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RESTAURANT SPECIAL '98 | Great Taste

Meals to Remember

10 Chefs, Restaurant Owners and Other Foodies Recall the Best of the Past Year

March 15, 1998|RUSS PARSONS | Russ Parsons is a Times staff writer

David Wynns

chef, Les Deux Cafes, Hollywood

The best meal I had last year was at Georges Blanc [in Vonnas, France], and it was the breakfast delivered to our room one morning. I was feeling completely stuffed from dinner the night before and didn't want to eat anything, so when my friend ordered breakfast, he ordered only for one. On this beautiful tray were all of these beautiful little Limoges plates: fresh local goat cheese, saucissons secs, pate, some kind of Alsatian coffee cake, the usual croissant and pain chocolat, some little fraises des bois, a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg, some country ham and fabulous coffee. Every single thing was the best I ever had. Dinner the night before was very close behind, but there's something about a really great three-star restaurant showing it cares all the way through that was incredible. That and being able to eat it all in bed.

Joe Miller

chef-owner, Joe's Restaurant, Venice

For my birthday last year, my wife and I went to L'Orangerie. I used to work there, back when Peter Roelant and Jean Franiois Meteigner were the chefs, and that kind of three-star French food had a big impact on my cooking. It had been a long time since we had been there, but the style of service is as good as I remember it being when I was there. It's that whole three-star dining experience, which L'Orangerie pulls off really well and not a lot of other restaurants in California do.

For the first course, we had lobster medallions braised with a beurre blanc sauce, served on roasted turnips with a lemon confit. It sounds a bit weird, but when the amounts of each element are right, the balance is there, and it's great. The next course was seared foie gras with baked apple and cider sauce and a compote of figs. Then we had a whole roasted turbot that they brought out on a nice board to present before returning it to the kitchen to be carved. There was a smashed potato-type concoction strongly flavored with lemon curd, and it was sauced with browned chicken juices and a pistachio cream. That really worked. The main course was a duck breast seared and sliced and served with this orange dust made from orange rind that had been dried in the oven and then ground. For dessert, we had the more-or-less basic molten-centered chocolate souffle cake that everyone is doing these days, but this one was quite good.

Yujean Kang

chef-owner, Yujean Kang's, Pasadena and West Hollywood

Last year we spent all the time here, so, to be honest, I didn't go out that much. But I did go to Jozu for the first time. My wife had the marinated grilled pork chop with black rice pancake, and I had a juicy rib eye with Szechuan peppercorn teriyaki. It was interesting because their food is kind of Asian, too, but it's much different from mine. I think our food is more geared to China. It's much closer to what you might find in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Their style is more Western, which I like a lot. It's a very comfortable place to eat, and the food is not pretentious. Most important, the flavor is always there. A lot of restaurants make gimmicks out of food, but I think Jozu's food is very real.

John Rivera Sedlar

Restaurant and beverage consultant and author

My favorite meal last year actually stretched into the first day of this year. A dozen or so friends met at a friend's house overlooking the Pacific in Manhattan Beach--my best friend from New York, a new romantic interest, old friends and new. Everyone brought a bottle of super-premium Champagne to welcome the New Year. We had crusty bread and steamed clams with tons of garlic, then ate Santa Fe red and green chile tamales. Since we were oceanside, I steamed Maine lobsters and served them with a tart green salad. For dessert, we walked across the street to another friend's house, and my new date carefully made chocolate souffles and served them at twilight on the terrace. One friend had brought his acoustic guitar, and we sang Beatles tunes and old rock 'n' roll hits long into the night. I wish that meal could've lasted all year long.

Tara Thomas

Chef, Traxx, Los Angeles

I had just started dating a new fellow around Valentine's Day, and he asked me to his house for dinner. He knew artichokes are my absolutely favorite food, so he made an all-artichoke menu. We started with a stew of baby artichokes with fava beans and shaved Parmesan over the top, then we had big artichokes stuffed with ground sausage and pine nuts. For the main course, we had artichokes with braised baby endive and lamb chops. For me, that was a memorable meal. Here's a guy who has nothing to do with the food business whatsoever--and he's brave and considerate enough to do that. That was a wonderful romantic dinner, and it really won my heart. Do you think I'd let him off the hook after that?

Piero Selvaggio

owner, Valentino, Santa Monica

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