Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 4), we'll be counting down, in no particular order, 100 of our favorite dishes.
78: Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding at The Hungry Cat.
Sure, you can go to The Hungry Cat, David Lentz' Platonic (read: Los Angeles) ideal of a Maryland seafood shack, for the actual seafood or for the glorious Pug burger, a massive hamburger Lentz named after his dog. You can drink yourself silly on the cocktails -- muddled herbs, local citrus, God knows what else -- and fork up thin slices of hamachi topped with green harissa. But do not, under any circumstances, forget to order dessert. Because although The Hungry Cat (or Cats, as there are three of them) may not have many desserts, they do them very, very well. The one they do best of all is the chocolate bread and butter pudding, which has happily been on the menu for years.
It is actually a beautiful triangulation of a few desserts: a combination of the best qualities of a bread pudding, a crème brûlée and, well, chocolate, which is its own category. Baked in a quaint metal tin which comes to your table wrapped in the folds of a heavy white napkin -- which is for purposes of both aesthetics and safety, as the dish is HOT -- the dessert is a creamy nutmeg-laced bread custard cooked atop a significant amount of dark Callebaut chocolate.
The pudding itself is sealed with a brittle carapace of burnt sugar, an impressively thick strata of bronze that does not so much shatter when you crack it as provide some lesson in geology. Eleven-year-old kids who have just seen Ice Age 27 may consider the further implications of continental drift as they spoon up their dessert. Mine certainly did.
Update and editor's note: If you want to make this recipe at home, simply turn to p. 353 of Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin and Teri Gelber. This should come as no great surprise to anyone familiar with food in this town, as Goin and Lentz are married to each other, and the book is one of the best cookbooks to come out of Los Angeles in a very long time. Thanks to the chef, who emailed to tell me that credit for this recipe goes to his wife.