Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mian, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
The charcuterie revolution is upon us. Chefs all over the city are curing, whipping, stuffing and slicing, turning out world class meats and sausages that a few years ago would have been impossible to find. While there have always been many restaurants serving salamis and pâtés made elsewhere, there's now an explosion of in-house charcuterie.
Making your own charcuterie is no joke — it takes time, precision, space and a whole lot of care and talent. With this in mind, we'd like to recognize the five folks in Los Angeles who are doing it well. Turn the page for the five best charcuterie plates in the city.
Gorge, a funny little restaurant on the Sunset Strip, is turning out some serious charcuterie. Owned by chefs Elia Aboumrad and Uyen Nguyen (you may recognize Aboumrad from Top Chef season 2 and Top Chef All Stars), the restaurant focusses on French country cooking, which means lots of rustic terrines (think pheasant, wild salmon, etc.), saucisson sec, rillets and house-made fresh sausages. 8917 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-657-6328.
Manning the stoves at Church & State these days is former Patina chef and Ducasse protege Tony Esnault, and he has a way with all things simple and classic and French, including charcuterie. His cured pig is silken and lightly smoky, his rillettes mellow and gloriously fat-laden. And this is one of the best chicken liver mousses anywhere — rich, tangy and glistening. 1850 Industrial St. Los Angeles; 213-405-1434.
One of the most pleasant surprises about Bernhard Mairinger's Beverly Hills Austrian restaurant is his extreme dedication to showcasing Austrian charcuterie. The epic plate sold here has nine types of Austrian sausages, forcemeats, pâtés and cured meats including tiroler, a high-end bologna made from veal and pork; landjaeger, a chewy, cured and cold-smoked beef sausage; and a house-made lard spread. The plate would be worth ordering for the collection of pickles alone — beautifully spiced and acidic cauliflower, kohlrabi, garlic and more. 9669 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-271-7274.
Bestia chef Ori Menashe is curing meats and making charcuterie, with great results. In a glass case behind the bar hang all manner of salumi, and the plate you end up with is likely to have pancetta, fennel and black pepper salumi, coppa di testa, and more. Unlike some other chefs in town playing with this art form, Menashe understands fat, its mellowness and funk, well enough to know where one should begin and the other should end. 2121 7th Place Los Angeles; 213-514-5724.
1. Chi Spacca
Chi Spacca is a restaurant concept that grew out of chef Chad Colby's celebrated “salumi night,” held at Mozza's pizza school — is it any wonder that the restaurant has a lockdown on the best charcuterie in town? The “salumeria” portion of Chi Spacca's menu — split among “whole muscles,” “salami” and “pâté and terrine” — is its smoky, salty focal point. The salamis are dense but also melting, imbued with ingredients like intensely aromatic fennel pollen, or the bright, biting, almost fruity Tellicherry pepper. Pancetta comes wrapped around breadsticks, looking like meaty, twirly candy. If there's a must-try among the pâtés and terrines, it's the bacon tenderloin pâté, a pâté that conveys all the intensity of crisply cooked bacon but turns it meatier, softer and more herbaceous all at once. Here's the thing about Colby and what he's doing at Chi Spacca that's so cool: Amidst the big, important, celebrity chef-driven machine that is Mozza is a young chef, a Willy Wonka of meats, who doggedly pursued a passion project that wasn't even possible in Los Angeles before he made it so. 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-297-1133.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @besharodell.