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Saturday night’s Lexus Live on Grand was the climax of LAFW’s four days filled with food, wine and fun. Sunday had a number of excellent events coming up, but this was the big blowout. On Saturday night everyone went for broke.
The best bite of the night was a decadent Slow Roasted Uni Glazed King Crab Leg by Chef Gregorio Stephenson of Nobu Malibu. He also presented shima-aji (a Japanese fish often called Skipjack and compared to hamachi) with a rhubarb salsa. Chef John Cox from the city of Carmel wowed with a Lone Mountain Wagyu Ribeye cooked on a custom made Hibachi. Another favorite was the meaty Lamb Lollipop from Adrian Giese of Mastro’s Steak House, made with Pistachio Pesto and Harissa, with a Frisee-Arugala Salad and Heirloom Tomato. A big draw was the charcuterie and antipasto table set up by several chefs, including Chad Colby of Chi SPACCA and Nancy Silverton, who had a tribute dinner held in her honor the night before.
We were curious to check out Viet Pham, the new chef at Ray’s & Stark Bar at LACMA. He really impressed with Lobster Agnolotti, Smoked Corn, Marscapone with Dashi, Trout Roe and Buckwheat. He also presented Hamachi with Melon, Serrano Chile and Cilantro. Chef Kaleo Adams of The Polo Lounge was also in the mood for stuffed pasta with Corn Tortellini with Jidori Cracklings, Chantarelle Mushrooms and Parmesan. Chef William Bradley of the Addison Restaurant at the Grand Del Mar served a very light and refreshing clear tomato soup with tiny tomatoes and a single raspberry.
Chef John Conrad of Bourbon Steak in Glendale plated Citrus Ash Cured Japanese Kampachi (Also known as Hawaiian Yellowjack) with Jalapeno, Compressed Melon, and Cucumber. Chef Fabian Gallardo of Petty Cash Taqueria served a delicious Hamachi ceviche, with tomatillo and avocado. Perhaps the most elegant bite was from Chef Wesley Holton of Rose. Rabbit. Lie. in Las Vegas, who filled a Yukon Gold potato mini taco shell with California Caviar Company’s Hackleback caviar and hamachi. Chef Jerry Su of Eagle Rock Public House served a Poke on Toasted Flatbread. We took a moment to discuss the differences between the various fish presentations.
Ceviche, as most people know, is fish “cooked” with citric acid. Sashimi is Japanese raw fish, sliced with religious precision. Crudo is Italian for raw, and Pesce Crudo is chopped raw fish. Carpaccio is usually red meat, but can be made with tuna, which is sliced and pounded thin. Poke, the Hawaiian style raw fish, is chopped more roughly, and can include seasonings like soy sauce, sesame oil, and chile flakes.
Plan Check’s Ernesto Uchimura probably wins the blue ribbon for creativity. The chef created a Bloody Mary leather, much like a fruit leather, to wrap crab and pickled asparagus with flowering herbs and bacon powder. Andre Bienvenue, who wowed all weekend, seems like the serious type. But he definitely has a whimsical streak. Bienvenue’s restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack cooked Reuben sandwiches on actual irons and handed out tequila-spiked “Kiss the Cook” lip-shaped candy pops.
Chef Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station, along with his lively crew, assembled lamb belly tacos topped with a crisp coleslaw. Alex Reznik, the chef at Ditmas, mocked the snobbery of menu descriptions by simply calling his dish “Cow Terrine and Poultry Epidermis.” I asked if there was liver in the terrine, and he told me, “No, but there’s all kinds of other cow parts.” I could live with that. The terrine was so rich with shredded meat it was almost like very tender brisket. And who doesn’t love crispy chicken skin?
Smoke billowed as Neal Fraser grilled a Norwegian Salmon to serve on Black Garlic Polenta with Greens and Yuzo Kosho. I now understand why there are so many ceviches, crudos and pokes at these events after waking up with my hair smelling like smoked salmon.
The only shock of the night came from Marcel Vigneron of Marcel’s. He served what he referred to as “California on a plate: heirloom melons, cherry tomatoes, watermelon cucumber, lemon cucumber, almond cream, corn cream, puffed red quinoa, puffed wild rice, feta, salicornia, nasturtium, yuzu bagna cauda, love.” I was having so much fun chatting with him, I did not read the ingredients first. So I was kind of surprised to take a bite of melon and have it taste like anchovy.
There were not a lot of desserts happening. Lincoln Carson of Superba Food + Bread presented a rich Tiramisu in White. Most people drank their dessert courtesy of Ocean Vodka and The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.
The headliner for the night was rapper Common, but we were enchanted by the Marimba band from South America, amaWalsley Marimba. These kids have been fund-raising back home to make this special trip to perform at LAFW. Dancing around in front of the stage with my Ocean Vodka blueberry cocktail was the highlight of my evening.