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DISH : Three-Star Salute

March 30, 1995|JONATHAN GOLD

The "eclectic" restaurant is well-established in Los Angeles, menus thick with dishes that mix influences from half a dozen different cuisines, culinary illusions that seem Thai, or Indonesian, or Mexican, or rustic Mediterranean depending on how you look at them.

Modada's Sam Marvin is one of the eclectic crew--he riffs on the Moroccan street food brik in his lamb plate, and evokes "Like Water for Chocolate" erotic buzz with his chicken perfumed with rose petals. Perhaps the funniest dish on a menu filled with foodie in-jokes, however, is the appetizer he calls the Three Star Plate.

Imagine a weirdly cast ceramic platter filled with puns: a roasted shank bone stands upright, surmounted by a marrow-smeared sliver of toast. To one side lie three scallops, intensely scented with truffle oil, a prosciutto-thin slice of black truffle upon each. Nestled near the top of the bone, near a handful of baby greens, is a puff-pastry cornucopia--the signature a few seasons back of three-star dude Michel Guerard, who's kind of the Big Daddy Roth of nouvelle cuisine--out of which spills a caramelized onion confit sweet as jam.

When we sit in our armchairs with the new Michelin and plan our next trip to France, these are the images that pounce out, the ingredients that seem to appear in the specialties of two Michelin-starred restaurants out of three. It's relatively easy, we think, to construct a pun on Korean barbecue, but Marvin may be the first American chef who treats classic nouvelle cuisine as just another exotic ethnic influence. Toques off!

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