Preservation and zero-waste cooking are big parts of the story at the chef’s counter.

By Andy Wang
February 19, 2019
Mallory Cunningham

Jessica Largey is excited about launching her six-seat chef’s-counter tasting menu at Simone in L.A.’s Arts District this weekend.

“You can pour so much more of yourself into it when you have it really controlled and small,” she says. “It can be so much more personal.”

The tasting menu, which will have one 7 p.m. seating on Fridays and Saturdays, will include 12 to 15 courses for $185 per person. An $85 beverage pairing gets guests wine and cocktails from Duello, Simone’s on-site bar. Because of the limited space, there will be an online lottery that allots two weeks of seats randomly every other Friday at 10 a.m. The next lottery will be on March 1.

The highly anticipated Simone opened for à la carte dining with a lot of fanfare last September, but Largey was thinking about the tasting menu here long before that.

“Those rutabagas, I made like two and a half years ago at a private dinner,” she says, describing one of the chef’s-counter dishes. “I was like, ‘This is going to be something at the counter.’ We’ve been waiting to have the stage to use them. There are some things that are either very labor-intensive or a little bit too esoteric to serve on the à la carte menu."

The rutabagas are poached in beef stock, dehydrated, and then rehydrated in the reduced beef stock that was used for poaching.

“They’re chewy and leathery and rich,” says Largey, who’s serving the rutabagas with dry-aged Flannery Beef rib cap that’s cooked closed to the coals in a Josper, which is a combination of a grill and a oven. A lot of what Largey, the former Manresa chef de cuisine who won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2015, will do at the counter involves preservation and zero-waste cooking.

“We had been working on projects for the counter even before we opened,” she says. “We fermented garlic in barley miso to make misozuke that has aged for almost eight months now.”

Mallory Cunningham

For a seafood course, golden tilefish (amadai) that’s grilled on the Josper is served with a tomatillo jam that Largey made in the summer. The dish also includes purple tomatillo liquid that originated in an à la carte dish with pole beans that’s no longer on the menu because the beans aren’t in season. For the counter, Largey’s been roasting the bones and frames of fish in the tomatillo liquid.

“It’s this very fatty and rich stock, but the tomatillo base brings all this acid and complexity to it,” she says.

Largey says she was a little nervous about serving tomatillo, which isn’t in season right now, at the counter. She asked her chef de cuisine, Jason Beberman, if it was odd to do this at a restaurant that showcases seasonal cooking.

Beberman responded that it was exactly what the chef’s counter should do.

“He was like, ‘That’s the story, Jess,’” Largey says. “‘That’s what we’re telling people. This counter and the opportunity to do this food has been something that we’ve been focused on for months. We didn’t just throw this together.’”

While cooking behind the counter, Largey will interact with guests and tell stories about her food. Serving tomatillo-and-bone stock, for example, “is a great way to tell that story and talk to people about why we care about it and how to lower your waste and the flavors that can come out it,” she says.

Guests will also find seasonal elements like the East Coast golden tilefish, which includes pichuberries from Girl and Dug Farms, an ingredient that Largey says she would like more of at Simone if her friend Jeremy Fox doesn’t corner the market on them.

“They’re very fresh and acidic and sweet, and you have to get one of those in every bite because it really brings the whole dish together in this beautiful way,” she says.

Another dish that involves zero-waste cooking originated when Beberman was saddled with lots of extra ricotta whey at Simone. He decided to cook Weiser Family Farms’ Magic Myrna potatoes in the whey, which led to a dish that now includes apple cider vinegar aged with seaweed. The potatoes are served alongside pink radicchio that Largey soaked in lemon water. There’s also an intense oil made with the greens of Thai shallots from farmer Kong Thao. That oil is the result of Largey's à la carte tartare dish that used the bulbs of the shallots and left her with a lot of greens.

Largey is open to the idea of doing a tasting menu more days, but first she needs to see how it feels to run the counter while the kitchen behind her is dealing with 200 covers on a busy night at Simone.

“I think it’s great, because you get to be a part of two different worlds of food,” Largey says. “You get to be a part of a more casual place, and then you get to have this really beautiful creative expression that allows you to take on a different voice as a chef, which is something I miss. I miss doing fine dining. It’s just really exciting that it gives us so much more of a stage and a platform to be creative.”

Simone, 449 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 424-433-3000

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