Roots at Black Hogg L.A. Times Scouting Report by Jo Stougaard
Peter and I finally got to Cliff’s Edge (in Silver Lake) to try Chef Vartan Abgaryan‘s cooking last week. We first met Vartan at a local food event, and got to know him better when he volunteered with L.A. Bites Hunger.
There were gorgeous vegetables and barbecued octopus too, but I just can’t stop thinking about all the pork love.
3626 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Finally, Domenico Ristorante in Silver Lake is open!
I first met the restaurant’s executive chef last December, when I attended a molecular gastronomy class he taught at Sur la Table (at the Grove). Chef Michael Young spoke about his passion for Italian cooking, but the various classes I took from him were mostly about making groovy foams and far-out spherifications. I was really looking forward to trying his authentic, Italian FOOD, not just the modern recipes we made together in class. And finally, five months later, I got my first taste.
After making the reservation for Saturday night, I suddenly felt a little nervous. What if, by chance, I didn’t like Chef Young’s cooking? Just because I thought he was a great instructor and could make perfect fruit “caviar”, didn’t automatically mean that he’d be a great chef too.
The motto for my blog is: “If I like it, I share it… If I don’t, I don’t!”. Which means, if I don’t like something I’ve tasted on a restaurant’s menu, then I simply don’t write about that particular dish. Someone once told me that I’m “doing a disservice to the public” if I only write about positive experiences, but that’s just who I am, and I want my site to reflect that. I feel so grateful that I get to eat at all these wonderful places, and my favorite part (besides the actual eating) is sharing all the tasty photos. Plus, I figure with so many bloggers writing about the same restaurants in Los Angeles, it’s easy to figure out what dishes NOT to order.
We had a 7pm reservation on Saturday night, but Peter and I arrived early so I could take a few photos of the restaurant exterior. Our friends Julian and Wendy joined us a few minutes later, and soon we were nibbling on fried olives and sipping glasses of luscious primitivo wine. The restaurant doesn’t have a liquor licence yet, but you can bring in your own wine with no cover charge (for the time being).
A Mano primitivo wine is our favorite Italian red, and we first learned about it from the great Mario Batali himself. He recommended it during a seminar we went to in New York, and it’s been a staple in our home ever since. Not only is it deliciously robust (think zinfandel), but at $10 a bottle we can afford to drink it all the time.
Looking over the menu, I wasn’t sure what to order at first. Domenico Ristorante is so new that I found barely a “yelp” online. One thing I did read about was the “wild boar ragu” so I definitely wanted to try that, but overall I felt lost without my regular “must order” list for the evening. Peter was in worse shape than me, since he never even looks at a menu when we go out. I’ve usually selected what we’re sharing ahead of time, and he actually likes not having the pressure of deciding.
The restaurant’s owner, Domenico Frasca, must have noticed we were a bit perplexed, and asked, “would you like the chef to select dishes for you”? The four of us giggled with anticipation as we handed over the menus. We spent the next three hours happily working our way through Prosciutto Riserva, Fried Parmesan with Balsamic, Crudo of Scottish Halibut, Risotto with Winter Truffle, Rootbeer-braised Kobe Beef, the Wild Boar Ragu and more!
Dinner wasn’t just “great”, the entire evening was exceptional: From the sexy decor (white, leather banquets), to the gorgeous waiters (I only remember Paolo’s name because he wrote it down along with the name of a pasta), to the friendly and cordial Domenico himself. Of course, it’s Chef Michael Young’s cooking that will have me coming back for more, and you can bet I’ll be trying each and every positively delicious bite on the menu!
1637 Silver Lake Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Sur la Table Classes (locations & calendar)
I first met Chef Michael Young at Sur la Table, when he was my instructor at a Molecular Gastronomy class, and he’s the one I credit for kick-starting my “molecular cooking” obsession. If he didn’t make it seem so fun and attainable, I would have never been able to make fruit “caviar” at home.
Before arriving to the class, I imagined that Chef Young would be an older “scientist-looking” gentleman, or maybe an aloof “know-it-all”, arrogant chef. I couldn’t have been more WRONG. Chef Young was friendly, knowledgeable and I just have to say it… super cute!
My husband just laughed when I made a comment about our “hot” instructor (because I’m old enough to be his mother, well maybe his aunt, okay I’m settling for big sister!), but I thought it was perfect that the teacher showing us how to make molecular candy, was in fact a piece of eye candy himself. And in case anyone is thinking of taking his class for non-molecular reasons, Chef Michael Young does indeed have a beautiful girlfriend.
A few weeks after the class, Peter and I invited Chef Young out for a bite to eat. It turns out that he lives near us in Studio City, so we met up at Max Restaurant on Ventura. I love the angus burgers and potted chicken liver (that I eat with french fries), and Chef Young hadn’t been there since they remodeled the restaurant. Over dinner (and bottles of wine that he graciously brought to share), we learned that Chef Young graduated (with honors) from Boston College, and holds a degree in Italian Literature. Needless to say he is fluent in Italian and is certified by A.I.S., the Italian Sommeliers Association.
As he was telling us about his cooking experiences in Italy, I realized… he is NOT just a cute, young, up-and-coming chef… he is so much more. Articulate and highly experienced, he is currently preparing for the opening of Domenico Ristorante (as Executive Chef), which is scheduled to open next month in Silver Lake.
While writing this post I couldn’t remember the details of his work in Italy so I asked Chef Young for a copy of his bio. I blame it on the wine, but it was all so interesting that I wanted a recap :
“While his name may be misleading, Michael Young is an American chef of Italian descent. He speaks Italian fluently and has traveled and worked extensively throughout Italy, including the 2-star Michelin “Ristorante Ambasciata.” He lived in and frequently revisits Parma, the gastronomical capital of Italy. “While I am Southern Italian in my heart, living in Northern Italy gave me a whole different perspective.” Michael attributes his skill at making homemade pasta and his never ending love and appreciation of charcuterie, cheese and mostarda to his time in Parma. Michael has worked in many of the top Italian kitchens of Los Angeles including Valentino, Il Grano and Drago. “My proudest moment was opening Piccolo Cipriani (now Piccolo) with Stefano DeLorenzo and Antonio Mure`. It was wonderful to see a restaurant so true to its ideals open and blossom.” Most recently, Michael served as a Chef Instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu program in Pasadena, where he taught International Cuisine and helped run the school restaurant. He also served as a point person for guest chefs from Italy and France. “The highlight of my teaching experience was to work side by side with my idol and close friend Daniel Rossi (former chef of Citrus).” Michael identifies his role models as Piero Selvaggio, Angelo Auriana and Salvatore Marino. “Piero showed me what it means to be the constant professional and to remain sincere in all things. Angelo (longtime chef of Valentino) taught me how to run a kitchen. Finally, Sal demonstrated that if you do things the right way and work as hard as you can, people will eventually take notice.”
I’m so looking forward to the opening of Domenico Ristorante because I haven’t yet tasted Chef Young’s cooking, and you can bet my husband and I will both be there as soon as it does!
1637 Silver Lake Boulevard
Los Angeles 90026
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