Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 4) -- and probably beyond, at this rate -- we'll be counting down, in no particular order, 100 of our favorite dishes.
37: The Island Combo at TiGeorges' Chicken.
One imagines George Laguerre, who opened his Haitian restaurant TiGeorges' Chicken some fifteen years ago, as something of an Echo Park Job. First there was the devastating January 2010 earthquake in his native Haiti, which destroyed the homes and businesses of many of his friends and family. Then, only a month later, an electrical fire destroyed the roof of his restaurant, as if catastrophe had simply changed direction. It took almost a year for Laguerre to reopen. But reopen he did, the restaurant recalibrated and rebuilt so that it seems, on the surface, as if nothing much has happened. It has, of course. Haiti still remains in partial ruins. And catastrophe leaves patterns and fissures, whether you can see them or not.
But all that is forgotten, at least for dinner, when you sit down to a plate of TiGeorges' chicken, the focal point of the menu and of the restaurant itself, the tables of which are gathered around an enormous custom-made medieval-looking spit near the restaurant's front window. (An apocalypse would probably not destroy that thing, certainly not a little ceiling fire.)
Laguerre roasts all his chickens on this gothic contraption, over avocado wood, and gives you the option of ordering a halved or a quartered bird. Order the most you can manage, as there are few better roast chickens served in Los Angeles. If you pick the Island Combo -- which sounds like something you'd order on a cruise ship or pick up at a beach shack or see in the background of a Dos Equis commercial; it is not -- you'll be given not only the glorious chicken that you came for, but a collection of things that compliment it in ways you might not immediately consider.
Acra, or taro root fritters, fried plantains, rice and beans, a bit of dressed salad and a couple of ramekins that look innocuous but are decidedly not. One holds "chicken sauce," which is the juice from the chicken, more or less. And the other? A mixture of raw garlic and onion and black pepper and olive oil (and a "secret ingredient," of course) called ti malis that you might think resembles a dipping sauce but that you should just pour over the whole plate. All of it. Because it's that good.
When everything's said and done and eaten, and Laguerre has perhaps stopped by to tell you about his ongoing trips to Haiti and his foundation and his family's coffee farm there, you should order a cup of the Haitian coffee. Maybe he'll even pull the shot of espresso made from his family's coffee beans, which he roasts in the back (you can smell the coffee as you drive down Glendale Blvd.), on the Pasquini machine. Steamed milk. Notes of bay leaf and lime. Maybe get another chicken for later and be glad, as we all are in Los Angeles and the chef certainly is now, that the ground mostly does not shake and the fires (real, metaphorical) mostly are out.
Check out the rest of our 100 of our favorite dishes. Suggestion? Write us a comment.
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