As the pandemic rages on, I feel an urgency to help support our most cherished dining establishments. The chain restaurants and their parent companies may take a hit to their stock price, but they’ll weather the storm. In the meantime, local eateries are just trying to tread water amid the latest wave — the second or third depending on how you’re counting — finding new ways to adapt in this strange new climate.
We’re all adapting by wearing masks, social distancing, spending more time outdoors, etc., in an effort to avoid the Covid — to “covoid,” if you will (trademark pending). With that in mind, I would like to highlight some beloved local institutions doing their part to create a memorable dining experience that will also accommodate your comfort level of safety. Here’s hoping that this does not become a long-running series.
So, let’s launch with something of an L.A. gold standard: Tiato Kitchen and Garden. The sister restaurant of Crustacean in Beverly Hills, Tiato claims the largest patio on the Westside, which while once just a mere piece of trivia, has become one of the most reassuring facts for a diner to consider. But not only is it spacious, it’s gorgeous. The gardenesque setting feels worlds away from, well, this one. Were it not for the face shields and spread-out tables, one might just forget this is 2020.
Another way to forget: cocktails. While your seat at the bar is currently unavailable, keep in mind the bartender is still working. And working some magic, I might add. For me, an Old Fashioned is a good barometer of a bar program, much like a Margherita pizza at a pizzeria. And Tiato’s Mad Men Old Fashion (100-proof Uncle Nearest Whiskey, bitters, Luxardo cherry, and sugar cube) is off the charts. Given the simplicity of the recipe, it’s critical to execute it just right — they do. Their version of this classic intoxicates the senses with a medicinal hint from the marriage of the high-octane spirit with the flavorful cherry, and as viscous as a well-diluted syrup.
Whether you’re dining al fresco on that beautiful patio, picnicking in one of the nearby parks or enjoying your meal at home, there are some staples on the menu that should be considered. First and foremost, An’s Famous Garlic Noodles. Beware, they’re an addiction. Enough said. I’d also recommend the Birds Eye Chili & Honey Fried Wings, bursting with notes of garlic and Thai basil, and the Short Rib Dumplings (and probably an extra order, considering how quick they go). And to get your veggies, the Eggplant Tofu is unbelievable, crisp and herbaceous.
As I write this, the CDC is issuing a warning about traveling for Thanksgiving. As Californians, we 1) generally lead the country by example and 2) live in paradise, so don’t really need to go anywhere else. And if there is a 3) it’s that we have an abundance of great chefs who can put together a Thanksgiving feast unlike anything we’ve yet imagined. And Tiato is leading the way in that capacity, with a Vietnamese-inspired perspective.
At the center of the meal, available now for pre-order through Nov. 19, is a brined turkey basking in citrus and herbs, served with a garlic-forward gravy. Also available are baked ham and roasted Jidori chicken. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the stuffing. Three varieties create a difficult decision: turkey-apple sausage and leek; Mama’s sticky rice with shiitakes, chestnuts and Chinese sausage; or a gluten-free option featuring caramelized onions, herbs, and Vietnamese perilla mint.
The five-spice pumpkin pie is yet another twist on tradition, along with housemade whipped cream, and on the side, consider the vegetarian and nut-free marshmallow & miso-glazed sweet potatoes. And for something truly unique, ask about the roasted Brussels sprouts, tossed with kale, almonds, dates, garlic, lime, and … wasabi. I know — wasabi? At Thanksgiving? Welcome to 2020.
Tiato Kitchen and Garden: Paradise’s Patio