Attila Bollok is the newly installed chef de cuisine at David Myers’ French brasserie Comme Ça. Bollok grew up in New York, but it was during visits to his parents’ native Hungary that he discovered the pleasures of cooking alongside his grandmother. As a teenager, Bollok apprenticed at the French restaurant La Caravelle. After briefly pursuing a literature degree, he decided to study at the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center). Bollok worked at Fishtail by David Burke and Rouge Tomate in New York before moving to Los Angeles and landing at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta. He joined Comme Ça last year as sous-chef and was recently promoted to chef de cuisine, overseeing the Melrose Avenue restaurant’s seasonal, French-inspired menu.
What’s coming up next on your menu?
Look out for a fleischnacka variation. Braised rabbit or maybe lamb shoulder, shredded and rolled up in a fresh noodle dough. Then it’s cut into rounds, poached in an aromatic broth, pan-seared and glazed with its own jus. The things they think up in Alsace.
Latest ingredient obsession?
Verjuice! Not quite cooking wine nor is it a vinegar, rather it is a product of cold pressing unripened and unfermented wine grapes. It offers a really nice brightness in flavor as it shares the same acid base as wine, but it is still a more delicate alternative to vinegar or lemon juice in “brightening” dishes. It also proves to be more wine friendly as its subtlety won’t distort the essence of the wine you’re drinking.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?
Los Angeles is undoubtedly one of the best cities for Mexican-inspired cuisine. With its high concentration of restaurants and taquerías that boast both regional and authentic fare, it’s hard to have a favorite. But if there is a place that’s doing it right, it’s the guys at Escuela Taqueria on Beverly. I’m crazy for their roasted poblano chile tacos with local jack cheese.
What’s one piece of kitchen equipment that you can’t live without, other than your knives?
A few years back I would have easily said my sous-vide machine or, better yet, my thermo-immersion circulator. Not to say these aren’t the coolest things to happen since they digitally remastered “Star Wars,” but I find myself reverting back to the old-school technique of cooking beautiful cuts of meat. The hard-searing, slow-roasting and basting in herbaceous and garlickly brown butter method. There’s just more craft there. And what better way to gauge the temperature but a cheap wire-thin cake tester. A buck ninety-nine at your local chef store.
My wife took me abroad and showed me the lowdown on all things hip in Israel, her home country. I love Mediterranean-style cooking. Israeli breakfast, hands down, is the best. So fresh, so simple, so delicious. Shakshuka, eggs baked in a slow stew of ripe tomatoes, peppers and spices. Freshly strained yogurt, or labneh, as they call it, served up with some quality olive oil, toasted pita bread and a fresh chopped salad. It’s about as good as it gets.
Comme Ça, 8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 782-1104, www.commecarestaurant.com