What to eat now: A focaccia bread ice cream ribboned with olive oil and flakes of salt
Jenn Harris’ favorite dishes of the week, including a focaccia bread ice cream from Antico Nuovo, tsukune from Kodo, braised pork belly from Tin Tin Restaurant and banh mi from Banh Mi My-Tho.
Focaccia bread ice cream at Antico Nuovo
Nearing the end of a 2.5-hour dinner at Antico Nuovo in Larchmont, our server recommended the focaccia ice cream. It was around 9 p.m. Drowsy and full, I was on the fence. I asked if I had heard her correctly. Yes, she had said focaccia, as in chef Chad Colby’s excellent bread, with its crisp, salty, oily crust and bubbly, chewy center, transformed somehow into ice cream. Why not? The base for the ice cream (and for all of the flavors at Antico) is fior di latte, an overtly milky flavor that is nothing like vanilla. Studded throughout the glass, in chunks large enough to be panzanella croutons, are grilled, day-old squares of focaccia, softened and slack, acting like sponges for the ice cream. Swirled through are ribbons of pale yellow olive oil studded with flakes of salt. It’s topped with shards of breadcrumbs fried in olive oil. The texture alone is addictive, with the cool, smooth ice cream, soft bread (think softened cereal toward the end of a bowl), flakes of salt and crunchy topping. Colby said it was originally offered as a limited flavor just before the shutdown of March 2020, but a regular “twisted his arm” to bring it back. To whoever did the twisting, I’m eternally grateful.
Braised pork belly with preserved cabbage at Tin Tin Restaurant
My Chinese grandmother is prone to grand, sweeping statements of either praise or disapproval for many restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. She claims the braised pork belly at Tin Tin Restaurant, tucked into the back corner of a small strip mall in Rosemead, is the best in the city and the surrounding areas. In this instance (in many, actually), she is correct. The slabs of pork are half-fat, half-meat, and they jiggle when the dish is plopped onto the glass Lazy Susan. The fatty tops glisten, lacquered in a sweet red sauce tinged with garlic, star anise and Shaoxing wine. The meat and sauce seem to melt as one onto the preserved cabbage beneath it. Unlike some of the newer restaurants in the area, Tin Tin still offers a large container of free white rice for the table. The remaining sauce and rice made for an excellent breakfast the following morning.
No. 4 banh mi from Banh Mi My-Tho
I have been ordering the No. 8 sandwich from Banh Mi My-Tho since Bill Addison mentioned it in a list of his favorite takeout banh mi sandwiches. It is a superb banh mi, crowded with sliced grilled pork that’s been marinated with garlic and lemongrass. But during a visit to the new location in Rosemead, I was converted to the No. 4. At the front of the stand, skewers of round meatballs beckon from a warming case. The misshapen spheres are firm and rough with coarsely ground nubs of pork and fat. They have the same sweetness and lemongrass funk as the grilled pork in the No. 8, but with a more pronounced kick of black pepper. All of the sandwiches come with the same slivers of pickled radish and carrot, sliced fresh jalapeño and cucumber, sprigs of cilantro, buttery egg-yolk mayonnaise, green onions and peanuts on a crusty, airy baguette. The No. 4 features all the regular condiments, with the grilled pork sausage meatballs as the star. The next time you visit, let those meatballs shine bright.
The San Gabriel Valley Food Club — a group of some 30 poets, writers and academics — ditched their pandemic Zoom hangouts for an evening potluck.
Tsukune from Kodo
There isn’t a bad table at Kodo, the new Arts District restaurant in the Rykn hotel. On the patio, pieces of hanging fabric, died with charcoal or fermented persimmon, peacefully swoosh and sway above diners. At the sushi counter and along the back wall of the dining room, there’s a front-row seat to all of the action, and you can hear chef Yoya Takahashi enthusiastically relaying orders to his team, greeting and thanking guests. A recent dinner included a procession of artfully prepared nigiri, but the highlight of the evening was a hockey-puck-sized chicken meatball known as tsukune. The minced chicken is loosely packed with what tasted like ginger and green onion. Beautifully charred, it sits in a pool of yakitori tare, a salty, sticky sauce typically served with yakitori. And a single blistered and pickled shishito pepper adorns the plate. Break the yolk and let it spill into the yakitori tare, creating a rich glaze for your meatball. On this visit, three people shared one order. Next time, tsukune for everyone!
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