VIDEO: Celebrity Chefs + Highlights from LA Weekly’s “The Essentials”

Tanayas Table LA Weekly The Essentials Logo Wine

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.

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Michael Voltaggio of Ink served up a pasta play on bagels & lox

Plan Check served their famous (and heavenly!) cruller donut holes with caramelized goat cheese, coconut sugar, almond sauce, white chocolate and candied rosemary.

Plan Check's all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

Plan Check’s all-star cruller donut with candied rosemary, caramelized goat cheese

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.

Little Sister's banh hoi getting some finishing touches

Little Sister’s banh hoi getting some finishing touches

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.

Spago's take on the banh mi

Spago’s take on the banh mi

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.

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park's BBQ

Korean BBQ in one bite, by Park’s BBQ

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:

Joking around with Roy Choi

Instagram video: Joking around with Roy Choi

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.

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

Spicy noodles by Szechuan Impression

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!

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

The original French dip by Philippe The Original

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.

Roy Choi & Tanaya's Table talking food

Cheers from Roy Choi & Tanaya’s Table… peace out!

Check out the full list of stellar vendors here. Until next time, cheers!

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Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Around L.A: Bites From The DTLA Night Market

The 626 Night Market, known for hosting events in the San Gabriel Valley akin to the original night markets found in Asia, has now come to Los Angeles. The first-ever DTLA Night Market was held at the lot across from Staples Center in the heart of downtown, with plenty of food and retail vendors, art and live entertainment.

Having covered past 626 Night Markets, the downtown L.A. event seemed to have a slightly different vibe, with more of a modern, eclectic selection of vendors as well as crowd, which also seemed to skew younger, at least during the time we were there on Friday.

The event was held June 20-21st, running from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. both nights. Quick protip: If you’re going to taste a variety of good food, it’s best to get there earlier in the day, to beat the rush. You’ll get dibs on the best items before they may run out, and also avoid long lines. If you’re going for the ambiance and more of the true “night market” feel, go in the evening when it’s bustling with more people, lights and live music.

With an artwalk, hookah lounge, beer garden, 97.1 AMP Radio DJ’ing onsite and more, the event had a lively vibe, with a diverse group of vendors offering a variety of different bites for purchase. Here are some of the top bites we tried:

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

This red velvet mochi egg waffle comes from Puffect, a bakery that specializes in creating these unique crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside waffles that can commonly be found on the streets of Hong Kong. Some of my fondest street food memories in Hong Kong (I lived there one summer, and plan to share those adventures as well… so much good food!) involve these delicious treats. Puffect offers lots of creative takes on the classic egg waffle by creating flavored batters such as Thai tea and green tea, in addition to the red velvet variation. A host of add-ons can texturally enhance your egg waffle experience, as our mochi-studded dessert provided chewy pockets of gooey, starchy goodness.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

This special version of the original Ramen Burger is a collaboration with La Sriracha Macha, a Mexican-inspired version of the now-ubiquitous Sriracha sauce. The patty was good and all, but the ramen bun was unique and tasty, with an even texture throughout that held up well when repeatedly bitten into (unlike some other imposter ramen buns). The sauce added great flavor that made the entire thing juicier, with a little heat.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Kalbi taco buns from Crasians had a “secret ingredient” which gives the traditionally soft bao a crunchy exterior when frying. I think it’s some sort of larger bread crumb flake, because it looked liked flaked coconut but didn’t taste like it. Delicious nonetheless.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

This anything-but-ordinary fried chicken sandwich was created by Formosa Cafe’s Brian Huskey (who is also a former “Top Chef” contestant). The crispy exterior and juicy interior of the chicken was accompanied by the refreshing coolness of the coleslaw, a sweet richness from the Okinawan purple potato, and a little kick of heat from the accompanying jalapeño yuzu sauce. All of these components joined forces to create one of the most well-balanced bites of the entire event.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

The newest item from Mama Musubi is the Currywurst rice ball. With a quality tidbit of Berkshire pork sausage and a dab of Japanese curry aioli, the flavors added a nice depth to the seasoned rice + seaweed base. I’ve had other rice ball variations from Mama Musubi, all of which have been varying degrees of tasty. Still, I’ve always felt that it’s a lot of rice for what you’re paying, and more importantly, for all the stomach real estate (as I like to call it) that it takes up during a food event. The rice is quite filling, and there’s a lot of it in proportion to the actual toppings. Still a pretty solid bite overall.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Now, on to the uni cream and truffle oil tater tots from Lotza Tots. Rich, creamy, just the right amount of uni– which, by the way, is sourced straight from the Maruhide Uni Club… so you know their sea urchin is legit. These tots were quite rich as you’d expect, but Lotza Tots was kind enough to entice us with a special half-order. Flavor-wise, these tots were uni-tater perfection. True indulgence at its finest: a little deep-fried fair fare, topped with creamy class.

Copyright 2014 Tanaya Ghosh

Other interesting eats and drinks included spiked Amaretto boba by Boba 7, Hello Kitty and other character-inspired cupcakes by Mwokaji Cakery, liquid nitrogen frozen popcorn by NitroPop, and fried ice cream from Frio Frito. There was also watermelon-basil lemonade, ice cream sundaes in the form of potted plants, and much more to try! The first DTLA Night Market was certainly a hit. If you want to check it out for yourself, the next 626 Night Market series will be held in Santa Anita Park in Arcadia on the following Fridays and Saturdays, from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m:

  • July 18 & 19
  • August 15 & 16
  • September 12 & 13

For those who have only been to the 626 Night Market, the OC Night Market, or this past event in downtown, it’s safe to say you’ll experience a few new things at each location. For updates on the next event, check out the 626 Night Market website.