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5 Questions for Barbershop's Walter el Nagar

March 18, 2013|By Betty Hallock
  • Walter el Nagar is the chef at pop-up Barbershop Ristorante Italiano.
Walter el Nagar is the chef at pop-up Barbershop Ristorante Italiano. (Barbershop Ristorante…)

Walter El Nagar is the chef spearheading Barbershop Ristorante Italiano, a pop-up restaurant currently running in the former A.O.C. space on West 3rd Street. El Nagar, born in Milan, formerly worked at La Botte Ristorante in Santa Monica. His Barbershop menu mixes traditional Italian technique with molecular gastronomy and incorporates ingredients and dishes such as grass-fed, dry-aged beef with bitter chocolate annd cayenne pepper; Santa Barbara spot prawns with house-salted caviar; pasta with meat ragu slow-cooked for 24 hours; and tequila meringue with lime cream, blood orange-Cointreau sorbet and smoked salt.

What’s coming up next on your menu?

After applying modern techniques to the recipes from my heritage, like the sous-vide ragú napoletano, I’m going to start working on a new series of desserts featuring "spoon cocktails": On the last two menus, I started experimenting with a margarita and Cuba Libre. On the next I’ll try to create something more complex in texture and temperature, maybe a gin and tonic.

Latest ingredient obsession?

Quail. The last pop-up I did an amazing quail three-ways with turnips and cocoa. But what about sausage, prosciutto, eggs, risotto!

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?

Santouka inside the Mitsuwa market in Mar Vista: a piping hot, porcine-rich broth, chewy long noodles. Delicious. One of the best dishes I have tasted so far in Los Angeles. With my wife, Alysia, I always find an excuse to go there.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives?

Vacuum sealer. Consistency, texture, temperature, organoleptic quality are untouched, [and for] food cost control. I can go on with a thousand qualities. What's better than a black cod cooked low-temp?

What’s your favorite breakfast?

Ham and cheese sincronizada with salsa Valentina, a hot mocha, some fruits from the market, my ninja cats flying around.

Barbershop Ristorante Italiano, 8022 W. 3rd St., L.A., (424) 272-5849, www.barbershop-venice.com.

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