Though all of chef Justin Bazdarich’s restaurants are in New York―Speedy Romeo with locations in Manhattan and Clinton Hill and the recently opened Oxomoco in Greenpoint―his experience of launching them spans the globe.
During his tenure working with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Bazdarich helped launch 15 restaurants worldwide in locations like Istanbul, Qatar and Cabo.
At his Michelin-recommended fast-casual eatery Speedy Romeo, which he co-owns with college friend Todd Feldman, traditional methods learned from pizzaiolos in Italy are shown in dishes prepared in a hardwood-fired Italian pizza oven (this includes the brisket and cheeseburger).
At Oxomoco, which he opened early this month with friend Chris Walton, the Kansas City-native showcases his study of regional Mexican cuisine, featuring dishes like skewered swordfish achiote with black beans, pickled onions and habañero salsa from the Yucatán; Ensenada-style tostadas; and Oaxacan tlayuda with lardo, refried beans, salsa de pipicha and “house string cheese.”
Below, Bazdarich shares his recipe for Oxomoco’s popular fluke appetizer with avocado basil salsa, pea greens, toasted amaranth and lime leaf—perfect for those hot summer days.
Fluke with Avocado Basil Salsa, Pea Greens & AmaranthCourtesy of Chef Justin Bazdarich, Oxomoco, New York City
1 pound whole fluke, or 4 thinly-sliced fillets, skinned and de-boned
1/2 cup Kosher or course salt
1/2 cup sugar
For the Avocado Basil Salsa:
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup Salsa Verde Cruda (recipe below)
1/2 bunch basil leaves
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup kaffir lime leaves
1/2 cup amaranth, toasted in a sauté pan
2 serrano peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pea green leaves
1/2 cup small green basil leaves
1/2 cup cilantro criollo leaves
1/2 cup olive oil, in spouted vessel
1. Cure the fluke: Wash and pat the fish dry with paper towels. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the salt and sugar and then lay the fillets on top, tossing to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Remove the fish and rinse under cold water. Transfer to paper towels and pat dry. Once dried, slice the fish into 1/8-inch slices. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to plate.
2. Make the avocado basil salsa: Place the frozen peas, Salsa Verde Cruda, basil leaves, water and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust with salt. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
3. Prepare the kaffir lime leaf powder: Remove all the stems from the kaffir lime leaves and discard. Place the leaves on a small plate and microwave for until very dry, about 5 minutes. Once dry, grind to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Store in a dry, airtight container.
4. Chill your plates: Chill a set of plates in the refrigerator 10 minutes to an hour before serving. Remove the plates and place on your counter, alongside all of the meal’s components.
5. Plate the dish: Place 2 ounces of reserved fish on the right hand side of the plate in a half moon pattern. On the left side of the plate, place a tablespoon of the avocado basil salsa (“making a perfect round”). Season the fish with sea salt, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of toasted amaranth over the fish.
6. Garnish and serve: Place five slices of serrano pepper over the fish. Garnish with the pea green leaves, basil, and cilantro criollo to your liking (the chef recommends seven leaves each). Make sure the herbs are evenly distributed and then drizzle with some olive oil. Place a small drop of olive oil in the center of the avocado basil salsa circle. Finish with the reserved lime leaf powder, sprinkling it over the pea and basil salsa “only from top to bottom.”
Photo by Evan Sung.
Salsa Verde Cruda
2 cups chopped tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped serrano peppers
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
Place the tomatillos, onions, serrano peppers, lime juice and cilantro in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms. Add the avocado and 1 teaspoon salt and blend until thoroughly incorporated. Taste and adjust lime juice and salt as need.
Note from the chef: “The sauce will last for 4 to 5 days. Keep it in your fridge and use it on eggs, chips, toast or anything that wants a bright kick.”