The $74 cheesecake at Jose Andres’ new restaurant doesn’t care if a recession looms

Cheesecake served in baking paper with mounded, shaved truffle on top.
Cheesecake with a truffle supplement at San Laurel, Jose Andres’ new restaurant at the Conrad hotel in downtown L.A.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

This week’s recommendations from Jenn Harris include a $74 dessert, dosa onion rings and Malai rigatoni.


The $74 cheesecake from San Laurel

It’s a scene that verges on the obscene. Despite the general jitters over a looming economic downturn, new restaurants in L.A. are still finding new ways to indulge excess at the table. I felt ridiculous as I sat at Jose Andres’ new downtown restaurant and watched our server grate a fresh truffle over a small round of burnt Basque cheesecake. The soft curls of fungus fell like snow and created a small, fragrant mountain. It was thrilling and guilt-inducing at the same time, my phone trained on the cheesecake, recording the spectacle — a $74 one.

To clarify, the cheesecake is $24, but the optional truffle supplement is an additional $50. If you really want to go nuts, you can add a scoop of guava sorbet for an additional $8, pushing the limits of this dish to $82 if you so desire.

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Dec. 7, 2021

Will this .gif of truffle being shaved onto cheesecake at a celebrity chef’s new restaurant make it into an Instagram reel? Absolutely. And that’s probably the point.

But just as I was ready to write the entire experience off as a debacle, I took a bite. The cheesecake is silky and firm around the edges with a middle that melts into a sweet puddle of custard. The truffle left me shaking my head and speechless in disbelief. I was momentarily stunned by how well it complemented the dessert, by how much I enjoyed the bitter earthiness of the truffle with the cheesecake.


It was extra extra. But I thought about how two years ago, we were all stuck in our homes, hoarding precious rolls of toilet paper, and decided the indulgence was more than justified.

Dosa onion rings and Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace

A bowl of thick-cut onion rings in a fluffy, fried batter.
Dosa onion rings at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
(Eman Raif)

Restaurateur Avish Naran’s favorite part of dosa is the crispy bits. When he and chef Miles Shorey decided to make onion rings at their new restaurant, they decided to incorporate Naran’s favorite bits. It’s one of the many dishes meant to “India-ify” American classics at what Naran likes to call his “India-ified” American sports bar in Silver Lake. The fat rings are dipped in a fermented rice flour and lentil batter that puffs up around the onion. The best onion rings don’t fall apart as you’re eating them. These hold, with an airy crunch and a slight tang from the addition of vinegar in the batter. They’re served with a sweet mango chutney, but you’ll probably want to order sides of curry-leaf ranch and yogurt and Stilton dressing for dipping. These will also come in handy for dunking any scraps of New Jersey tavern-style pizza (sauce that goes all the way to the ends and an ultra-thin crust that fries in oil in the pizza pan).

It was difficult to stop eating the Malai rigatoni, Naran’s attempt to capture diners’ obsession with vodka sauce but make it uniquely his own.

A bowl of rigatoni in a pink sauce.
Malai rigatoni at Pijja Palace in Silver Lake.
(Stan Lee)

“There’s a lot of similarities between some of the Indian cream sauces like tikka masala and a vodka-style sauce, so we prepare it like a vodka sauce but it uses tomato paste and not whole tomatoes,” he said.

It’s an excellent bowl of pasta with a good al dente chew, swimming in a sunset-colored sauce that gets trapped between the noodles. Imagine the creamy tomato sauce you know and love, bolstered by a spice blend that incorporates garam masala, cumin, garlic and ginger. There’s a lot more depth than any other version around town, with a welcome heat that lingers.

The fact that Pijja Palace is on the bottom floor of the Comfort Inn hotel off Sunset Boulevard makes dinner there all the more unexpected and charming. No doubt there is a food blog working on a “best restaurants in budget hotels” list as I type this.

San Laurel, 100 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 349-8585,

Pijja Palace, 2711 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles,