Bryant Ng is the chef-owner of the Spice Table in downtown Los Angeles, the Singaporean-Vietnamese restaurant he opened last year with the help of his wife, Kim. Ng grew up in the restaurant business; his parents owned a Los Angeles restaurant called Wok Way, and his grandparents owned a Cantonese-Polynesian spot in Santa Monica in the ’60s called Bali Hai. After graduating from UCLA with a microbiology degree, he decided to pursue a cooking career and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Ng has worked at Daniel in New York and Campanile and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. He recently was named a best new chef by Food & Wine magazine.
What’s coming up next on your menu? I’m heading over to Singapore and Vietnam in a few weeks to visit family and be inspired by the region. It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been back, and it’s about that time to add some perspective and invigorate. Lately I’ve been cooking traditional dishes I love to eat, like char kway teow (flat rice noodle dish with pork, bean sprouts, egg and cockles when I have them, clams when I don’t).... I’ll be doing some whole crab dishes, like chile crab, salted egg yolk crab and even a chilled crab (I love chilled seafood).
Latest ingredient obsession? All things seafood. I recently had on the menu a raw and fried geoduck dish. The raw portion was served with a fragrant chile oil made with garlic and preserved vegetables, and the fried portion was coated in ground panko and served with a black pepper lime sauce. I love geoduck, not only because it’s the most phallic looking creature on the planet (it looks phallic on the siphon portion and the base), but also because it’s delicious. The siphon eaten raw is sweet, briny, meaty and crisp. The mantle portion is like the best fried clams you’ve ever had, the ideal flavor and texture.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? Dai Ho in Temple City. This noodle house has a very concise menu of noodle dishes as well as other veg, tofu and meat sides. Their spicy beef noodles, dan dan noodles, minced beef noodles are superior versions of those dishes. The noodles are cooked perfectly, and the broths and condiments are well seasoned and flavorful. People complain that they are too expensive at $8 or $9 a bowl when they can go somewhere else and pay $6. To me, the extra $2 to $3 is definitely worth the quality that I can taste.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without? This is going to sound like a pretentious chef answer, but I’ll say it anyway: my palate. The palate is the one thing that people in kitchens take for granted and underutilize. Yet it’s so important. The hardest thing for a restaurant to achieve is consistency, and the only way to do that is to taste your food. That’s why a friend of yours, whose tastes you trust, loves a particular restaurant but when you went there it sucked. The chefs and the cooks weren’t tasting that day.
What chef has most influenced you? Nancy Silverton: dedicated, detail-oriented, amazing palate, inspirational and an awesome dresser.
Spice Table, 114 S. Central Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 620-1840, www.thespicetable.com.