2020 was the year of the restaurant DIY meal kit. Here are 10 options to ring in 2021
A year ago, the idea of ordering a takeout meal that required cooking at home might have seemed unusual, or at least unnecessary. Wasn’t avoiding the kitchen what restaurants were invented for anyway?
But as the pandemic transformed our relationship with our kitchens, chefs adapted to a new set of customers who were tired of takeout and eager to re-create (or at least attempt to re-create) the restaurant experience at home. Even once the COVID-19 wave eventually resides, it seems likely that DIY meal kits will remain popular into 2021 and beyond.
So if you’re looking to ring in the new year with a restaurant-esque experience that doesn’t take place in a restaurant, consider unique options around L.A. that can be prepared at home.
Classic steakhouse fare at the Finishing Gourmet
Former Four Seasons chef and Bocuse d’Or head coach Robert Sulatycky and entrepreneur Paul Abramowitz recently launched a luxe delivery service that aims to re-create the fine dining steakhouse experience at home. Vacuum-sealed dry-aged ribeyes arrive seasoned and par-cooked; customers are tasked with searing them for a minute or two on a hot pan using the equipment provided, including tongs, a silicone brush, searing oil, herbs, finishing salt and a custom steak knife. Sides such as tortellini mac and cheese and jumbo shrimp cocktails arrive neatly garnished and plated in glass jars or ceramic bowls. Even the crème brûlée comes with a portable blowtorch for caramelizing the turbinado sugar on top. This experience isn’t exactly cheap, however — entrées start around $70, plus a $30 delivery charge.
Tamale kits at Guerrilla Tacos
Why not wrap up some tamales while you’re wrapping up 2020? That’s the idea behind Guerrilla Tacos’ tamale kits, an expansion of the restaurant’s popular “Emergency Taco Kits” that went viral back in March. The $50 tamale kit, which makes about 30 tamales, includes two pounds of ready-to-use masa, 40 corn husks and 1 pound each of steak, chicken and sweet potato and cheese fillings, plus a side of salsa. Sure, as anyone who has witnessed a tamaleada in action can tell you, wrapping and steaming a few dozen tamales isn’t for the faint of heart, but the Guerrilla Tacos kit also includes instructions to guide you through any masa-related miscues.
Alinea “Be the Chef” menu at Vespertine
Jordan Kahn has been serving elaborate themed takeout tasting menus at his Culver City restaurant Vespertine since the pandemic began, but his most recent installment might be the most hands-on production he’s designed yet. Inspired by Kahn’s time working at Chicago fine dining destination Alinea alongside chef Grant Achatz, the nine-course meal invites customers to intricately assemble their own versions of modernist dishes such as pear with celery leaf and curry or halibut with shellfish custard. “We give the basic instructions for preparation, but this is really [the guest’s] chance to feel a little bit of what it’s like to be a chef,” Kahn recently told Forbes.
The Korean BBQ kit by Chris Oh
There’s nothing that can quite replicate the feel of an epic soju-fueled barbecue feast in Koreatown, but former Hanjip chef Chris Oh’s KBBQ delivery kits might be the next best thing. Kits for two ($60) or four people ($100) include an option of marinated meats — kalbi, bulgogi or pork belly — plus rice, dipping sauces and a smattering of banchan. Soju bottles (original or grapefruit-flavored) are extra. And if you don’t have a grill at home, you can also add a portable tabletop burner and grill pan to accompany your food.
Char siu kit at Needle
Silver Lake’s new wave Cantonese spot Needle is offering a finish-at-home version of its popular char siu for $33. Chef Ryan Wong vacuum-seals the slab of Snake River Farms Kurobuta pork belly so it stays juicy and tender; at home, the meat is warmed in simmering water, then broiled in the oven and finished with a sticky honey glaze and a sprinkle of salt. Served with steamed rice, greens and a dab of hot mustard, a few slices of char siu make for a simple but glorious dinner.
Black Truffle Risotto Kit at Redbird
Downtown restaurant Redbird is offering a holiday Black Truffle Risotto Kit that provides everything you need to master the famously finicky dish on your stove. The $100 package serves four to six and includes risotto rice, white wine, mushroom stock, onion, butter, Parmesan and fresh black truffles. You’ll also receive a prerecorded cooking demo from chef Neal Fraser, just in case written instructions won’t cut it.
Hand roll kits at Brothers Sushi
Many sushi restaurants began offering home hand roll kits this year, including the names you’d expect like Kazunori and Sogo Roll Bar. The spot with the deepest roster of options, however, might be Brothers Sushi in Studio City. There you’ll find three tiers of hand roll kits, which range from $35 to $150: the most expensive makes up to 20 hand rolls and includes caviar, a box of sea urchin, chopped toro, salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna, snow crab plus accompaniments such as cucumber, daikon sprouts and shiso leaves. Instructions for rolling are included, but don’t expect to become a sushi master on your first (or second) try.
Lobster roll kit at Found Oyster
Found Oyster in East Hollywood has reinvented itself several times in 2020 — pivoting to a fried chicken joint and fresh seafood shop, for example — so it shouldn’t be surprising that chef and co-owner Ari Kolender is serving up some great DIY kits to boot. A $45 “New England” style lobster roll kit includes a heap of fresh Maine lobster, lobster bisque mayo, diced serrano, lemon and Martin’s top-split potato buns (as any lobster roll devotee will tell you, toasting the buns with butter is a crucial first step). There’s also a steamed littleneck clam kit ($22) that pairs perfectly with fresh bread or pasta; video cooking instructions are featured on the restaurant’s Instagram page.
Garlic knot kit at Milo & Olive
DIY pizza kits — essentially a ball of proofed dough paired with marinara, mozzarella and topping — have become a standard menu option for several top-tier pizzerias around town, including Ronan, Roberta’s, Jon & Vinny’s and Grá. At Milo & Olive in Santa Monica, you can also add a side of take-and-bake garlic knots ($13) to your basket along with pizza. The pre-rolled and stuffed bundles come with a side of garlic oil (for brushing) and tomato sauce (for dipping).
Cook-at-home taco kits at Holbox
Gilberto Cetina Jr.’s acclaimed Mexican seafood spot inside Mercado La Paloma is taking a well-deserved vacation until Jan. 3, but once it returns will offer “cook-at-home” taco kits featuring a choice of Baja kanpachi, Maine diver scallops or Spanish octopus. The seafood comes par-cooked and once seared is ready to be arranged on handmade corn tortillas along with toppings such as cherry tomato pico de gallo, red cabbage and chile X’catic sauce. Each kit ($27 to $30) makes six tacos.
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