Restaurant creativity amid post-pandemic jitters and inflation

Explosions of chef creativity in the age of pandemic and inflation, Chicago’s misunderstood Italian beef and “The Bear” effect. Here, with this week’s tasting notes, I’m Laurie Ochoa, General Manager of LA Times Food, replacing Bill Addison, who is hard at work on this year’s 101 Best Restaurants list.

Creative challenge

There is a certain crunch you hear as you enter the crispy skin of a piece of expertly cooked fish. I heard this crunch Thursday night as I was served a nice piece of tilefish at the chefboylee x kinn collaboration dinner hosted by this year’s LA Times Food Bowl. The dinner, hosted at chef Ki Kim’s Koreatown restaurant Kinn, was just the latest example of the culinary art we’re seeing in the face of slow pandemic recovery, supply chain lockdowns, staffing issues industry-wide and rising inflation.

With chefs Kim, Kevin Lee, better known on social media as @chefboylee, and H Woo Lee behind the counter, diners were served Santa Barbara spot prawns which Kim said were marinated in the soy sauce with apple, onion, garlic, ginger, tequila and Sprite then served with a grated sea urchin sauce which was so good I used my finger to get the last bit before the waiter took it away plate. There was also steamed abalone, dry-aged duck, handmade pasta with perilla sauce, leeks so rich they tasted like meat, ice cream squash with a spoonful of caviar and, for dessert, a perilla sorbet followed by a persimmon beignet. It was an extravagant twist on Kinn’s usual tasting menu, which stood out as one of the more (relatively) affordable prix fixe meals at $72.

Tilefish with mousse at the chefboylee x Kinn collaboration dinner for the 2022 LA Times Food Bowl.

(Laurie Ochoa/Los Angeles Times)

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Earlier this year, Jenn Harris wrote about the profusion of tasting menus we see all over Southern California – chefs say the predictability of sourcing and staffing helps them survive. Of course, there’s a lot to debate about the cost of these menus, but one of the benefits is that chefs merge their heritage with their culinary training to come up with new dishes that are worth copying and integrating into the canon of modern California cuisine. . Think of the squirrelfish Times critic Bill Addison loved at Jon Yao’s Kato, or the marzipan with Meyer lemon ice cream at Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George’s Camphor in downtown Los Angeles.

Steamed abalone appetizer at chefboylee x kinn collaboration dinner for 2022 LA Times Food Bowl.

Steamed abalone appetizer at chefboylee x kinn collaboration dinner for 2022 LA Times Food Bowl.

(Laurie Ochoa/Los Angeles Times)

Italian Beef Beef

A looping animated beef sandwich.

The divinely delicious Italian beef sandwich, typically Chicagoan and often misunderstood.

(Jennifer Hines / For The Time)

We know you’ve read a lot about the FX series on Hulu “The Bear,” and how stressed bosses — and, for that matter, stressed workers in all sorts of industries — relate to the lead character of Jeremy. Allen White, Carmy, who quits her life as a star chef to run her family’s Italian beef restaurant. But the show appears to have a lasting influence on sales of Italian beef beyond Chicago, the birthplace of the beloved sandwich. Stephanie Breijo talks about “The Bear Effect” with LA chefs, some of whom made and loved Italian beef before the show and are seeing their sales increase. But Chicago native Lucas Kwan Peterson says wait a minute. Not all Italian beef you see is true to the Chicago original. He breaks down the essentials of a real Italian beef, which should be “sloppy and unwieldy, and best eaten immediately standing up.”

No one can doubt Courtney Storer’s Italian credentials. The former Jon & Vinny culinary director grew up in Chicago and, alongside chef, actor and internet star Matty Matheson, was the culinary producer of “The Bear,” created by her brother Christopher Storer. We asked Courtney Storer to show us how to make real Italian beef and Stephanie Breijo watched the chef walk us through her recipe. A key lesson: be careful with the bread.

Shanghai Surprise

Shanghai-style dishes at San Gabriel Wangjia Restaurant.

