Gastropig Tries Serving Abstract Table Dishes

The popular Uptown restaurant lets artist-chefs Andrew Greene and Duncan Kwitkor experiment with a forward tasting menu series.


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Photo by Lori Eanes

Want to eat modern art? Then gear up for furikake granola, togarashi honey, and fish caramel at The Gastropig.

Launched in October, the Uptown restaurant’s permanent dinner service is presented by Abstract Table, a project of artist-chefs Andrew Greene and Duncan Kwitkor, who met while attending the San Francisco Art Institute.

“We have a strong belief that any ingredient combination can work as long as we balance their flavors, textures, and temperatures,” said Kwitkor, an avid forager who grew up on a Sonoma County farm. “It’s amazing how many strange combinations can come together wonderfully and make our imaginations go wild.”

“You don’t know if you don’t try,” said Greene, who was executive chef at The Athletic Club Oakland and Duchess in Rockridge. Kwitkor was sous chef at both. “The first way we eat is with our eyes.”

After deciding to add dinner service this year, Gastropig owner and former Chez Panisse cook Loren Goodwin was excited to learn that his founding chef, Greene, was creating the playful, fish-forward Abstract Table tasting-menu series with Kwitkor.

“We’re artists before we’re chefs. So much of what we’ve done is about color and composition,” Greene said. “And so much of art is about removing something from its natural element to make it something else, something beautiful. We love actual food and its aesthetic.”

Hindering that aesthetic, the pair assert, are pretensions such as black-suited servers and designer dishwater.

“Customers pay for status symbols,” Kwitkor said. “Take those away and you’re left with food — which is the purest experience.”

“We’re abstracting the elements,” Greene explained. “What makes ‘fine dining’ fine? That a server is at your beck and call or that the food itself is elegant? We want to provide amazing food in an environment where everyone feels comfortable.”

Just as daring as Abstract Table’s defiant unfanciness is its fare. Consider — from the autumn menu — beef cheek with edamame purée, tamari onion, and sake glaze. Or ocean trout with arugula nage, pickled grilled cucumber, and coconut.

Teetering umami-tastically between savory and sweet, used in a beet dish, the fish caramel evokes an earlier Greene-and-Kwitkor creation: candied-venison carpaccio with coagulated deer-blood frosting.

“Everyone’s not going to like everything you do,” Kwitkor acceded. “But it’s important not to be scared. Subverting your expectations of ingredients is a form of conceptual art. We do conceptual dining.”

“We believe our food to be beautiful,” Greene said. “Granted, not having formal culinary training puts us on the fringe.”

And that’s exactly where they want to be.

The Gastropig, 2123 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-817-4663, TheGastroPig.com.

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