The Washington Post wrapped up its eight-part monthly series “The Search for America’s Best Food Cities” right here in L.A. Even though food critic, Tom Sietsema, didn’t explicitly rank the cities, we know what’s up—he saved the best for last. And aside from eating tortas and pho and ramen from Santa Monica to the SGV, he also talked to some of our favorite people, including The Digest blogger/tacorazzo Bill Esparza. Esparza explains to Sietsema what he’s been explaining to all of us via Essential T for the last few years: regionality is the cornerstone of good Mexican food.
“How to tag the best tacos when they’re seemingly everywhere? Esparza, the Mexican American food expert, suggests purveyors that specialize in just a few items and that don’t cook steak, hog’s maw and tripe together on the same flat iron; and cooks who work “fast and clean,” as if they know what they’re doing. He also advises looking for top-quality ingredients (fresh and fiery manzano peppers, orange when ripe, are a good-if-rare sign) and playing like a reporter in front of a cart, stand or storefront. “Take time to ask them where they’re from,” he says of the operators. “Little Mexico is better than big Mexico.” Translation, por favor? A taco pegged to a region or, better yet, a hometown speaks to pride of place — and, hence, product.”
Later in the piece, Sietsema poses a familiar question, one that many out-of-towners seem to have when they come to our fine sprawl of a city: What the hell happened to fine dining? Sietsema asks Bill Chait of Sprout Restaurant group, and possibly the best man in the city to answer the question.
“Fine dining is very much alive; it’s just redefined” in Los Angeles, says restaurant mogul Bill Chait, whose collection includes Bestia (Italian) and République (Californian). Part of the shift is explained by a new generation of worldly diners. “The rack-of-lamb market has become the lamb-neck market,” says Chait.”
We’ll take two braised lamb neck tacos with extra salsa manzano, please. To go.