KETCHUM • Digging into John Beriker’s Lobster and Avocado Bomb is an afterthought.
First you have to admire the creative way in which the avocado is sliced and stuffed and topped with crispy wonton chips. Then you have to size up the bright colors that Beriker has so carefully selected. Finally, you have to applaud the way the swirl of sweet chili sauce contrasts with the fiery red borders of the hand-crafted plate on which it is served.
Then, and only then, do you get to bite into the dish, detonating a wave of flavors over your tongue as you savor the healthy fresh ingredients that Beriker has assembled.
“I strive for the ‘Wow’ factor I hear guests exclaim when they’re tasting the cuisine,” said Beriker.
Beriker and his brother Timur Beriker recently opened B. Restaurant and Bar in the 60-year-old brick building that formerly housed the Roosevelt Grille owned by Elevation 486 Restaurateur Tom Nickel.
The first thing they did was to throw out the curtains in the Main Street Ketchum restaurant and lighten the place up in keeping with the white linen tablecloth service they introduced.
Then John Beriker went to work creating a long list of dinner items culled from an award-winning career as chef in such venues as Singapore, Sydney, Australia and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego.
His menu — a fusion of French, Asian and California tastes — features such dishes as oven roasted halibut with corn, leeks and asparagus served with seafood ravioli and a sundried tomato cream sauce; tandoori prawns with Indian-scented basmati rice and mango chutney in a red bell pepper sauce with a light coconut cream, and a roasted rack of lamb in an herb crust with polenta, ratatouille and garlic in a mint sauce.
“His dishes are exotic-everything from comfort to exotic, safe to daring,” said Joanne Zwingenberg, a 30-plus-year resident of Ketchum.
They’re also artfully prepared, with Beriker turning even Warm Chocolate Flourless Lava Cake into a piece of art.
“The colors are paramount. We eat with our eyes. If it looks good, we want to eat it,” he said. “I take you from your eyes down to the mouth with the flavors. I strive for a dish that’s simple, yet a work of beauty.”
The Beriker Brothers were seemingly destined for this restaurant.
Their father — Swiss-born Kerman Beriker — has managed luxury hotels and resorts in Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, including the Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas and the Four Seasons in Toronto.
The boys lived above Michael Jackson when the pop star stayed at the Bel Air Hotel and they watched a parade of kings and queens and movie stars pass through the Beverly Hills Hotel, which earned its first five-star ratings when their father managed it.
John Beriker began helping out a French chef in the kitchen of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas when he was 12.
“He was a tough cookie,” he recalled. “If you messed up, you’d find yourself having a one-on-one in the refrigerator. But I realized that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I want to make people happy, have good experiences.”
After online training in several five-star restaurants, Beriker found himself at Wolfgang Puck’s side at Spago in Beverly Hills. There he learned to cook for 650 people every night — and make the food taste good. And he won the admiration of his boss, who called him “one of the world’s leading chefs with extraordinary ability and brilliant talent.”
But, wanting his own thing, he went on to become executive chef at Raffles in Singapore where he was named Best Chef in Singapore by the Ministry of Tourism.
“I landed in that country with two suitcases in my hands and $800 in my pocket. But the food there inspired me,” he recalled.
Eventually, Beriker moved on to the Four Seasons Hotel in Hamburg, Germany, where he was named Best New Chef of the Year by Gault & Millau. He then went to the Merchant Court Hotel in Sydney and Auberg Dab in Bangkok before joining his father at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
There, he penned “The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe Cookbook,” which features such recipes as Crab Tower with Cilantro Coulis, Organic Cucumber Martini, Japanese Pumpkin Soup, Chocolate Won Tons and Veal Loin with Red Currant Sauce. The book is available for $29.95 at Amazon.com and the restaurant.
He struck out for Sun Valley after his father retired in April. And he’s set his touch in his new restaurant, opening up the kitchen so it looks out onto the dining room and adding row upon row of colorful sauces and fresh fruits and seasonings for himself and his assistants to dip into.
Many of the guests who have eaten there in its first month of operation still remember eating John’s grilled chopped vegetable salad at Rustica, which the Beriker brothers ran for five years in Beverly Hills, said Timur Beriker.
“Having lived here for 15 years I know what people want — an international menu with food for everyone,” Timur Beriker added. “Usually, you have to choose between eating at a Mexican restaurant or a Chinese restaurant. But we have something of everything, and our kids menu is as big as the adult.”
John Beriker says the B. Restaurant and Bar, named for the family surname, is quite small compared with the two hotels, restaurants and deli he’s opened.
“But it’s mine,” John said. “My goal here is to make people happy by offering something new, authentic and different from anywhere else.”
John Beriker’s Wok Fried Lobster in Thai Chili Sauce
Canola oil, for frying
1 cup cornstarch, more if needed
6 fresh or frozen lobster tails, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons garlic, crushed
1 small yellow onion, finely sliced
2 cups sweet and sour Thai chili sauce
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
Heat the canola oil in a large deep pot or heat an electric fryer to 360 degrees F.
In a large bowl combine cornstarch and salt and pepper to taste. Lightly dredge lobster in the cornstarch, making sure each one is completely coated. Lower lobster into the oil and deep fry until crispy-about 2 minutes. Transfer lobster to drain on paper towels.
In a wok, heat peanut oil to medium high heat. Add garlic and yellow onions. Saute until caramelized.
In a large bowl combine lobster with caramelized garlic and onion. Add sweet and sour Thai chili sauce. Toss gently to combine.
Place lobster on a large platter and garnish with green onions.
Serve with steamed white rice. Serves 6.
John Beriker’s Tortilla Soup
Three 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes
One 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
8 cups chicken broth
1 bag tortilla chips
1 small bunch cilantro
1 rotisserie chicken, diced or shredded
In a large saucepan, combine tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapenos, onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Bring to a slow boil and cook until the vegetables are tender-about 15 minutes. Add chicken broth, chips and cilantro. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by one-half — about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a blender, in small batches, and puree until smooth. Place the chicken back into the saucepan and heat until warm.
Ladle soup into a bowl and garnish with diced or shredded chicken.