L.A. Raw: 5 Fresh Takes on Tartare

A quintet of wildly inventive variations on raw meat or fish preparation that will instill bold flavors
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CREATIVE CHEFS are devising new, artistic takes on tartare—a raw meat or fish preparation that spans cultures and instills bold flavors into prized trimmings. In the mid-’80s, Shigefumi Tachibe created tuna tartare in L.A. (RIP, Chaya Brasserie). Over the years, top tartares have evolved beyond protein and now bring electricity to vegetables in this timeless but still trendy starter.1. Absteak By Chef Akira Back

1. Absteak By Chef Akira Back

Globe-trotting Korean chef Akira Back’s sleek Beverly Center restaurant showcases dry-aged meats on tabletop grills. His tartare, called yukkhea, is similarly theatrical: a server tosses lean, tender, chopped Australian Wagyu eye round tableside with minced garlic, pine nuts, onions, bell peppers, sesame oil, cucumber, jalapeño, wasabi, and quail egg, achieving beautiful balance. “It takes a lot of respect, knowledge, and skill to deliver the dish properly,” Back says. “Furthermore, it takes a skilled chef to cut the meat properly so that it melts in the mouth.” 8500 Beverly Blvd., Suite 111, Beverly Grove, 424-286-9900, absteakla.com

2. Charcoal Venice

DICED BEEF TARTARE (PHOTO: BRIGITTE NEMAN)

Chef Josiah Citrin devotes an entire menu section to tartare at his Venice outpost. Distinct preparations include the delicate diced beef with punchy pickled Fresno chiles, porcini aioli, salsa seca, and smoked egg emulsion, and the vegetarian smoked mushroom and beet with crème fraîche and currants. Seasonal proteins like duck, venison, and lamb are also in rotation. “My approach is coming from a place of simplicity, but adding something that makes it unique or different,” Citrin says. He strives for “different flavors and textures” and incorporates “creamy and salty with something to cut through the fattiness of the protein, like mustard or shallots.” 425 Washington Blvd., Venice, 310-751-6794, charcoalvenice.com

3. Dunsmoor

LAMB-LOIN TARTARE (PHOTO: COURTESY ABS TEAK)

For summer, Brian Dunsmoor riffed on vitello tonnato at his market-driven Glassell Park restaurant, plating rosy lamb-loin tartare with crunchy fried-artichoke chips, mint, smoked yellowtail sauce, and bottarga (mullet roe). “Texture and umami are the two most important factors in creating a great tartare,” says Dunsmoor, who prefers hand-chopping with a heavy knife. “It takes a lot more work but creates a very nice, yet imperfect texture,” he says. “I don’t want to drink my tartare, I want to chew it a little bit.” Fall brings beef tartare with smoked oyster mayo and crispy potatoes, and bison tartare with fried sunchokes and smoked trout mayo. 3501 Eagle Rock Blvd., Glassell Park, 323-686-6027, dunsmoor.la

4. N/Soto

CARROT-AND-FENNEL TARTARE (PHOTO: WONHO FRANK LEE)

This dynamic Mid City izakaya is Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama’s casual n/naka spinoff. Their vivid carrot-and-fennel tartare costars with pickled and fresh fennel and comes plated with chickpea miso and root-vegetable chips. The couple features carrots five ways on one plate: roasted and chopped, creamed (made from residual roasted parts), powdered, pickled, and sliced. “We wanted to create something different and highlight how delicious vegetables can be,” Iida-Nakayama says. “Many vegetarians don’t get a tartare option, so it was nice to be able to offer that.” 4566 W. Washington Blvd., Mid City, 323-879-9455, n-soto.com

5. Olivetta

BIGEYE TUNA TARTARE (PHOTO: MOSES TRUZMAN)

Chef Michael Fiorelli folds bigeye tuna tartare with jalapeño, serving it atop whipped avocado with root-vegetable chips at Boujis Group’s fashionable WeHo restaurant. He also makes finely diced Wagyu-beef tartare with cornichon, Dijon mustard, shallots, egg yolks, and brioche. “Both of these dishes are a celebration of age-old preparations,” Fiorelli says. “The key is to honor the classics with the best ingredients available.” Butchering proteins in-house encourages Fiorelli and other chefs to get creative with byproducts while limiting food waste. “With the pieces of beef that don’t make the cut for tartare, we’ll usually find a cooked preparation,” Fiorelli notes. “Sometimes it’s a burger, and sometimes it may wind up on top of a pizza.” 9010 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 310-307-3932, olivetta.la

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This story is featured in the November 2022 issue of Los Angeles