I recently spoke with 12 Los Angeles chefs and restaurateurs at An Evening on the Beach, LA Street Food Fest, and out in the field and asked, “If people could try only one of your dishes, what should it be and why?” Read their responses.
I believe at Mo-chica the paiche is incredible, just because I believe there are only two restaurants in America serving it, and it’s such a special fish. It’s a fish that grows up to 500 pounds in the Amazon River, no mercury, so it’s a very special fish. It’s very unknown, but it’s very tasty. It has beautiful taste and a beautiful texture.
When it comes to Picca, my all-time favorite is the locro de quinoa, because healthy food cannot taste better than that.
Jeff Cerciello (Farmshop)
In the restaurant, I would say the pastrami sandwich, at least right now. And I certainly can’t take credit for that. That’s Josh Drew’s. It’s his recipe. He brought a lot to the table, obviously. It’s something he really worked on and is really proud of. I’m really proud of it, the fact that we sell a lot of it. I wouldn’t say it’s what defines us, but it really shows the care and thought that goes in to what we’re doing. On the bakery side, what Brittney [Turnquist] does, the seasonal flavored meringues. Like tonight, we’re serving this vanilla meringue with lemon curd and fresh peaches from Frog Hollow. Really, everyone loves the meringues. Those are two completely different things coming from under one roof.
Johneric Concordia (The Park’s Finest)
It depends. If they want something sweet, Ann’s cornbread. It’s familiar but different, something you could really enjoy. If you want to taste solid barbecue, do you like pork? The pork ribs. Do you like beef? The short rib. Or try something you’ve never tried before, the coco beef.
Connie Cossio (Coni’Seafood)
My number one seller is the ceviche. I think it’s because that’s one of my dad’s specialties. He came up with the ceviche. It’s shrimp with cucumber, onion, tomato, lemon juice, marinated with green sauce. It’s a special sauce that my dad also came up with. It’s jalapeno, lemon, salt, a little bit of water and jalapeno. We serve it with chips.
Michael Fiorelli (mar’sel)
I would say, probably the braised pork cheek, because it’s probably something they’ve never eaten before. Once they eat it, they’re definitely going to want to come back for it.
Michael McCarty (Michael’s)
One dish? It depends on the season. Right now, I think the Weiser heirloom melons, which is a half a dozen varieties that we get in, with the Serrano ham, beautiful olive oil and mint. The other thing would be unbelievable tomatoes and Gioia burrata. We just started getting in the most sensational line-caught striped bass, and Chef John-Carlos, our chef at Michael’s, he’s doing a fabulous summer ratatouille with the squashes and eggplant. If I came to my restaurant today, I’d order the melon to start, then the tomatoes, then the striped bass with the ratatouille, and a great bottle of the rosé.
Edlyne Nicholas (Isla Cocina Pilipina)
Sisig nachos. The sisig is our signature dish. It’s spicy and has great kick, and with the cheese and the tortilla chips, awesome.
Bryant Ng (The Spice Table)
That’s a very hard, hard question. You asked me what my favorite child is. It’s difficult, but you know what, there is a dish I do really love, and that’s the pig’s tail. We braise it and then we grill it, so it gets a nice char and smokiness, and the flavor profile is fish sauce, ginger, garlic. I serve it with herbs. You take it, you peel the meat off, and you wrap it with the lettuce and herbs, then you dip it in fish sauce. It’s a great balance of rich and fatty, and it’s offset by some of the lightness of the lettuce and the herbs.
Well, I have one dish that’s in both restaurants, tortillas florales, and it’s the workhorse, whether it’s a dry, dehydrated tostadito, or if it’s a plump corn tortilla. It’s the workhorse of the menu, and it definitely has multi-purpose. It’s the stalwart of the kitchen. You can use it in a myriad of ways. For both restaurants, it’s the everyday, wonderful tortilla.
Paul Shoemaker (Savory) + (Juicy Lucy)
Trust in the chef. That’s it. You go to the doctor when you have a cold and trust them to cure your cold. You go to the restaurant to eat. I think it’s time to start trusting in the chefs. They’ve spent all day at the fish market, the farmers market, they spend the time cooking dishes, training staff and articulating to everybody. It’s time to start trusting the chef. He’s there for a reason. I think people believe in that. They go to restaurants to experience cuisine. It’s art, it’s good times. Trust in the chef. Let them take you on a culinary journey of chefs who dream about cooking every night. They’re in the kitchen every morning, shoot some espresso and just start cooking all day. After working 12, 16-hour days, it’s nice that people enjoy what you’re going to work for every day.
I think the tuna dynamite is a dish that tells a mixture of different styles. It’s hard to say one dish when you come to my restaurants. There’s meatloaf. There’s so many different styles of American food, that it’s limiting. To me, it’s ordering all these different things with a group of people and sharing them.
Mako Tanaka (Robata-Ya)
That’s a tough question. We have very good, fresh, free-range chicken, maybe 10 different items, part of the chicken. So chicken is very good. Seafood is very good. So very hard to say what is the best one. Everything’s great.