From the moment we entered the gorgeous courtyard of Vibiana last Sunday, there was a happy buzz in the air. There was a special camaraderie amongst the chefs, and the entire event was relaxed and pleasant. It was exciting to try the Thai-inspired dishes from many of the chefs, who are perhaps more familiar with classic French or Italian cooking.
Chefs who were cooking al fresco filled the courtyard with the redolence of Southeast Asian spices. Alex Pineda of Scampo grilled a Thai-style salt-cured short rib with coconut sfromato, which is similar to a custard, and served it with a fresh papaya salad. Chef Gilberto Cetina of Chichen Itza filled handmade tortillas with grilled yellowtail that had been marinated in lemongrass and lime juice. Chef Walter Manzke of Republique served our favorite dish of the day, to no one’s surprise. He bathed grilled prawns and corn in a light but rich green Thai curry. Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok knew to let seasonal ingredients speak for themselves and enhanced his charcoal grilled corn with a simple salty coconut cream.
Wolfgang Puck Catering commandeered a corner of the patio to serve an entire meal with an exciting dessert and a cocktail of tamarind, bourbon, burnt lime and Thai chili. Their rabbit roulade with lemongrass and cabbage was tender and flavorful, as was the salted crab fried rice with octopus using black sticky rice. The dessert of Mango Ice was generous for a tasting event, but we would not want to have missed one luscious bite of the explosion of flavorful ingredients.
One of the hosts, Neal Fraser of Redbird, also worked with Thai black sticky rice and created a tartare larb. Also serving a version of larb was Savore Cuisine and Events who impressed us with their pork larb over jade rice with a 58-minute egg and charmed us with their compressed papaya salad.
In consideration of the warm weather, there were a number of refreshing salads. Chef Jason Neroni of current hot spot Rose Cafe composed a Spicy Cucumber Salad with puffed rice, dried shrimp and basil. Playa Provisions’ chefs Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts served a refreshing cold braised pork salad with rice noodles, peanuts, green papaya and chicharron. Akasha’s Chef Akasha Richmand plated lovely albacore lettuce cups with a daikon-carrot pickle, basil, tamarind, chile relish, lime and peanuts. Chef Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market, who was truly in his element, offered NamKhao Tod, a crispy rice salad with raw ginger, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, and chiles. Bracken’s Kitchen had a very clean and cool sweet shrimp salad.
Chef Eric D. Ernest of USC Hospitality hit our sweet spot with a torchon of foie gras “suki” very thinly sliced to melt on your tongue. Chefs Josh and Mike were helming the table for Eric Greenspan, serving single tail-on shrimp with curry. Chef Jason Fullilove of the brand spanking new Barbara Jean plated Thai-style grilled grass-fed hanger steak with the usual suspects (peanuts, cilantro, lime, ginger and garlic). Chef Ted Hopson served an exotic pork jowl with prawn powder and a green mango slaw.
Chef Richard Rea of Butcher’s Daughter served kaffir lime leaf coconut rice with a green Thai curry, shredded nori and herbs, lime segments and peanuts. Chef Rui of Patina went all out with a nice chilled Tom Yum soup with bay scallop and Laughing Bird shrimp as well as a Bahn Cha, a pork patty with rice paper and Thai herb salad. For dessert she had fun nitrogen candy called Dragon’s Breath that is always a crowd pleaser.
Chef Romain Drocourt of Pastry Lab created what was perhaps my favorite dessert – two puffs of pate a choix pastry filled on top with passionfruit cream and on the bottom with coconut custard. They were stacked and held together with sweet peanut butter and resembled little snowmen. Delicious little snowmen. Elisa Testone really brought it with a quartet of little pastries. The blueberry mini tarts with basil were the most adorable, but the sweet chili peanut butter sandwich cookies were one of the best cookies I have ever eaten
Refreshments were available in the form of coconut water served in the coconut, Thai iced tea, a refreshing Rekorderlig Midsommar cider, a selection of wines, Singha Thai beer, and a delicious citrusy basil cocktail from Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
We left before the sun went down happy and sated. Thai food is a favorite, and it was truly special to experience such high-end interpretations. Knowing that the event for Stu and the Kids would benefit at-risk youth in Thailand seemed to inspire everyone working at the event. We can’t wait to see what next year will bring!
All photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat