I never expected to find such a good tomato in December. Yes, California is famous for summertime tomatoes, but offerings can get wan in winter. Here’s Looking At You chef Jonathan Whitener reminded me of hothouse tomatoes, available year-round. He favors Momotaro, the bright red, sweet, and tangy tomato that’s big in Japan.
I ate at HLAY soon after Whitener and front of house partner Lien Ta opened their modern eclectic restaurant in Koreatown, and dishes like the Momotaro Tomato ($16) make it clear that he’s even further along with his cooking. The menu changes at least a little bit each day, but hopefully Whitener clings tight to this stunning tomato salad. Diced tomato that’s bright in every sense of the world benefitted from umami-rich bagna cauda, breadcrumbs, tangy creme fraiche folded with licorice-flavored anise hyssop, and sweet Chinese sausage. My wife and I gave serious thought to ordering a second plate, which would have been unprecedented, but we “made due” with HLAY’s other great menu items.