At San Gabriel Wangjia restaurant, clockwise from left, saute shrimp, salt pork and vegetables with rice, daily vegetables: ta cai, crab with rice cakes from Shanghai, steamed pork buns and ground eel braised in brown sauce.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

If you regularly eat in the San Gabriel Valley, you know that Sichuan cuisine dominates the restaurant scene. Gone are the days when massive dim sum and seafood palaces like the Empress Pavilion in Chinatown or Monterey Park’s Harbor Village (which once hosted Hong Kong’s King Abalone for a sun-dried abalone dinner at $160) were major players. But as Bill Addison writes in his latest restaurant review, SGV isn’t just about Sichuan food. The relatively new Shanghai-style WangJia — in the space that once housed the Big Noodle Island — has a sprawling menu that, in a nod to current trends, includes Sichuan dishes. But opt ​​for the Shanghainese specialties: crab cake with rice or eel or the dish listed on the menu as “salted pork and vegetables with rice” or xian rou cai fan.

Readers tell us about classic Mexican spots we forgot

An illustration of a colorful restaurant.

A classic Mexican restaurant.

(Daniel Villanueva / For the Time)

After last week’s series on classic Southern California Mexican restaurants – including a guide to 38 essential classic Mexican restaurants, as well as Gustavo Arellano’s essay on how Cal-Mex meals are often mocked, slandered or ignored; Lucas Kwan Peterson’s interviews with “five of El Cholo’s most senior employees”; Jenn Harris’ behind-the-scenes tour of Tito’s Tacos and my look back at how the late Jose Hernandez Rodriguez, chef and owner of the original La Serenata de Garibaldi, paved the way for the more complex nuances of Mexican cuisine to be enjoyed alongside classic beloveds – Amy Wong, Food’s audience engagement editor, asked readers to share memories of their favorite classic Mexican restaurants. Amy posted 11 of the many responses we received, including notes on Gilbert’s El Indio on Pico in Santa Monica, Los Toros in Chatsworth, Mi Casa in Costa Mesa and one of my family’s favorites, La Cabañita in Glendale. I usually choose one of the restaurant’s stuffed poblano pepper dishes, either peppers in La Cabañita filled with chicken, almonds and raisins, or peppers in pecan sauce in Nogada filled with meat, dried fruits and of nuts.

Food Bowl Final

We are approaching the final week of the Food Bowl, presented by City National Bank. Highlights include this weekend’s final two Night Market events at Paramount Pictures Studios, including tonight’s ‘Saturday Night Flavor’ featuring a dumpling demonstration hosted by The Times’ Jenn Harris with Lukshon and the Bureau Chief of the father Sang Yoon as well as chefs from Lunasia, plus a Thai cooking demo by Jet Tila. Tastings include dishes from El Ruso Chef Walter Soto Alvarez, Katsu Sando Chef Daniel Son, Kuya Chef Lord Maynard Llera, Park BBQ Chef Jenee Kim and many more. At Backlot Sunday Brunch, look for Chef Kinn Ki Kim, Chef Gunsmoke Brandon Kida, Chef Here Looking at You Jonathan Whitener, Chef Johnny Ray Zone of Howlin’ Ray, Chef Jitlada Southern Thai Jazz Singsanong, Restaurant Chefs Indian Mayura Aniyan Puthanpurayil and Padmini Aniyan, and many others.

At Tuesday’s Baja in the Bungalow, Chef Diego Hernandez of Ensenda’s La Bête Noire cooks up a Baja seafood feast at Le Melody. Three events are scheduled for Wednesday evening, including a discussion on food, the restaurant industry and climate at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute with special guest Jorge Gaviria, co-founder of traditional corn specialist Masienda. Billy Harris and I are hosting a LA Regional Food Bank dinner on Wednesday with Nancy Silverton at The Barish in Hollywood. I look forward to the Barish’s whole oxtail and wood oven baked pasta. Also on Wednesday is a screening of the Hulu movie “Prey” with food by Ka’teen and Angry Egret chef Wes Avila.

Food Bowl ends Thursday with a plant-based dinner by chef Mollie Engelhart at her Sage restaurant in Culver City.

Also:

— Singer Robbie Montgomery’s St. Louis soul food restaurant, Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust, which was featured on the OWN reality show “Welcome to Sweet Pie’s,” closed nearly a week after the son of Montgomery was convicted of murder for hire. conspiracy against his grandson.

– Twitter lit up with Lord Voldemort and nose jokes after Beyond Meat COO Doug Ramsey was arrested and charged with biting off a man’s nose. Meanwhile, Irvine-headquartered Taco Bell announced it would test Beyond Meat carne asada in the chain’s market in Dayton, Ohio.

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