’t marinate any longer if you want nice mushroom flavor, if you are trying to hide the mushroom flavor then increase amounts and marinate longer. Heat olive oil in pan. Add onions and jalapenos, cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, thyme, and mushrooms, stirring frequently until liquid has almost completely reduced. Add rice and cook for about 1 minute to toast the rice slightly. Set mixture aside in bowl and add oats, sunflower seeds, and parsley. Mix everything together and then form 14-18 slider size patties, about 1/2 inch-1 inch thick. They don’t stay together perfectly, an egg could be added, if desired. Let veggie patties refrigerate for at least an hour to solidify slightly and keep their form, I actually had mine in a freezer for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make spicy mayo w/mayo, sriracha, soy sauce, and lime juice. For non-dairy eaters, make honey mustard w/honey, dijon mustard, parsley, salt, and pepper. Most of my dinner guests actually preferred a mixture of the two sauces.
Heat olive oil in large saute pan until very hot. Add veggie patties without overcrowding to give a nice sear, about 4-5 minutes per side. Flip carefully w/large spatula so sliders don’t fall apart. Toast bun. Top w/scallions and goat cheese. The scallions are mandatory in my opinion to give a nice fresh, crisp bite. The goat cheese adds a nice sour element but is not essential like the scallions.
- red cabbage
- sesame oil
- olive oil
- white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper