Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
Sure we have our favorites, but when it comes to good eating for Valley chefs and restauranteurs, what was their last and most memorable eating experience. Was it local? Out of the state? Out of the country? Here are some of their answers:
Chef Bernie Kantak, Citizen Public House
I did an omakase at Roka Akor not too long ago. German Sega put together an astounding tasting of around 18 different items which included several different types of sashimi and sushi -- many of which I've never seen before. There were Kobe short ribs and king crab with truffle butter. They're really doing some amazing things over there.
Chef Jason Alford, Roka Akor
Petite Maison. Service: impeccable. Food. Ingredients. Thought. Everything. Love the spot.
Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef and owner, Barrio Cafe
Mercado de La Merced in Mexico City. Endless rows of eateries are nestled among stacks of every dried chile available in Mexico. Want some maguey worms or flor de calabaza? It's here. You can eat huitlacoche prepared as it should be and cooked on a clay comal griddle. Plump women in tattered aprons cook and serve and diners wait for seats to vacate. Talk about atmosphere -- it has the best effing food anywhere.
Justin Beckett Chef and Owner, Beckett's Table
I went to Noca for my anniversary and Chef Matt made some dishes I will never forget!
Lauren Bailey Owner, Windsor, Churn, Postino Central
The last great restaurant I dined at was Cal Pep in Barcelona. It is a true tapas bar -- no menu, bar seating, and incredibly high energy. Everything they make is off the cuff, their own classics and new concoctions alike. It's been around forever and it is the epitome of a true Cataluña experience.
Cullen Campbell Chef and owner, Crudo
Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles is by far one of my favorite restaurants. I get the bone marrow every time and the squash blossom and burrata pizza is killer. For in town, I love Iruna for their simple and delicious tapas. I always have to have two orders of the patatas bravas because I dream of them and have to make sure that there is enough to go around.
Kevin Binkley Chef and Owner, Binkley's and Café Bink
Nobuo at Teeter House. I love their approach of combining classic Japanese with modern technique.
Pavle Milic Owner, FnB
Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune in New York's East Village. Great cozy room and phenomenal down-to-earth food.
Jeff Kraus, Chef and Owner, Truckin' Good Food and Experience Dining
Late summer of this year I dined at the Kobayashi brothers' restaurant, Artisan, in Paso Robles, California. Their regionally modern dishes were refined, creative, and spot-on with flavor. One dish in particular that was a knock out was the duck charcuterie board. The accompaniment of a simply prepared pickled fruit and mustard seeds rocked my palate.
Chef Elizabeth Meinz, Orange Table
FnB. Why? Pavle + Charlene = eclectic, ever-changing, fresh, locally sourced menu, amazing wine list, mesquite grill, crafty desserts, attention to detail, noble service, late-night shenanigans, etc. Pure love!
Julian Wright Owner, La Bocca Urban Pizzeria + Wine bar, Canteen Modern Tequila Bar
Haven't had anything noteworthy in Phoenix in a while. I like Fish in Sausalito, California. Line caught everything. Freshest fish I've ever had. Counter service and wooden tables. I went with the halibut fish & chips ($28).
Lenard Rubin Chef and owner, The Vig
Akos Szabo, Chef de Cuisine Top of the Rock Restaurant at the Buttes Resort
I staged with Grant Achatz at TRIO before he opened Alinea in Chicago. At the end of my weekly stage, he asked me to sit down at the chefs table and proceeded to feed me 23 courses from the menu. I'll never forget the feeling of watching Chef Achatz and his team prepare some of the most incredible food I have ever experienced.
Chef Jacques Qualin, J&G Steakhouse
ABC Kitchen in NYC. What stood out was the freshness of the ingredients, mostly sourced from small farms in and around the tri-state area, and the design of the dining room, which seamlessly blends with the pre-existing ABC Carpet & Home space it shares. One look at their "Market Table" spilling over with fresh veggies, and you'll know you're in for a treat.
Dana Mule GM and partner, Hula's Modern Tiki
Tutti Santi. Nina has been preparing the same dishes for over 30 years and her devotion to fine Italian cuisine still shines. Nothing beats the joy of having her come out from the kitchen to give you a kiss on the cheek. The cream sauce on the Chicken Fiorentina is so delicious you want to bathe in it. And let's just say that if it were possible to get a food woody, even talking about this meal would make it impossible for me stand up in class.
Eric Flatt Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
Wexler's in San Francisco. I really enjoy restaurants where the owner is present. I rarely dine at celebrity chef restaurants where the Big Name is never there, such as Wolfgang Puck. Part of the dining experience is knowing that the owner is there and putting everything into their business because they care, not because they're simply making money off of their name.
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Russell Choi Chef, Sushi Roku
My most recent great dining experience took place at a sushi restaurant in Playa Del Rey, California. It's my neighborhood sushi bar, no-frills, just great food and solid service. It's called Kanpai (cheers in Japanese), how can you not love that?!?