Tamales are to Christmas like latkes are to Hanukah, a rich tradition, Jewish or Mexican, it’s all the same. I was very surprised when I got an invite to a tamale demonstration at Chef John Sedlars new restaurant Playa.
One of my first big jobs in Los Angeles in the early 90’s was Special Events Manager at Bill Board Live, with the now renown John Sedlar as Chef, boy has he come along way since then. Winning Best Chef in Los Angeles in 2011, and opening up both Rivera and Playa this year. He has been touted as the most innovative when it comes to all things about Latin Cuisine, and I absolutely agree. I was so fortunate to do a brunch tasting and witness a tamale demonstration by Chef Kevin Luzande all on the same day. I learned how to build and cook a tamale, as well as create a variety of fillings. Truly a great learning experience. I was even given a goody bag that had fresh masa to make my own tamales at home.
John Sedlar’s apprenticeship to legendary French chef Jean Bertranou of L’Ermitage in Los Angeles, where he mastered classic techniques while evolving his own approach to cooking. Next he opened St. Estephe restaurant in Manhattan Beach, where he won renown as the Father of Modern Southwest Cuisine—also the title of his acclaimed first cookbook. He has won numerous awards and recognitions that include selection among the Top Ten Chefs in America and the First Annual Culinary Arts Hall of Fame Awards, and a place on Food and Wine magazine’s Honor Roll of American Chefs. He is also the creator and founder of the first Latino food museum in the United States called Museo 26. For sure a culinary force to be reckoned with.
Here is what I tried: Maize Cake Semilla with burrata, arugula salad, and salsa verde. Maize Cake Jewish with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caper berry. Flan De Elote with quinoa and flora de calabaza. Niman Ranch apple wood-smoked bacon. Anson farms Organic Blue Corn Muffins, with almond butter. Duck Hash with weiser farm fingerlings and peppers, 63-degree eggs. Eggs Benedict with English muffins, jamon and chipotle béarnaise. Huevos Polenta with lardons, rajas, calabacitas, queso cotija. Croque Senor with chorizo, epazote, quesos, chipoltes en adobo. Tamal with cracked-corn masa, pulled pork and Sunnyside-up egg. Waffle de jalapenos confitados with piloncillo-ppepita salsa.
Karen the gracious bartender made me some specialty cocktails; Cork County Bubbles with Powers Irish Whisky, Lemon Juice, Chartreuse, Honey and Roderer Champaign. Wonderful combination of flavors, with a kick. Then she made me a Vodka Bloody Mary, by far the best Bloody Mary ever, with so many fresh ingredients I could not name them all.
My favorite dishes were: Maize Cake Jewish with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caper berry. A perfect gathering of delectable food on one plate. The Salmon was so fresh, moist and tender. Truly an art piece with the 3 fried purple onions on top, adding to the sculpture effect. Flan De Elote with quinoa and flora de calabaza. Not what you would expect, the flan is a sweet corn flan, but very creamy and rich, placed inside a red cornhusk bowl, very artistic, great presentation. Niman Ranch apple wood-smoked bacon had so much good smoky pork flavor, and real thick slices, amazingly perfect. Anson farms Organic Blue Corn Muffins, with almond butter. The butter adds a sweetness that is already in the muffins. The purple color with its crisp outside and extra moist texture inside, a great brunch starter. Duck Hash with weiser farm fingerlings and peppers, 63-degree eggs. They have a machine that sits on the bar that really arouses your curiosity, called a Sous Vide. This contraption provides you with a 63 degree egg, that is the same temperature and consistency all the way around. So the yoke is the same texture as the white, it makes for a really smooth and creamy experience. Eggs Benedict with English muffins, jamon and chipotle béarnaise. Never had eggs Benedict like this before, the Chipotle Béarnaise adds a whole other dimension that you can’t find in Hollandaise sauce. It is smoky and sweet with lots of subtle flavors. Huevos Polenta with lardons, rajas, calabacitas, queso cotija. The lardoons is what makes this dish so good; it is a form of bacon and adds a crackly texture with every bite. Waffle de jalapenos confitados with piloncillo-ppepita salsa. What can I say about this lovely work of art? I am not a big waffle fan, but this one will change your life. The waffle itself is sweet and salty, the accompaniments are so incredible. Candied jalapeno peppers, that are sweet but hot, killer dark syrup, and the there’s the crispy parmesan pumpkin seed tower that is meant to be eaten with every bite of waffle. It’s all one fantastic symphony of flavors that will really be savored and worshipped. This is Modern Latin Cuisine at it’s best.
The wines that were paired with my magnificent brunch were:
Featured Wine Blue Plate – Chenin Blanc – Clarksburg, CA 2010.
Chardonnay Carlos Basso – Don Fincas- Mendoza, Argentina 2010., very Oakey floral and smooth.
Temparnillo – Marques De Concordia Rioja, Spain 2003, very peppery, leathery, with hints of tobacco.
Pinot Noir – Don Rodolfo Cafayate Valley, Argentina 2009.
All in all, every dish is a work of art; the attention to detail is huge. There is so much complexity, with each nuance, each eyeful of creativity, this place aims to please. Not your average brunch fare, all with an artful eye, and exciting new flavors. Next time you have a brunch outing with friends or family, come here with an open mind, and you will not be disappointed.
7360 Beverly Boulevard