Durham, N.C. — You may have noticed a difference in the menu at G2B on Shannon Road in Durham. You may also have caught on to the fact that it’s now revised almost every day. That’s Executive Chef Travis Robinson’s doing. “We cook very spontaneously,” says Travis, who started in November and transitioned into the lead chef role in December. “It’s pretty much whatever is available. I don’t pre-plan menus. For me, that’s just natural.”
Building dishes around seasonal products is not unheard of in Durham, but Travis’ goal is to incorporate modern techniques that create a signature experience for diners. The vision of the lamb dish here may have been fully pieced together just a few hours before creating it, but he is meticulous in its preparation.
A familiar spring ingredient, the lamb was cemented when Travis came across sunchokes at the Durham Farmers’ Market. “It gives the dish some kind of substance and is still hardy, but not like a potato that’s so heavy.” He starts by wrapping the lamb belly around the loin – seasoned along the inside with fresh shiso and lemon zest – tying it together tightly, smoking it with dried fennel fronds and sous vide cooking it for a couple hours. The sunchokes are roasted in lamb fat and set along a sunchoke mousse, with cucumbers and thinly sliced radishes, topped with chervil and fresh fennel. The sauce, which really ties the dish together, is a yogurt that’s been caramelized in a pressure cooker and added to the lamb jus, creating a balance between lamb flavor and tart, nutty yogurt. Finally, fennel ashes, saved from the smoking, are sprinkled over the plate. “I don’t want to do something mundane,” Travis says. “I want recognizable food that people know, but when I put it on a plate and serve it, it’s something like they haven’t ever had before.”
Another recent development for the restaurant is the construction of its own nano-brewery, which is under the direction of Andrew Christenbury. For this dish, Travis recommends the Belgian blood orange pale ale – the strong citrus flavor and slightly higher alcohol content makes it an ideal pairing. “The goal here is to have a really good neighborhood restaurant that you can go to on a regular basis, but you would be proud to take your out-of-town friends, too,” Travis says. “If people like good food and beer, then there’s no reason that they wouldn’t come back again.”
Editor’s Note: Chef Robinson is participating in the Grand Taste Experience on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Durham Armory, part of Taste 2015, a four-day food festival in Durham. Tickets are on sale now at tastetheevent.com. Spend the evening savoring dishes created by 20 of the best chefs in the region, and meet local beverage makers producing your favorite beer, soda, coffees and spirits. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.