As a food columnist, I’m out almost every night, trying new restaurants, stands and trucks. So people often want to know: What are you eating? Well, thanks for asking. Here are some of the best things I ate this week. These are not reviews, but rather signposts, early signals of something special that might be popping up on the L.A. eating scene.
“Caviar” at Asterid
Does caviar belong on a tamal? After trying the one at Ray Garcia’s new restaurant at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, simply labeled “caviar” on the menu, I’m convinced it belongs on nothing else. The tamal is made from sweet and earthy 898 squash, a variety bred by the Row 7 seed company to be concentrated squash flavor bombs. Garcia, who was the chef at the late Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria, adds a dollop of crema and an impressive spoonful of grand selection schrenckii caviar. Sweet, briny, perfection.
Tinned fish boards at Bar Moruno LA
I’m about to make the argument that tinned fish boards are better than charcuterie boards. Maybe we don’t need to label one as superior, but it’s fair to say they’re just as fun. What brought me to this conclusion was a recent dinner at the new Bar Moruno in Silver Lake. It’s the reopening of Chris Feldmeier and David Rosoff’s Spanish restaurant that opened in 2016 at the Original Farmers Market, moved to Grand Central Market later that year, then closed in 2017. I’ve been lamenting its absence ever since. To start, we ordered two tinned fish boards. One came with a tin of plump sardines in olive oil, the other a tin of mackerel pate. Both arrived with crusty bread, good butter and a ramekin of pickles. We made competing perfect bites, carefully slathering the butter onto the bread, smearing pate and balancing sardines, eventually crowning each masterpiece with a provocatively acidic sliver of pickled carrot or celery. Fish, bread, butter, acid, a few sips of Rossof’s own Vermina vermouth, a gilda or two (white anchovy, guindilla pepper, olive, cured egg yolk on a skewer) and repeat until you’re deliriously happy.
Lobster dumplings, Salmon tiradito, grilled octopus and the crispy rice at Causita
On Thursday, the dining room at Causita had reached an impressive tempo by 6:50 p.m. A nervous, excited energy resonated with staff and diners, who eagerly peeked at orders on neighboring tables. The restaurant, whose name is Peruvian slang for “best friends,” opened Tuesday, next to Bar Moruno. It’s Rosoff and chef Ricardo Zarate’s take on Nikkei Peruvian food, a style meant to marry the flavors and techniques of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines. As soon as I looked at the menu, I knew I was in trouble. I wanted one of everything. The lobster dumplings are fried and stuffed with pudgy chunks of sweet lobster, still tender and just barely cooked. Salmon tiradito is marinated in ponzu and kissed with a torch, served with horseradish mousse and nubs of chewy beet jerky. We scraped the plate under the grilled octopus, trying to catch every last morsel of the goat cheese-chorizo mousse served alongside the fish. The crispy rice brought back memories of dinners at Benihana, prepared tableside on a sizzling skillet. Our server mixed in the raw egg and soy sauce, then folded in steak tartare and a velvety Parmesan sauce. On my next visit, I’m determined to save room for dessert.
Anticucho Yaki at Onizuka LA
Another restaurant touting Nikkei cuisine is Onizuka, a new restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard from Bee Taqueria chef Alex Carrasco. The plush velvet emerald green booths and hanging plants give the dining room an Anthropologie vibe with an air of swank. The best thing I tried was Carrasco’s take on anticuchos, the grilled, marinated meat skewers found on street corners throughout Peru. Carrasco’s skewers arrive barely cooked through with a prompt to finish them to your liking on the provided mini grill. You’re meant to brush some of the anticucho sauce (a brown sauce that tasted of garlic, onion and vinegar) on the skewers then cook them. An order comes with two skewers each of chicken thigh, hanger steak and shishito peppers stacked with cherry tomatoes. We brushed and grilled our skewers then dragged them through the yellow huancaina sauce, a grainy pepper cheese paste that tasted like a cheesy hummus one would be lucky to find at Trader Joe’s.
Places to try this week
Asterid, 141 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 972-3535, asteridla.com
Bar Moruno, 3705 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 546-0505, barmorunola.com
Causita, 3709 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, causita-la.com
Onizuka, 514 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (424) 278-1337, onizukala.com
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