Our culinary warrior Ron W has selected the top ten dishes in the LA area for 2017. You must absolutely drop whatever you are doing and immediately go to the dishes. The following should not be missed by any rational adult or anyone who enjoys something other than the snack window at Costco at which Ron W confesses he has partaken.
There is no ascending or descending order here as eating in LA lacks a lot of order although there is plenty to order…just ask Jonathan Gold.
1.Sweet Street Corn Biscuits “Elotes” Milk Bread at 189 by Dominique Ansel. Yeah, Mr. Cronut himself opened a restaurant here in LA and is cooking large. And yes, Cronuts are available downstairs at the separate bakery. But at the restaurant have the Sweet Street Corn Biscuits “Elotes” Milk Bread – yup, it’s a mouthful- but it is outstanding. What actually is it? It’s the Chef’s riff on Mexican Street Corn. A biscuit injected with sweet Corn Pudding, brushed with Butter, Lime Zest and Cotija Cheese sprinkle. Two rows of these, a nice Albarino and the check should do it. “A savory éclair and a great reason to go there.”
2.Crispy Spicy Tuna at Sushi Noguchi in Orange County . Sushi places proliferate in LA like Trump Tweets when he’s been deprived of his Midnight Big Mac. Yes, there are more Sushi joints than there are fish in the sea. But this dish and this place is a reason to go on living. Four perfect crunchy Rice Cakes tufted with a tablespoon of Toro Tartare like a ball on a seal’s nose. Two dots of Yuzu/Kewpie and a tow of Sriracha anchor the plate. No better way to begin your Omakase here as Chef Hiro guides you to Fish Nirvana.
3. Curry Laced Fried Chicken at Barbara Jean, a funky outdoor only joint, lurking on Melrose Ave. Tucked into the patio behind the Melrose Umbrella Bar (which BTW cranks out a killer burger) is Barbara Jean. The soul food at Barbara Jean was decent. I did not experience a culinary epiphany here, until I got to kneel in respect to the Chicken God for this terrific dish. I was also blessed by the Parking God for offering a spot on the street for my Bugatti within a few blocks. And blessings to Chef Fullilove, who now offers Curry Laced Fried Chicken as a main dish for Sunday Supper instead of the appetizer it usually is.
4. Toasted Grain coated Apicius Duck Breast with House made Whole Grain Mustard, Grilled Baby Endive, Anchovy, Hazelnut Praline with a Pear Pudding,at Trois Mec. Chef Ludo Lefebvre is one of LA’s big boys and it is hard to snag a ticket to this hole in the wall for 1 percenters. You can get this wonderful dish only as part of a 7 course tasting menu which will set you back as much as $750 for two with a wine pairing and drinks. So if you are a real foodboom warrior you’ll have no compunction to break open the piggy bank for this dish that is a dazzler.
5. Rabbit Porchetta at Spago. Although it filled me full of guilt for dining on one of my role models…Bugs Bunny, I was exonerated after a few bites. This is a brave step for any kitchen even one with the confidence of Wolfgang Puck. Hardly any restaurants in SoCal offer rabbit on the menu. (Redbird did until they didn’t). Here, at Spago the Rabbit Porchetta is brilliant and would convince any food fancier to set out the snares. Hey, it’s Spago. What else would you expect from the Flagship of Wolfgang Puck’s empire? Make this Rabbit your habit.
6. Porterhouse for Two or the Bone-In Rib Eye at The Cut. Cut, is Wolfgang Puck’s version of a palace of protein. Let’s call it a meat market, just look at the exotics lined up to get in. Half in high heels and half purring until the Valet gets the clutch right. Can’t decide between the Porterhouse for Two (for one), or the Bone-In Rib Eye. You can’t lose. Let them choose. Either way there is no better obscene protein in the City.
7. Angelini Osteria. Spaghetti buried in shaved Winter Black Truffles. A big step to include this by one who can take or leave his truffles. They are usually as overrated as the 72 Virgins awaiting you in Paradise. This is a small neighborhood spot with a loyal following who travel from other neighborhoods. While everything here is made in-house and is sublime, the Italian Stallion of a dish is the Spaghetti with Truffles. The razor-thin coins are as thick as scales on a Carp and redolent of the forest. I would happily wrestle the pig for all the truffles he sniffed out. It was a religious experience and definitely hard to eat it while genuflecting. Do the best you can.
8. EP & LP. Chef Tikaram’s Lamb Neck served with Marrow, Fresh Herbs, Lettuce, and Chili Jam. Avoid the maddening bar scene and head downstairs to the restaurant. Once seated go directly to this dish. It is one of the most vibrant, unique and interesting dishes that you can find anywhere.
9. Yellow Croaker with Seaweed with Salt and Pepper. Shanghai Restaurant, San Gabriel. Drop what you’re doing and program your Waze to take you far aways to San Gabriel where Shanghai Restaurant and something special awaits you. Hand back the daunting menu of over 100 misspelled, barely decipherable, poorly described wonderful dishes and stab your finger at the, Hey, who doesn’t enjoy food on a stick? It’s what has made us who we are in the world today. This is the most magical fish this side of Finding Nemo. The batter is crunchy enough to undo your dentist’s finest work but the fish inside remains flakey, light, and moist.
10. Fish Filet with Mango Salad. Thai Nakorn. Garden Grove. Didn’t get enough Fish and Chips? The Fish will vary between Snapper or Catfish at the market price, but at less than $20 it will be spectacular. Out comes gorgeous filets encrusted in a moonscape of crispy nooks, crannies, crevasses, and seracs protecting a pair of Shaq shoe sized bricks of succulent, moist, lovely fish. You’ll truly love this even if you hate fish.
And there you have it. 2017’s Greatest Hits in bits and bites. If you dined out for every meal for years you’d never make a dent of what’s here and what is worth the effort to get to. So, don’t bother. Start with these and in the meanwhile I’ll be working on the best for 2018.