Describe your ideal burrito.
Can you guys do all my interviews? Why has no one asked me questions like this before? Truth be told, I prefer tacos, but for burritos, I would call it the Odyssey. It would be divided into halves. The first half would be crispy carnitas, the second half would be carne asada. For the carnitas, I'm imagining it in the style of Alegria on Sunset in Los Angeles. Inside, I'd go tomatoes, greens, onions, cilantro, Jack cheese, rice, and black beans. I would keep crème fraîche and salsas on the side for dipping. And you ready? I'm gonna go with four salsa flavors: traditional, peach, pineapple, and mango.
Other than poutine, what else do you like to order at Animal?
The hamachi tostada is a staple that's always around and a must-try. Carrot and avocado salad. Getting the salads at Animal is key: (1) They are delicious, and (2) having a few of those in your meal keeps you from feeling destroyed by having too much of the heavy stuff. Like the foie gras with biscuit and maple-sausage gravy. A must-have every trip. One of my top bites of 2011.
You grew up in the South. Can you find proper fried chicken and biscuits in L.A. or NYC?
There was a food event in NYC called Le Grande Fooding last fall, and a restaurant called Seersucker served up a mean fried chicken that was the best I've had in a long, long time. Other than that, I can't find any that I consistently like as much as what I get in South Carolina (where I'm from).
What besides the Food Train is missing from the L.A. food truck scene?
Personally, other than Kogi, I'm actually kind of sick of seeing the food trucks. It seems like a majority of them are just coasting on the quirkiness of being a food truck and having a Twitter page, etc., without having any good food to back it up. I'm sure some are good, but I just haven't had a chance to try one. I'd love to see a good burger truck. I just had this burger at Commodore in Brooklyn and it was so good, I'd love to see a truck with that burger.
I also love a good chicken shawarma. I studied abroad in London when I was in college and the chicken shawarma there (particularly at Ranoush Juice) just blows any other shawarma I've had out of the water. The best I've found in NYC and L.A. is Zankou Chicken in L.A. and Karam in NYC. So my dream would be for Ranoush Juice to open a truck in L.A.
It'd be awesome if some restaurants made truck outposts. If Greenblatt's and Langer's did a Reuben truck. Bunk Sandwiches in Portland would be ridic.
If you could have a sandwich (or any other dish) named for you, what would it look like and what's in it?
Holy shit. I would have this combo as a dish; it was my favorite Southern meal as a kid. The Lil' Ziz' plate: Chicken drumettes, biscuits, baked mac and cheese, rice, and gravy. This lady who used to take care of me as a kid (shout-out to Mrs. Beaulah!) used to fry up drumettes for me and I'd take 'em down by the dozen. I never see them anywhere. I also can't find mac and cheese I really like. My preference is obviously baked style, but with a little crispiness up top. I don't care for the breadcrumbs and I don't like it too cheesy or creamy in the noodles. I think Mrs. Beaulah does a layer of cheddar on top and bottom and just mixes the noodles with evaporated milk and maybe an egg? Whatever she does, it's delicious. The best mac and cheese I've had at a restaurant was at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. Goddamn, that was good.
You were in Tokyo recently, right? What was the best stuff you tried there?
Hands down, Sushi Sawada. You walk in and it's a sushi bar with seven seats. Very minimal and very quiet. You sit down and Sawada, this strong, bald Japanese man who looks like a temple of calmness and precision, starts putting pieces of sushi in front of you on the bar. You pick it up with your fingers and eat it. From the hands of one of the top sushi masters in the world to your hands, right to your mouth. I feel like the meal changed me.
I agree with him. It's hard to find good mac and cheese.