Dueling Tuna, Scallops and More at Five Tastes Collab With 7 Doors Down

by Peter Candia

If you haven’t yet been to a Five Tastes pop-up dinner, then I’m not really sure what you’re waiting for. Five Tastes is Executive Chef Cedric Gayon’s tasting menu concept, which revolves around modern cooking techniques and globally spanning flavors. He runs Five Tastes along with Chefs Juan Vizueta and Kleber Gomez. 

The most recent event was held at, and in collaboration with, 7 Doors Down in Bloomfield, NJ. You probably already know my opinion on 7 Doors Down, which is a restaurant I consider to be the most underrated in North Jersey. We also named it one of New Jersey’s 25 best restaurants in both 2022 and 2023 at New Jersey Digest. 

Being a mega fan of both Chef Gayon and 7 Doors Down Executive Chef Lawrence Talis’ food, I knew I’d be impressed. Still, it transcended beyond my expectations and proved to be some of the most fun I’ve had dining in quite some time. Firmly reminding me why I fell in love with food in the first place way back when. 

Chicken Croquetas – 7 Doors Down x Five Tastes

There were a lot of bites to be had, and the meal took place over the course of three-ish hours. Our first bite was a 7 Doors Down classic: Chef de Cuisine Luis Blasini’s chicken croquetas. The inside filled with braised chicken and fragrant pine nuts. It’s a damn-good amuse bouche and was the perfect foray into the rest of the meal.

As the lingering flavors of pine nut and poultry dissipated from my palate, the meal began to pick up steam—and the real fun began. For two of the seven courses, both Five Tastes and 7 Doors Down would put out their own versions. For example, two distinct versions of a tuna crudo and two wildly different takes on scallops. Sound fun? You’d be right.

Tuna Crudo – Five Tastes

Five Taste’s version came sliced as sashimi, dancing in a flavorful ponzu with dollops of yuzu koshu on top. Thin-sliced spring radish, chili, scallion and sesame adorned the fish. The radish added a pop of freshness as well as a defined textural contrast. 

In juxtaposition was 7 Doors Down’s crudo, which despite using the same protein, was vastly different. Talis pounded out a lightly cured tuna, draping sheets of it over mounds of apple-and-peanut-studded guacamole. Leche de tigre—a Peruvian citrus blend used for ceviche—pooled around the plate, offering a punch of acidity to the dish. On the side were crispy wonton chips to clear out any avocado that might have remained after the tuna was gone (I might have used them to soak up the ponzu from Five Taste’s version too, but don’t tell anybody). 

Tuna Crudo – 7 Doors Down

I soon realized that the theme of this dinner wasn’t “Whose version is better?” rather, two immensely skilled chefs showing how different minds can approach the same idea in completely separate ways. Above all, two chefs having fun on what is (usually) their night off. It’s this return to the pure fun of cooking—and a break from the monotony of a typical kitchen service—that I believe to showcase a chef at their absolute best. 

A Five Tastes’ solo course came soon after: a cold snap pea salad booming with the flavors of spring. Blanched-and-shocked snap peas lay on a swoosh of mustard-infused brown butter emulsion. Crispy bits of bacon and torn mint stud the salad. It’s crunchy, salty, sweet and nutty with just a hint of herbaceousness and a touch of heat from the mustard. A lesson in spring cooking. Just beautiful. 

Snap Pea Salad – Five Tastes

Back to dueling courses—this time, scallops. I had a worry that doubling up on scallops might have triggered a sort of palate fatigue that can virtually ruin a meal early, but as each chef began to plate their dishes, that worry disappeared. 

Gayon presented a sesame-crusted scallop served over wakame—a cold water kelp that boasts a sweet and salinic flavor profile. Pooling at the bottom of the bowl was a mixture of sweet soy, lemon oil and chili oil. The sweet scallop and nutty sesame were complemented greatly by the sweetness of the soy and the textured wakame. Not to be overlooked was the expert cook on the scallop, with a hard outer sear and smooth, just warm center. A standout bite. 

Sesame-Crusted Scallop – Five Tastes

In contrast was Talis’ scallop, which was grilled over binchotan charcoal on a yakitori grill and sliced before serving. To go along with the scallop was a rather convoluted plate that centered around causa—a Peruvian potato salad consisting of mashed potato, mayonnaise, egg and other seasonings. Talis arranged five mounds of causa around the plate, adding a dimple to each with his thumb. He then filled each crater with a different sauce: paprika aioli, a Peruvian play on hot Japanese mustard, spicy mayo, ramp aji verde and finally, a jalapeño demi. It was a fun way to eat, sampling each sauce along with the potato salad and the clean taste of a charcoal-grilled scallop—the Japanese mustard being my favorite. It’s one of those dishes where as Talis was plating it, I wasn’t sure how it would pan out, but my pessimism soon faded when I dove in. Trust the process, as they say. 

Yakitori Scallop w/ Peruvian Causa – 7 Doors Down

The remainder of the meal was three straight Five Tastes’ courses. To fit with the 7 Doors Down theme, Five Tastes aimed to do a ramen of their own. The ramen came at the hands of Five Tastes’ own Kleber Gomez, who wanted to bring some of his Japanese training to the party. Hiyashi Chukka—a cold, brothless ramen—was the name of the game. Thick, chewy noodles coated in a yuzu-forward glaze, paired along with scallion, heirloom tomato and a soy-marinated egg. The soy-yuzu glaze was addictingly good alongside the cooling, refreshing quality of the dish—which was exactly what was needed at this point in the meal. 

Hiyashi Chukka – 7 Doors Down

The final savory bite was none other than Gayon’s micro-famous chicken roulade—the light and dark meat of the bird rolled together into a cylinder and cooked sous vide at 65 degrees celsius (149 F). On pick-up, thick slices of the meat are seared off and finished on the hibachi grill, served over charcoal-kissed rapini and bathed in a sweet, mirin and soy sauce. As you cut the protein, the sauce soaks in, moistening the already-glistening meat. It’s a dish that is stupidly good. If you think chicken is boring, then you’re sorely mistaken. You just never had a good one. That’s all.

Chicken Roulade – Five Tastes

And of course, dessert. A vanilla cremeux, almost taking the same form as a panna cotta, topped with strawberry three ways: compote, aerated espuma and freeze-dried. I loved the variety of strawberries, showing the true versatility of the fruit. Freeze-dried fruit, in particular, is something I love to see as I feel the concentrated flavor adds a ton to a dish. Because of the technique Gayon used for the cremeux—which includes setting it with agar and gelatin—it is able to hold its form like a panna cotta would, while still melting away on your tongue as a mousse or cremeux would. A true masterclass in technique. 

Strawberry Cremeux – Five Tastes

For NJ diners who like to venture into the world of tasting menus from time to time, Five Tastes is right up there with the best in NJ. The concept offers a full peek into the world of modern cooking and flavor-making while never coming off as pretentious or stuck-up. Because of Five Tastes’ traveling concept, where they pop-up at various different restaurants, the menu is constantly changing and no Five Tastes meal is like another.

The 7 Doors Down collaboration in particular was a breath of fresh air as the menu was exciting from start to finish, and the dueling format on certain courses forced diners to think about their food more than usual. “I like the flavor of this scallop, but the texture of this one is preferred. Why is that?” These are the questions that don’t come up in traditional dining because frankly, the meals usually aren’t interesting enough to provoke them. That’s not a diss on current dining trends, but it is a definite praise for Cedric Gayon’s Five Tastes. 

About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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