LOS ANGELES FOOD TOUR

Written by Taylor Roberts

We have spent the summer “traveling” to destinations digitally and locally, so what better way to wrap up the season than with an international tour for the tastebuds. Pack your bags for a new twist on a culinary adventure; the short hour and a half down U.S. 101 to Los Angeles is now your runway to a variety of cuisines from the comfort of socially-distanced outdoor dining or takeout on your private couch. To help decide among Los Angeles' extensive list of dining destinations, we chose four restaurants that participated in the recent dineL.A. Restaurant Week that focus on food from different parts of the world and asked them a few questions. After all, it is way more fun to eat outstanding food when you know a little more about the chef cooking it.



If you're hoping to visit Spain — Gabi James, Owner Sara Gabriele


1. What inspired you to become a restauranteur?

I grew up with a chef and restaurateur as my father and it shaped my love for food and the restaurant industry. My father had restaurants in LA for four decades (Cafe Pierre and Zazou). Growing up in restaurants, constantly seeing and eating new and different flavors helped develop my palate and my ability to create dishes.


2. Which dineL.A. menu item best encompasses your restaurant’s cuisine and story?

Each of the dishes on our dineL.A. menu are such a part of us that it is hard to choose, but I would say there are two dishes that say the most about who we are. Gabi James is about both innovation and tradition. We like to take things that are familiar and pair them with the unfamiliar. Our sauteed local dates are paired with marcona almonds and manchego cheese, so it encompasses items that you have heard of and are familiar with in an unfamiliar combination. The second is our Merguez Burger. This burger pairs our amazing housemade Brioche Bun with our family recipe for merguez, which is traditionally a sausage, made into a burger.


3. Who is one chef that you admire most?

We would have to say Jose Andres. Not only did he bring amazing Spanish food to the US, he is also the most incredible humanitarian.


4. If there is any place you could travel to this fall (or restaurant to visit) what would it be?

Since the shutdown began, we have been hard at work doing takeout with just a few of us, so our ideal vacation would involve a ton of relaxation paired with some great food and drinks. We really hope to make it back to Spain and France soon to visit family and eat and drink our way around.


5. How is the traditional dining experience being redefined in light of the current pandemic?

I think that the best way to describe our dining experience is fluid and ever-evolving. In March, when the shutdown began, we immediately transitioned into takeout and delivery, serving up family meals, and weekly food and beverage experiences to take home. We were able to briefly re-open for socially distanced dine-in service before being only allowed to dine outdoors. Once that began, we were extremely fortunate to live in a community that allowed for us to create parklets for our outdoor dining, which has been a lifesaver. It's funny that we live in a beach town and not until now have we been lucky enough to have outdoor patios like they do all over Europe. We love it, but we can't wait to welcome guests back into the dining room as well!


If you're hoping to visit Japan — Sushi | Bar, Chef Philip Frankland Lee


1. What inspired you to become a chef?

It’s a series of events and it started when I was young - when my dad gave me a chef’s knife for my third birthday. I have five brothers and sisters and we all had chores growing up. My dad cooked dinner every night and my chore was to help him with the cooking. When I was 13 years old, I wanted to become a sushi chef. When I was 18 years old, I got my first restaurant job as a dishwasher. I grew up always loving food and cooking.

2. Which dineL.A. menu item best encompasses your restaurant’s cuisine and story?

At Sushi | Bar we offer tasting menus, so for dineL.A. we are offering our entire tasting menu at a discounted price. It’s great for guests, as they will receive the full Sushi | Bar dining experience, at special pricing.


3. Who is one chef that you admire most?

Chef Michael Cimarusti, of Providence. I actually told him this during an embarrassing encounter once, at the Zagat 30 Under 30 Awards. Besides being a chef, I am also a drummer. I was talking with a group of people at the awards afterparty and someone asked me who is the drummer I most admire and who is the chef I most admire. I told them that the drummer I most admire is Dave Grohl and the chef I most admire is Michael Cimarusti. While I was saying this, Chef Michael Cimarusti had entered the group of people and overheard me talking. He simply replied, “I like Dave Grohl too.”


4. If there is any place you could travel to this fall (or restaurant to visit) what would it be?

Asador Etxebarri restaurant, in Spain.


5. How is the traditional dining experience being redefined in light of the current pandemic?

We have shifted so that our restaurants are now serving guests outdoors and our menus can be ordered for takeaway. On September 4th we opened a new seasonally-driven seafood restaurant, Leviathan, which has been built entirely outdoors in the sprawling courtyard below our other restaurants in Encino. Whether seated at the 6 seat chef’s counter (built in accordance with all CDC/Health department guidelines and equipped with plexiglass barriers between parties), adjacent to the brick-lined hearth, or at one of only 4 socially distanced tables, guests will enjoy à la carte dining options in a small plates format.



If you're hoping to visit The 'Big Easy — Harold & Belle's, Owner Ryan Legaux (grandson of Harold Legaux)


1. What inspired you to become a chef?

Family business , I like to eat , I like to cook my own food that I like, so I learned the family recipes from my dad.


2. Which dineL.A. menu item best encompasses your restaurant’s cuisine and story?

Filé Gumbo was one of the first dishes on our original menu served back in 1969.


3. Who is one chef that you admire most?

Leah Chase in New Orleans has the style and the neighborhood like the one we have here.


4. If there is any place you could travel to this fall (or restaurant to visit) what would it be?

Brisket at Blue Oak in New Orleans.


5. How is the traditional dining experience being redefined in light of the current pandemic?

The guest dining experience is taking place at home since we have not opened to the public for dining in yet. We didn’t have outdoor space to be able to open, so we are just making sure that what they take home, including our famous hurricane cocktails served in a mason jar, is authentic.



If you were hoping to visit the Italian coas— Jame Enoteca, Chef Jackson Kalb


1. What inspired you to become a chef?

I actually don't know what inspired me to be a chef...I have no family ties to the food industry. I started watching Food Network (back when it was a TV channel about cooking, not reality competitions) when I was 13, and immediately tried it out myself. It took me a few hours of actual cooking to fall in love.


2. Which dineL.A. menu item best encompasses your restaurant’s cuisine and story?

The capellini with 36-hour tomato, basil, and parmigiano. It sounds simple, and it is, but is one of the most labor-intensive dishes in our entire restaurant. We love simplicity, which means the technique must be flawless, and the ingredients must be what we believe to be the absolute best. We even use special eggs from just east of Anaheim just for the dough.


3. Who is one chef that you admire most?

He occasionally uses his notoriety as a platform for mental health awareness, which, according to him, he personally struggles with. It must be so daunting to put yourself out there like that. Social media is used to show the world the best version of yourself, but the work that he does is important. It allows others to know that they are not alone, and that "making it" in your career might not be enough.


4. If there is any place you could travel to this fall (or restaurant to visit) what would it be?

Inside dining at Night Market Sahm. It's too loud, the oilcloths on the tables are distracting, the neon lighting is hard on the eyes, and the silverware is cheap. Yet somehow, it is the best restaurant in Los Angeles, it's perfect. I have eaten their take-out and it's obviously incredible, but there's something special about being there.


5. How is the traditional dining experience being redefined in light of the current pandemic?

We have just focused on doing whatever is in our control rather than whatever is out of our control. Whining about how servers can't smile behind masks is a useless, and mentally taxing, exercise. If someone wants to dine with us, we try to make it special. I have never been more willing to comp food for a random guest or spend a few bucks making our makeshift outdoor "patio" look as nice as possible.


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