MACHETE: Greensboro’s Greatest Stored Secret Dinner Get together | information
From: Jennifer Zeleski
Some of the best food in Greensboro is yet to be found in a restaurant.
It’s tucked away on a quiet downtown street, in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Tal and Nicole Blevins’ home.
This is not the happiness of your neighborhood. There are no casserole dishes or aluminum bowls littering a kitchen counter. Instead, see lights lined up on the outside patio, past a smoking charcoal grill, into a spacious room with white walls where invited guests will find MACHETE. partly underground dinner party, partly pop-up restaurant.
The concept is no stranger to Tal Blevins, nor is it new to metropolitan restaurant scenes across the country. Blevins recently returned to Greensboro from San Francisco, which is home to many pop-up restaurants. He found that each opening created a “more unique and underground” atmosphere in the West Coast city that intrigued him enough to pique his interest both creatively and financially.
His eye for taste led him to be “one of the earliest investors in Lazy Bear, a two-Michelin-starred pop-up restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco, and a partner in the True Laurel cocktail and bar food concept San Francisco was named Esquire’s Best Bars in America and Eater’s 2018 list of Best New Restaurants. “
After getting used to the Greensboro food scene again, Blevins noticed the same passion and potential in the local work of Kevin Cottrell and Lydia Rae Greene.
“I’ve run into them again and again and we talked about food and our favorite restaurants, as well as ingredients, flavors and preparations,” said Blevins. “We had a good relationship from the start and that led us all to say at the same time, ‘You know what, we should do something together!'”
MACHETE’s head chef, Cottrell, is in his mid-twenties and has nearly a decade of experience in the food industry. He was an integral part of the success. Greene, a graduate of Alamance Community College’s culinary program specializing in bread and pastries, has worked side by side with Cottrell for three years and has literally brought her innovative creativity and skill to the table too.
The trio has now created breathtaking eight-course menus for five different occasions. They pride themselves on quality ingredients, targeted portions, and bringing the community together. Familiar faces and first-time guests have come and gone, each with the surprise of every carefully prepared dish.
I was fortunate enough to get a coveted spot at their fifth event, which honored a Japanese izakaya theme based on Cottrell and Greene and Blevins’ many trips to Japan for research into global flavors.
The passing starters set the mood for the evening. Guests had gathered in the room with their own libations (the event is BYOB, but pairing suggestions are offered in advance) and were ready for something to nibble on.
I had never seen anything like homemade tapioca chips with marinated tuna before. The chips had been colored with charcoal powder, which gave them an ink-like color, and the marinated tuna was miles above any sushi roll I could use as a comparison. Each bite was light and crispy, with the marinated tuna offering a salty soy flavor with sweet undertones of vinegar, cucumber, and sesame seeds. Starting the night with bright, fresh, and addicting flavors was a sign that we were all in good hands.
After sitting down, the classes arrived in a quick succession.
The first course was the white kimchi, paired with grilled shishito peppers that were coated with homemade togarashi spice and topped with bonito flakes. The togarashi spice mix consisted of orange peel, nori (dried seaweed), ginger, Szechuan and black pepper, as well as chili flakes that enhanced the mild taste of the peppers (unless you got an exceptionally hot one) and made for a wonderful citrus-like combo with the smokiness of their charred exterior. The kimchi quickly became my favorite, however, with its vibrant fermented taste and delicious crunch. Not too strong, but not too cute.
In second place was the fried and fresh tofu, homemade dashi broth with mushrooms and yuzu kosho paste. The broth was salty and calming in what seemed like the perfect umami, and both types of tofu allowed for a different experience in texture. One was soft and tender, and the other was only slightly crispy with every bite and always went well with the mushrooms. The yuzu kosho paste was reminiscent of wasabi with its strong and tangy taste and was just enough for those looking for just a little bit more of the dish overall.
The third course was a triple intake of rice, with the main course mixed with egg and topped with homemade forbidden black rice chips and puffed rice grains. This dish was hearty too, and the thinly sliced green onions gave it just enough freshness not to be too rich. It was smoky, smooth, and a good balance between taste and texture.
The fourth delighted childishly: Karaage Chicken with Burnt Lemon Kewpie Mayonnaise. Was this the best adult version of tender, flavorful chicken nuggets I’ve ever had? Yes. The chicken was crispy with lots of flavor in the breading, and the burnt lemon mayo was all I could talk about. The blackened citrus flavor was unlike anything I’d ever tried, and even though there were only three pieces of chicken to dip, I made every drop count.
The fifth course was similar to passing through hor d’oeuvres, a short rib bao with sesame pickled cucumber. The bao was soft and pillow-like, and the short rib was so flavorful that I could easily have eaten it on my own. The marinated cucumbers gave a necessary crunch and would be every pickle lovers dream. Sweet, tart and wonderful.
With sixth course I couldn’t believe the creativity and beauty behind every dish. Their presentation was very impressive, but the flavors were exceptional. I couldn’t wait to see what came next.
The seventh course was Blevin’s favorite dish of the night and so far his favorite dish from all MACHETE creations. A thinly sliced Japanese Himachi with a green apple dashi, diced pear, freshwater chestnuts and yuzu granita. The hamachi fish was shipped from Japan and hardened overnight after being wrapped in kombu (seaweed) and dusted with salt and sugar to slightly dry the fish out and give it a firmer texture and a “clean, slightly salty” taste lend in every disc, said Blevins. The green apple dashi was drizzled and offered a bitter and light taste, especially paired with the chopped pear and the crispy water chestnuts. The dish was already amazing, but it got phenomenal with the frozen and flaky, almost sour granita that melted as soon as it hit your tongue.
“I absolutely love this dish and it shows the simple perfection that we aim for with MACHETE,” said Blevins. “There are a lot of thoughts and techniques going into a dish like this with just a few ingredients, but when it all comes together it’s just magical.”
It would be difficult to prove, but they did it anyway.
The penultimate dish was the noodle bowl (ramen-esque) with 72-hour Japanese tonkatsu broth, thick ramen noodles, enokitake mushrooms and shaved green onions.
The broth was thick and filling, but not creamy like many American soups. The noodles made up for the salty and smoky flavors, and the green onions just lightened them up a little. But I couldn’t get enough of the short rib. It was braised and tender, perfectly flavored, and incredibly addicting. I was sad to see it go, knowing that I could never recreate it on my own.
There is no other way than dealing with a dessert. Cottrell and Greene pick up a banana cream roll with banana biscuit, banana cream, toasted coconut and sliced young banana. Banana desserts are often overdone to the point of sickness, but this one was just enough to be sweet and textured and round out dinner.
I was speechless. When I got a takeaway menu and a small bag of homemade chocolate cranberry pocky sticks, I didn’t know what else to say. Blevins summed it up perfectly: “We want people to eat well, drink well, be surprised, try new things, laugh a little and have fun.”
Blevins’ hope for MACHETE is to bring their high profile meals, as well as a focus on local businesses and communities, to the Greensboro area as a permanent location that they have plans for but are still looking for support. If you would like to attend a MACHETE event or receive further information, you can subscribe to the email list via the MACHETEGSO website or social media platforms.
Jennifer Zeleski is a Senior Communication Major at High Point University, always eager to cook, eat, and listen. Her many food adventures can be followed on Instagram @jayz_eats.