Where do you go to interview top-tier LA chefs of celebrity status, all in the same room? How about the likes of Curtis Stone, Roy Choi, Michael Voltaggio and Sang Yoon?
Well, this past weekend, LA Weekly hosted The Essentials, an annual food event produced in honor of the recently unveiled 99 Essential LA Restaurants list. This is where I got to chat with all of the aforementioned immensely talented chefs!
Check it out here, along with some of the amazing bites offered by 50 of the 99 restaurants honored on the list:
Here are some of the highlights from what we tried at the event:
Roy Choi’s Kogi served its classic short rib tacos, while Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio of Ink served a bagels & lox-inspired dish featuring rye pasta with smoked trout roe, bagel crumbs and dashi brown butter.
Plan Check served their famous (and heavenly!) cruller donut holes with caramelized goat cheese, coconut sugar, almond sauce, white chocolate and candied rosemary.
This little ball of rich complexity was definitely one of my ultimate favorite bites, as the donuts were crispy on the outside and light, airy and slightly custardy on the inside. The caramelized goat cheese was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the candied rosemary added the right amount of aromatic essence.
A savory favorite of mine had to be Little Sister’s banh hoi with chili braised beef shank and tendon, herbs, sprouts and fried peanuts. Great balance of hot and cold, sweet and salty, and the perfect amount of heat and acid.
Alimento’s escolar crudo was also excellent, plated with eggplant, wild fennel and mollica. The succulent yet firm white fish absolutely melted in the mouth along with its Mediterranean-inspired components. It was a very cohesive plate indeed, with deep flavors.
One last donut that stood out was Hinoki & The Bird’s miso donut with honey caramel. It was a perfect umami and sweet combination in one fluffy bite!
Spago served an interesting “Vietnamese style banh mi” with pork belly, but somehow it didn’t taste as good as it looked for me. Still, it was pretty to look at, with all its brightly colored veggies.
Tar & Roses’ steak tartare was delectable, as was its popcorn with bacon, brown sugar and aleppo pepper. Petit Trois also served a steak tartare, while Park’s BBQ served the flavors of Korean BBQ in one bite. There was also some great Ethiopian food, and a lot of deep-flavored moles served at the event.
I only heard that chef Curtis Stone of Maude’s white asparagus pain perdu with foie gras mousse, pickled pearl onions & mustard seed was amazing, since we didn’t get to try before they ran out. Still, he talks to us about it in the video above… which kind of makes up for it!
Here’s Roy Choi cracking jokes and plugging Kogi, by the way:
Szechuan Impression’s spicy noodles were hot and flavorful, and had just the right bite. The variety of food, from authentic international street fare to refined European-inspired dishes was a pretty accurate reflection of so much that LA has to offer.
Although they didn’t exhibit at the event, I was pretty proud to learn that Surati Farsan Mart was recognized as one of the 99 Essential Restaurants!
Wine, cocktails and spirits also flowed at the event, and there was even vodka made from sweet potatoes. Oh, and how could I forget shouting out Philippe The Original and their OG French dip sandwich? There was so much food and drink to try, such little time!
I do wish some of the fine dining restaurants hadn’t run out by the time we got to them, but overall we definitely left stuffed and satiated with some of the most essential bites LA has to offer.
It was a good time talking food with some very well-respected chefs, as well.
Check out the full list of stellar vendors here. Until next time, cheers!