It was nice to return to the now-familiar Paramount backlot with its small-town storefronts and New York tenement buildings, which still make me think of the cover of Physical Graffiti. In spite of the continuing hot weather, it was evident at The Taste Friday night that Autumn is slowly creeping towards us. A number of restaurants served warm comfort food, and beef was everywhere.
Farmhouse, a farm-to-table restaurant in Corona Del Mar, proved that dishes don’t have to be complicated when you have superior ingredients. I would love to eat a big plate of their comforting short ribs and polenta on a rainy night. The restaurant is all about sourcing, so they naturally namechecked Kenter Canyon Farms polenta and Creekstone Farm’s premium Black Angus beef. Another super homey and delicious plate was the mini Fried Chicken Dinner from an old favorite, Poppy + Rose. While Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken might be too hot for Mom’s home cooking, it was definitely a welcome addition to the feast, and dessert can’t get more comforting than the banana pudding pie from Sherry Yard and iPic .
Rao’s, a classic red-sauce restaurant transplanted from New York, served their famous beef, pork, and veal meatballs. We are so grateful we don’t have to wait for someone to die for a table to become available like they do on the East Coast Rao’s where standing reservations are handed down like family heirlooms.
Legendary eateries Park’s BBQ and Pacific Dining Car also served hearty beef dishes, with Park handing out their famous seared beef with kimchi rice and Pacific Dining Car composing a “Classic Steakhouse Plate” with ribeye steak, creamed spinach, and mashed potatoes, dedicated to Jonathan Gold.
There were a number of tributes to the late LA Times restaurant critic, both edible and not. Amor y Tacos once again singed my face off with their pasta with New Mexico Hatch chilies and caviar, one of his favorites, and Wanderlust Creamery scooped up a “Te amo LA sorbet” with watermelon, cucumber and chamango as an “ode to Jonathan Gold and his love for our city and its expansive Latino community and culture.” His Rules for Eating in LA was written on a lovely lit sign, and an artist painted Gold’s profile on a giant blackboard throughout the event.
Baltaire served a surprisingly spicy grilled bison NY steak with a charred corn salad and hatch chile chimichurri. Puesto Tacos served a chicken al pastor taco, which wasn’t so incendiary, in spite of the habanero pico de gallo. It is easy to see why they are three-time Tacolandia champions with their one-of-a-kind crispy melted cheese that juts out of the tortilla. The Bellwether is still getting creative with their lamb sausages, tweaking a little here and there to keep making them better.
One dish was so delicious it brought an expression of wonder to my face. Gnudi al Tartufo Nero (Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Toasted Sage, Black Truffle) was a wonderful introduction to Nerano, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills serving cuisine from the Amalfi Coast. Casa Vega gave us a preview to Christmas with their sweet corn tamales filled with cheddar cheese and green chile. We are all about Bone Kettle’s oxtail dumplings, so we were happy to see them and even happier that they are serving the dumplings on their lunch menu now.
Many chefs still held on to summer, with cool and light dishes. Chef Tony Esnault of Church & State cooled things down with a Green Gazpacho with cucumber, tomato, garlic, celery, cilantro and olive oil. Otium’s Yellowtail with confit smoked eggplant and sweet and sour tomatoes was unparalleled, with flaky fresh fish and bright tomatoes. Holbox was on the mark with a smoked yellowtail with salmon and shrimp ceviche, with Con’i Seafood’s always perfect shrimp ceviche a close contender. A more futuristic interpretation came from PCPLA, a fancy coffee place in the hippest new hood in DTLA, which also serves food. Their Santa Barbara sea urchin mousse on a rice cracker with furikake and purslane was perhaps the most interesting plate of the night.
Luckily, living in LA we have the best of both worlds. We will probably continue to eat ceviches right through the winter, but The Taste was a comforting reminder of all of the warm seasonal food coming our way.