We had a feeling that chef Laurent Quenioux was going to take diners to a cool new planet during his pop-up at Starry Kitchen and the chef has fortunately not let us down. KevinEats was there this weekend for a test run of the chef’s planned pop-up "Fooding Around in L.A.," along with L.A. Weekly Squid Ink staffers and bloggers Food, Je T’aime and Marian the Foodie. The pop-up officially starts Sunday, June 5th, but the sneak-peak allows us to see what’s on Quenioux’s mind and Starry Kitchen’s plates during his run.
It appears the chef is mixing Mexican, Asian, and French influences, as best summed up by his teriyaki rabbit albondigas with teriyaki foie gras, miso, and green Garlic tempura. But the most interesting plate could be the above amuse bouche: The escamol taco. Like the tacos chapulines at Guelaguetza, we have Oaxaca to thank for this edible-insect offering that could really make that whole apocalypse thing go down much smoother.
Escamol is black ant larvae typically harvested from the base of maguey or agave plants and, of course, is considered a delicacy down south. It is sometimes referred to as "insect caviar" or by Cracked magazine as one of the "Six Most Terrifying Foods in the World." Despite that somewhat ignorant designation, KevinEats describes the taste of Quenioux’s version as "a slight earthy relish that went beautifully with the citrus and veggies," all harmonized by a nasturtium leaf.
We’ve gobbled our share of hormigas culonas, or what are sometimes known as "big-butt J. Lo. ants," down in Medellin, and plucked many a common yard ant off of local tree trunks for a sharp, acidic snack when no one is looking. We can attest that ants are indeed packed with their own unique taste and if a caviar comparison is apt, they do have a certain pop when crunched. But your best bet for acquiring a taste for these things is probably to see what Quenioux is cooking on his $45 pre-fixe menus starting on Sunday, June 5th, at 7:00 P.M. over at Starry Kitchen.