Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Resto owner Christian Pappanicholas gabbed about the Rodaballo a la Plantxa that Jose Garces cooked for him at Tinto in Philadelphia. What grub do you love, Garces?
“I actually filmed Next Iron Chef in LA. and Animal was one of the first restaurants I went to there and I ended up finding it to be one of the best. To go into a place that has a dish like this with such funky ingredients, to have them bring it all together was an amazing experience for me. I think anyone that can use Spam on a dish and make it work is pretty genius. The hamburger patty is probably 3 or 4 ounces, the Spam is probably an ounce and a half, the quail egg is what it is and they’re all stacked on top of each other. There was a sauce element that tied it all together - I’m trying to figure out what it was. Maybe a beef sauce or a teriyaki element to it - that sauce really bound all of those ingredients together. Honestly, it’s all rich, rich, rich across the board, but somehow it ends up not feeling so overwhelming. When you’re looking at this dish, there’s no acidity or nothing cutting the fat, but they make it work. You have to be in the mood to be amused and then cleanse yourself the following day. Drink a lot of tea.”
Animal Chef Vinny Dotolo responds:
“The loco moco came from a conversation we were having when a friend was leaving town to go to Hawaii. Jon had been and I hadn’t so I started wondering out loud what Hawaiians eat. We were throwing dishes out and it eventually sparked this idea of doing a Loco Moco. It is a big thing over there and people weren’t really rocking it too much here. The challenge was to make it both traditional and Animal-esque, which is where the foie gras comes in since Hawaiians do eat it with Spam and rice. I made it one time (it’s really fun to make) and felt it needed some heat, so I added Sriracha, which gives it some acidity as well.
We put seared foie gras and lightly browned Spam on a burger patty, top it with a quail egg, and also scallions, plus we use Carolina Gold rice instead of usual white rice. There are about four sauces here and they can be hard to distinguish as they mix together and form a different flavor. There’s a foie gras sauce with a little maple syrup, a homemade teriyaki sauce, and the Sriracha. The Sriracha really tied it all together, adding heat and acid, otherwise it’d be just a hamburger with foie gras. The sauce reminds me a little of something like at Yoshinoya, just a dirty-ass teriyaki bowl with sweet and garlicky flavor.
It is not a seasonal dish, which we like to have a lot of. It is decadent, but it’s true, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a dish I like to eat alone. We promote sharing at Animal but for the loco moco you gotta get it all in there, so it’s best to go for it by yourself or with one other person. So it came from a conversation and we introduced it about five or six months ago, now it’s become a staple of our menu. We have another hot foie gras dish which is much less forgiving, and it’s hard to get rid of either of them.”
Earlier: Animal Chefs Show Meadowood How Foie Gras is Done [Grub Street San Francisco]