Here are the 10 most devastating dishes I ate in L.A. County in 2007, regardless of cuisine or price level. Three of the dishes didn’t previously appear on Food GPS, since I wrote about certain restaurants on assignment. My Top 10 is listed in alphabetical order.
6. Hummus Bar – Hummus Sabich
Specializing in the Middle Eastern garbanzo bean dip, this spot opened in December 2006 in Tarzana Village, a strip mall in a neighborhood with a large Israeli community. Chef-owner Ziva Ovadia makes everything but the pita fresh daily, including silky, substantial hummus. There are several possible toppings, but none better than with Hummus Sabich ($9.99), roasted eggplant, tahini sauce, thin-sliced hard-boiled egg, parsley and olive oil. The cuts of eggplant were especially terrific, with almost caramelized skins.
7. Il Grano – Heirloom Tomato Salad [CLOSED]
Naples native Sal Marino is fanatical about market-fresh ingredients. Every July, to mark the opening of tomato season, he utilizes over three-dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes from his private garden. A plate of heirloom tomatoes – red, yellow, orange, green, and burgundy – was lightly dressed with olive oil, sprinkled with black pepper and topped with a dollop of burrata, mozzarella’s creamy centered cousin. The starter was simple, naturally flavorful and totally timely.
8.La Casita Mexicana – Adobo Spiced Sea Bass
In the past, La Casita Mexicana only offered fish during Lent. Thankfully Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu recently added sea life to the regular menu. I ordered a white board special: adobo spiced sea bass fillet ($10.95) cooked with nopales (cactus strips) in corn husks and served with a mound of white rice topped with sliced jalapenos. I peeled back two husks to reveal a spice-marinated fillet of flaky white fish. Cooked in husks, the fish retained its moisture and was absolutely succulent. The nopales were plesantly rubbery, and still benefited the dish.
9. La Serenata de Garibaldi – Deshebrada Estilo Durango [CLOSED]
Jose Rodriguez and his wife Aurora have a three restaurant chain that stretches as far west as Santa Monica, but it was at the first link – Boyle Heights – that I experienced Deshebrada Estilo Durango ($15.50). The astounding shredded beef was dressed with diced potatoes, crumbled chorizo and a creamy chipotle sauce. The plate was decoratively rimmed with chopped oregano. I received a basket of fresh-pressed corn tortillas – red, white and green, the colors of the Mexican flag – allowing me to build my own tacos.
10. Ludobites @ Breadbar – Smoked Salmon With Tangerine Gazpacho [CLOSED]
Chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre’s “eclectic culinary adventure” was available at Breadbar through December 21. While several dishes lived up to Ludo’s reputation for innovation, I was particularly impressed by the Smoked Salmon With Tangerine Gazpacho ($7). Fillets of silky smoked salmon were topped with tiny edible flowers and Petrossian trout roe, which provided salty little bursts. It quickly became clear that dipping the smoked salmon in the “tangerine gazpacho” was a waste, so I picked up the dish and began drinking the cool yellow soup, which was phenomenal, loaded with sweet tangerine pulp.