Challenge: Create a 13-item menu for a small restaurant kitchen that has only three major pieces of equipment — a 24-inch flat cook top, panini grill, and sandwich station to store cold items.
That’s exactly the scenario in which SIP Whiskey and Wine Bar’s executive chef Troy Gagliardo found himself when redesigning the newly released small plate menu at the rooftop bar overlooking ONE City Plaza.
“The small kitchen forced me to be creative,” says Gagliardo, a veteran chef who has worked on numerous restaurant concepts and redesigns for the Charlotte, N.C.-based Bottle Cap Group. In addition to SIP, Bottle Cap owns Diner 24, Ink N Ivy, Brazwell’s Pub, and Green Room, which has not been reopened since closing earlier this year.
Many of the new dishes being added to SIP and other Bottle Cap menus are inspired by the 2,000-plus recipes Gagliardo has developed over the course of the chef’s 10 years on “Troy’s Everyday Eats,” a Charlotte TV that airs every Tuesday morning.
The new SIP menu includes many seasonal ingredients, which will likely change throughout the year, and is designed for snacking rather than a traditional dining experience.
“Ordering a couple of snacks with a tableside sangria – that sounds like a good night to me,” Gagliardo says.
Menu highlights include a seared shrimp dish with asparagus, fregola (pasta), and chorizo (imported from Spain) vinaigrette; shishito pepper with grilled lemon aioli; tuna carpaccio seasoned and seared on one side and topped with chimichurri white beans and charred kale; hummus and naan two ways; and two varieties of bruschetta.
Not having a typical full commercial kitchen in which to prepare dishes meant Gagliardo focused on the quality of the limited ingredients he’d be using.
“It allows me to be creative when you have to rely on the ingredients,” he says. “If you screw it up, it’s not going to be good.”
Whereas in the past Gagliardo added more ingredients to a dish to enhance it, today he takes a less-is-more approach. “What can I take out of this to make it better?” he says.
Having limited kitchen appliances and storage space meant using fewer ingredients in each dish, as well as using the same ingredients in multiple dishes without seeming repetitive. For example, white beans are used in the bruschetta, naan, and tuna carpaccio; chorizo is included in the SIP & Snack Board; the seared shrimp also appears in the pickle jar; and charred kale is used a couple times as well.
The treatment of the tuna was the result of having to use particular plateware, requiring further ingenuity. In order to fit a rectangular plate, the tuna is fileted and pounded thin, much like a traditional beef carpaccio.
“It’s great that we can put out this type of food with this small of a kitchen,” Gagliardo says.