If you want a read of LA’s food scene — where it is now, and where it’s heading — search no further than Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown. This Mexican-Asian fusion spot serves the kind of ingredient-driven, intimately inspired hybrid food we’re lusting over lately, and we don’t plan on quitting any time soon.
While we love everything on the sexy seasonal menu, we can’t help but be impressed by the elegant complexity of the salads, one of which we’re sharing below. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but Chef Jonathan swears it’s actually easy to make. And if his restaurant has taught us anything it’s that a little detail can go a long way…
What we ate: Golden beets served with spicy feta, sumac, rye and lemon; shishito peppers with tonnato sauce and huamei; avocado dressed with farmers market citrus, nori, hazelnut, kohlrabi and champagne vinaigrette; yellowtail crudo with tamarind, serrano, cilantro and banana blossom; Persistent Rose cocktail made with Jamacian rum, verjus, pickled rose petals, lime and rosewater.
Why we ate it: Because this is the kind of restaurant where you’ll want a little of everything — and can do just that. The seasonal menu is divided into quadrants: veggies, seafood, meat and desserts. Each dish, inspired by Chef Jonathan Whitener’s culturally-colorful upbringing, is alive with punchy flavor and deep layers of creative ideation, resulting in food that feels as fresh and deeply personal as the restaurant space itself. It’s like
eating reading an artist’s diary; one page just wont do.
Why you need it: Going for dinner at the 50-seat HLAY feels like finding a buried treasure. Designed by chef Jonathan and his partner, Lien Ta — both veterans of the LA food scene — HLAY’s moody Mid-Century interior is both intimate and energized: think rainbow jars of pickled veggies, vintage rock memorabilia and a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf tucked behind their long wooden bar, populated with books, bottles and ceramic tableware we honestly want to steal. The real star of the show, naturally, is the menu, but it’s the combination of these elements that makes HLAY a dining experience. Powered by pure creative expression and culinary expertise, this restaurant truly embodies the best of LA’s food scene.
Charred Greens Salad + Ginger Vinaigrette
for the salad:
4 bunches sprouted greens (such as cabbage, kale or broccoli)
olive oil, to taste
sea salt, to taste
serrano chilies, thinly sliced
hearts of palm, diced
pickled ginger vinaigrette (recipe below!)
crunch mix (recipe below!)
for the pickled ginger:
1 inch fresh ginger, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chili, minced
1 Kafir lime leaf
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup water
7 Tbsp mirin
5 Tbsp palm syrup
5 Tbsp distilled vinegar
for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup pickled ginger
1 1/2 cups pickling liquid
3/4 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup shallot, finely diced
6 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp white pepper, ground
fresh ginger, finely diced
for the crunch mix:
(the crunch mix is an assembly of three mixes)
1/4 cup peanuts, fried
1/4 cup almonds, fried
1/4 cup sorghum, puffed
1/4 cup wild rice, puffed
1/4 cup red lentils, soaked overnight, fried
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, fried
4 Tbsp perilla seeds, toasted
4 Tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
4 Tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted
To prepare the pickled ginger: combine ginger, garlic and chilies in a bowl. Set aside. In a pot, combine brown sugar, water, mirin, palm syrup, vingear and the lime leaf. Bring to a boil. Pour liquid over the ginger, garlic and chilies. Pickle for at least 30 minutes.
To prepare the vinaigrette: combine shallot and salt and let stand for 5 minutes, mixing every minute. Add the remaining ingredients. Add fresh ginger to taste.
To prepare the crunch mix: Heat oil in a tall, heavy bottomed bot until it reaches 300 degrees. Individually fry peanuts, almonds, red lentils and sunflower seeds until lightly golden brown. Remove from the pot and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool. Combine all ingredients into the three individual mixes. Set aside.
To prepare the salad: Lightly dress the greens with olive oil and season aggressively with salt. Over a high heat grill, charr the greens consistently moving them around to achieve a crust, but do not let them burn to a crisp — about 90 seconds. Chop greens while they’re still warm. Arrange the greens in the center of a serving bowl. Place a tablespoon of each crunch mix around the greens. Include chilies and hearts of palm as individual “bundles” arranged around the greens. The key is to hide the greens, but leave a small crevice in the top middle. Pour 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over in the hole where the greens poke through. Allow guests to mix the salad themselves.