Torchon Bistro brings something new to Anchorage, its adventurous menu luring diners out of the doldrums of cuisine comfort zones and straight into a new foodie level.
A recent dinner there proved a luxurious experience, unhurried and indulgent, spanning across some two hours. The languid pacing allowing plenty of time for my friend and me to savor every bite, between sips of wine and worshipful musings about how fabulous and interesting everything tasted.
Décor is tasteful and simple. Tables are clothed in white linen, silverware is replaced between courses, and intuitive servers deliver dishes with complimentary and competent narrative.
At the helm is Shana Whitlock, an ambitious and experienced chef. Whitlock wants to expose people to food that is unexpected and unique, and on that, she delivers. Our dinner ranged from elk loin to a bacon mustard ice cream to a spare rib with sweet spruce tip dry rub, smoked to finish. After devouring the latter, my friend declared it the best spare rib he had ever had, in his life, period.
Here’s what Whitlock had to say about her goals and Torchon Bistro:
Q: Describe your philosophy regarding food and cooking.
A: My first and foremost rule is simply to respect your food. Understanding the direct correlation between where and how your food is sourced and the impact each one of us has on that food source is extremely important to me, professionally. Waste not, want not. At Torchon Bistro, we utilize a substantial amount of the animal that is normally overlooked, usually because of a lack of know-how in preparation and handling. I am working hard to source a large amount of our proteins locally, where and when possible.
Secondly, my philosophy is, “why not?” When it comes to the food experience, this is my driving force behind the menu.
Q: What kind of experience do you want diners to have at Torchon Bistro?
A: I aim to create a new experience for my guests. How many folks can say they have had an unpackaged, truly unprocessed pork rind, or sweet breads paired with a vibrant Alaska oyster? Menu development for me involves considering the nuances of all the stimulus, including taste, texture and aroma.
Q: Of what menu items are you most proud?
A: I am most proud of our ‘Torchon Taster.’ A lot of work and time goes into each of the components that make the dish.
Q: What does “torchon” mean?
A: Torchon literally translates to ‘towel,’ ‘rag’ or ‘tea towel’ in French. It is referenced in culinary terms typically involving a foie gras au torchon.
Q: Why should people try your restaurant?
A: I invite folks to come out and try an establishment in town that is truly a foodie establishment. I opened Torchon to free myself of restrictions. I believe the driving force behind Torchon is the desire to steer clear of what folks in Anchorage are continually bombarded with in food choices. I am not in any way knocking those establishments. They do very well here. I am just not that chef, and Torchon is not that place.
I invite Alaska to come try something outside the box, something relevant, a true food experience in Anchorage. I am not corporate. I am a small establishment running on a dream and a desire to introduce our guests to what is out there, what is going on in the Lower 48 and the world.
I research daily and keep up to date on the industry and chefs to stay on edge and remain uncomfortable with what I am doing and where I am going. Once you find comfort in your kitchen and your craft and your menu, that is when you must force yourself to change and continue evolving or that spirit dies, at least for me anyway.
Q: Where do you enjoy grabbing a bite to eat when you aren’t working?
A: Honestly, Pho is my number one choice. The sheer simplicity of it all is beautiful.
For more information: www.torchonbistro.com.
The Torchon Taster
A tasting of our house-cured goodness proudly serving Alaska-raised Heritage Hogs
•Pork Jowl and Head Cheese Torchon, Celery Root ‘Slaw’ with Preserved Tomato Jam Vinaigrette
•Our Torchon Bacon, Applewood Smoked, Dark Chocolate, Raspberry Dust, Alaska Spruce Tips
•Couenne de porc, ‘Torchons’ Pork Rind, Fleur De Sel
˜Pulled Pork on a Pate Feuillete, Mango
•Cracklin’s with Truffled Alaskan Sea Salt
•Heritage Hog Spare Rib, Sweet Spruce Tip Dry Rub, Smoked to Finish
•Confit of Pork Belly
•Soy-Cured Pig Ear Tendril