Tuna might be problematic to eat in the first place (if it's bluefin), high in mercury and, in the wrong hands, a little passé, but a good tuna tartare -- a tuna tartare like the ones on this list -- is worth every risk. Turn the page for 5 great places to find truly good versions of the dish, plus Joe Miller's recipe if you'd rather make it at home.
5. XIV: God bless bread. We mean it. You people can keep your carb-free diets, we're not giving up our toast. And what beautiful toast the tuna tartare comes on at Michael Mina's XIV. The slightest bit of charring plays off the sesame oil in the fish mixture. Ask sommelier Chris Lavin to pair with a glass of Manzanilla sherry, and you'll experience things you never thought possible from a cold appetizer. 8117 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles; (323) 656-1414.
4. Angelini Osteria: Delicately minced raw fish, served on lightly cooked bread, draped in fresh chives and olive oil. It sounds so simple, but from Gino Angelini's kitchen, this Italian version of the classic combination is a revelation. 7313 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles; (323) 297-0070.
3. Joe's: No carbs? No problem. Joe Miller's tuna tartare (check out the recipe, below) combines the heat of onion, peppercorn and capers, against the cool of chopped tuna and a slice of salmon. Despite the bevvy of ingredients, this tartare is clean, classic, dressed-down and delicious California cuisine. 1023 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice; (310) 399-5811.
2. Providence: On the menu, the Hawaiian big eye tuna tartare is simply presented as fresh wasabi, crispy rice, housemade brioche. It's an understated way to talk about an understated hors d'oeuvre. But take one bite of this dish, and you'll realize there's nothing understated about it. 5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles; (323) 460-4170.
1.Spago: There are lots of ways to describe the tuna tartare from Spago -- those crunchy cones of bright chili aioli-ginger-spiced tuna, served in their very own specialty vessel -- but perhaps the best description is iconic. In this case, the word fits. 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 385-0880.
From: Joe Miller, chef-owner of Joe's Restaurant
2 each lemons
1 pound of Ahi tuna (#2), cleaned
2 ounces smoked salmon
1/2 ounce onion
1/2 ounce shallots
1 ounce chives
1 ounce parsley
1 ounce capers
1/4 ounce green peppercorns
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Pack the lemons in enough salt to cover. Pack for a week.
2. Dice tuna and scrape the meat from the fatty parts outside of the loin. Dice the shallots, onions and chives, and chop the parsley.
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3. Make mayonnaise with green peppercorns in brine, or mix the peppercorns into purchased existing mayonnaise.
4. Slice the salmon and cucumbers, and dice the tomatoes. Wedge the lemons and cut into small sections.
5. In a bowl mix the tuna, a pinch of onion, capers, chives, shallots, and parsley. Mix with olive oil and mayonnaise: just enough to bind. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Put a square cut of smoked salmon in the center of a plate, and place a ball of tuna tartare on top. Arrange cucumbers and lemon wedges around the tartare, and sprinkle diced onion and tomato around plate to garnish.