As professional eaters, the editors of Eater LA make it a habit of eating out several times a week, if not per day. That means there are always standout dishes that deserve their time in the limelight. Here now, the very best of everything the team has eaten recently.
February 21, 2018
Cabbage from Charcoal Venice
With a name like Charcoal, and the widely-publicized, meaty intentions of Melisse chef Josiah Citrin, it is surprising that one of the most pleasurable dishes on the menu is not the short rib or pork ragu (although when the latter special is on the menu, it would be wise to order the full-bodied, red wine vinegar-inflected pappardelle that is better than grandma ever made). No, it is the cabbage that steals the show.
As the name would intimate, the humble vegetable is tossed in the embers and charred until the exterior dons an ominous black coating. The inside, however, steams into an unbelievably soft, almost custardy state that makes for an extraordinary interplay of textures, all from the very same piece of vegetable flesh. Accented with sumac-perfumed yogurt and the garlicky zing of chive, the food once reserved for plebeians is elevated to new heights and manages to become the center of attention at a temple of carnivorous predilections. 425 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey —Crystal Coser
Patate Pizza from Triple Beam Pizza
Who knew that Nancy Silverton’s next project would be so, well, cool? From the outstanding Mozzaplex to her line of Nancy’s Fancy gelato, it’s easy to see the award-winning, Chef’s Table-hosting Silverton taking it easy these days, but instead she’s hard at work alongside chef collaborator Matt Molina turning out ridiculously delicious slices of Roman-style pizza in Highland Park. Anyone who gives the food world a social media follow has seen the imagery of those long Roman pies by now, sliced down the middle by a pair of sharp shears and then portioned out according to how much length one asks for with their hands.
There are a few meat-loving options on the menu but the star of Triple Beam’s show may well be the patate, a truffle-laced bit of savory perfection that’s topped with wonderfully melted, almost blistery cheese and paper-thin coins of organic potatoes. It’s a starch on a starch, sure, but when the crispy crust is this well done, a little mellowness in the ingredients goes a long way. Add in a glass of $8 rose by sommelier David Rosoff during hot days or a fortifying red come nightfall, and it’s a cheap eats, in-and-out kind of restaurant perfection — situated right along Figueroa in Highland Park, and by none other than Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina. 5918 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles —Farley Elliott
Taiyaki (Fish Waffles) from Sweet Dreams Tea & Desserts
A bite into Sweet Dreams Tea & Desserts’ “Fish Waffle” and suddenly the memory returns. Between the screaming whistle of train brakes and the headache-inducing scent of perfume and petroleum at Seoul’s subway stops, one might be able to sniff out a sweet, eggy batter caramelizing at on corn-shaped waffle irons at the Deli Manjoo stand. Essentially miniature Japanese taiyaki in the shape of corn, these fresh custard-filled miniature egg-waffles are an iconic walking food. Finding that perfect batter-to-filling ratio (READ: lots of browned, sweet egg batter) for taiyaki is a tall order in the States, but Sweet Dreams’ fish waffle is one of the better versions I’ve tried. Proust’s Swann had the madeleine, I have taiyaki and its many iterations. 301 W Valley Blvd Unit 102) San Gabriel —Euno Lee
Jidori Dashi Omlette from UMI by Hamasaku
I love Japanese omelette. They are usually perfectly seasoned and very soft. In Korea, known as egg roll, gye-ran ma-ree, I used to enjoy these as an after school snack at home. If you frequent at Korean restaurants, you might have seen a variation of this on the table as one of the banchan (side dishes). Chef Yoya Takahashi’s version of this jidori dashi omelette is an elevated version of what I am familiar with. In every bite I enjoyed the perfectly cooked egg and clams. Most people will be very happy with getting fresh selections of fish from UMI. But for me, this Japanese omelette is my absolute dish. 860 S Sepulveda Blvd #116, El Segundo —Wonho Frank Lee
Fried chicken and grits from CJ’s Cafe
The fried chicken boom in LA can feel a bit overwhelming. And with good reason, people are lining up for this new generation of fried chicken restaurants, that throw flavorful chicken bits into a perfectly maintained fryer, which can impact that satisfying first bite. On a quest for crunch, I went back to basics in the quiet cool of CJ’s old-school dining room, with the very simple chicken and grits. There’s no fuss, no lines (except on Sundays after church), and the ability to select my favorite pieces, while personally seasoning my grits with the right amount of salt, butter, and pepper, made everything right in the world. 5501 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles —Mona Holmes
Wagyu shabu shabu from Hamasaku
There’s an astounding shabu shabu and hot pot boom happening in Los Angeles right now, between the longstanding Little Tokyo spots Shabu Shabu House and Kagaya to the AYCE bastions of Shabuya and Bon Shabu in Koreatown. But perhaps the most luxe take on the swishing Japanese meat party is at Hamasaku in West LA. The bustling strip mall sushi restaurant was packed on a recent weekday, with families and dates ordering plates of sashimi and nigiri.
Thanks to chef de cuisine Mika Matsui, who also happens to be executive chef Yoya Takahashi’s wife, there’s some creativity coming to the hot dishes as well. This shabu shabu comes perilously on a sturdy paper coffee filter placed above a live flame. The paper cone contains sweet soy sukiyaki-style broth and a size of generously portioned wagyu beef (plus a few bonus pieces of fresh uni). It’s deadly simple but decadent, with hand-sliced cuts of fatty Japanese beef that retain their tenderness despite a slightly thicker composition. The dish is a splurge at $40, but for a nice complement to Hamasaku’s excellent sushi, it’s a nice departure from seafood. 11043 California State Route 2, Los Angeles, CA 90025 —Matthew Kang