Favorites from LA Times’ The Taste: Flavors of LA

Chef Nyesha Arrington (photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat)

Chef Nyesha Arrington (photos by Elise Thompson for The LA Beat)

The final event of LA Times’ The Taste was hosted by Pulitzer prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold and Kris Yenbamroong of the much-lauded Night + Market Thai restaurant. That means there were plenty of interesting dishes to try. There was a big crowd, so I ended up doing a lot of socializing. By the time I finished yapping, a few places had run out of food. Great food. Like Badmaash’s goan pork curry. When Chef Phillip Frankland Lee told me they didn’t have any salmon sashimi at Oh Man! Ramen, I looked up at the sign and looked at him pointedly. He and his new partner gave me a look that made it clear they had spent the whole night explaining why they didn’t have ramen.

It was a Top Chef heavy night, with at least five former contestants on hand, including Phillip Franklin Lee. Nyesha Arrington gave a cooking demo near the end of the night. Katsuji Tanabe of Mexikosher was cooking an enormous pan of brisket for his suadero tacos, and they were even grinding the corn right there on the spot for their handmade tortillas. There was a small altar set up to Jonathan Gold in the hopes of getting a restaurant review. Maple Block Meat Co. also went with brisket, cooking it in more of a ranch style. Joining in the meat fest was Simbal, with their Chile Grilled ribs with caramel and fish sauce.

Another kosher spot is Ditmas by Alex Reznik, which was serving a delicious corn agnolotti with “dirty” smoked meat. I was remiss in not asking why it was dirty. Chef Marcel Vigneron gave us our second taste from his new place, Wolf. It is a dish off of their menu called “Smoked Bowl,” consisting of tomato sofrito, farmers market corn, beans, sweet peppers, cilantro and lime (I checked out the menu – $13 bucks. $5 to add shrimp. Not bad). Chef Sang Yoon from Lukshon had the misfortune of being right next to Slapfish, whose lobster burgers created a line that wrapped around Lukshon’s booth almost obscuring it. But I am intrepid and found my way to the Chef just as a girl asked him,”Is that all you have?” He replied good-naturedly, “What else do I need?” Seriously, Lukshon was DTF with their Duck XO Granola, Tamarind gastrique, Foie Gras mousse. They didn’t need anything more.

Herringbone from Santa Monica served a delicate ono sashimi with mojo verde, pineapple, pickled mushrooms and crispy shallot. Hyde Sunset also had a subtle yet complex dish called Vitello Tonatto — Roasted veal, tuna dijonnaise, capers, pickled shallots, cucumber, and mustard greens with a pumpernickel crouton. For kitsch value, it was served in little tuna cans. Knead & Co. Pasta Bar thrilled me with Chef Bruce Kalman’s unrivaled meatballs. The addition of polenta took it to a whole different level.

And whither Jonathan Gold goest, Jitlada will go. It’s always nice to see Jazz and her brother Tui. I eyed their plate of dry curry and chicken larb with trepidation. Jazz, who was waving around a bottle of extra spicy hot sauce for those needing a boost, assured me “It is not that hot this time.” So I started eating it and suddenly my head caught fire and I ran over to the Choctal ice cream booth. There was a line, but the rep saw me and lobbed a cup of Tahitian vanilla at me, shouting, “Sorry folks! We have a Thai food emergency!” I tore into it without even using a spoon.

I realized then that Jazz is Lucy von Pelt to my Charlie Brown. Every year she promises, “Eat the larb. It is not so hot this time.” Just like Lucy saying, “Kick the football. I won’t pull it away.” And every year, I run for the football and fall flat on my face.

There weren’t a lot of sweets there, but like Choctal it was all about the ice cream. Burbank locals Quenelle served sweet cream ice cream with citrus bread pudding and Bulgarini brought a large selection of gelato. People flocked to Grand Marnier for a taste of their raspberry peach sparkling Italian lemonade with fresh mint and raspberries. We suspect much of the excitement was about their orb-shaped glasses.

shrine to jonathan gold


Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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