Honey-Glazed Roasted Half Duck
Inspired by the stalwart duck at chef Daniel Humm’s New York City temple of fine dining Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad L.A. team puts its spin on the iconic dish with this hands-on fave. Dry-aged duck breast and braised leg are served with a citrus jus, pickled shallots, fresh herbs, and za’atar-spiced roti. “The idea is that you can make a sort of taco,” says executive chef Chris Flint. Top every bite with a spoonful of herbaceous, spicy jalapeño salsa. 649 S. Olive St., downtown.
Bun Cha Ha Noi
Nguyen Tran was serving this northern Vietnamese specialty at his underground pop-up, Starry Kitchen, years before it catapulted to international fame as the dish that President Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain shared on blue plastic stools in Hanoi. A faithful interpretation is still on the menu at his arcade-slash-restaurant, Button Mash, where Tran flavors marinated and grilled ground-pork patties with caramelized fish sauce and serves them alongside vermicelli noodles, pickled kohlrabi, and carrots—perfect for wrapping in butter lettuce with sprigs of mint and cilantro. 1391 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park.
“Festival de Moles”
In Oaxaca, mole is most often seen at celebrations—the painstaking dish is the centerpiece at weddings and holidays. At Guelaguetza, Koreatown’s beloved Oaxacan restaurant, though, you can sample the
Lopez family’s moles every day. Dubbed “Festival de Moles,” the restaurant’s sampler features negro, rojo, coloradito, and estofado versions. “We smoke all of the chiles, and we have our own stone mill that grinds both spices and chiles,” says co-owner Bricia Lopez. The platter comes with shredded chicken breast, rice, and handmade tortillas still warm from the comal. 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown.
“Ode to Zuni” Roasted Chicken
“I don’t think I ever visit San Francisco without at least one stop at Zuni,” says chef Suzanne Goin, referring to the restaurant muse that inspired the 24-hour dry-brined chicken she serves at A.O.C. Zuni roasts its birds to order and serves them with a crunchy-chewy bread salad. Here in L.A., Goin puts her own spin on the celebrated Bay Area dish: The poultry is marinated in herbs and spices, confited in duck fat, and finished in the kitchen’s wood-burning oven. A warm panzanella and a lemon-olive salsa complete the homey platter. 8700 W. 3rd St., Beverly Grove.
Lamb Neck Shawarma
Childhood memories of eating shawarma in Israel and Turkey inspired Ori Menashe to bring the street food’s flavors to his Middle Eastern restaurant, Bavel. Instead of using a vertical rotisserie, Menashe roasts seasoned lamb neck at a low temperature for 12 to 16 hours. The result is a fall-off-the-bone masterpiece served with Iraqi flatbread, pickles, tahini, and tangy amba sauce. “The first time we made it,” Menashe recalls, “[we] had a moment of silence then started dancing like we won the championship.” 500 Mateo St., Arts District.
Grilled Whole Orata
Zach Pollack fell in love with grilled whole fish while in Sicily, where food stands pop up along the coast in the summer, grilling everything from octopus to branzino. The chef still sources his fish from the
Mediterranean, like the Orata he serves at Alimento, plated on a bed of fava bean puree. It’s then strewn with a salad of beans and raw shaved vegetables and topped with an almond-tomato-caper pesto. 1710 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake.
Pork Belly Pyramid
Though technically not a Hangzhou restaurant, the Sichuan-focused Legendary Restaurant in Alhambra serves the Hangzhou dish of Dongpo pork. The Chinese eatery presents sliced braised pork belly piled high into a pyramid. The jiggly structure comes on a bed of salted bok choy and is ringed by a crown of steamed buns. Diners feast with a bun in one hand and chopsticks in the other, pulling away at the tender pork and stuffing it in the bread. 2718 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra.