Three chefs stepping into their own
Chefs Corbin and Patterson at Alta Adams
Rooster & Owl Washington, D.C.
The chef at D.C.’s most exciting new restaurant didn’t take the easy road to success, said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Yuan Tang, 36, was driving a car for Uber as he and his wife readied their debut—a simple 50-seat affair with food so good and so original, it “pretty much has diners grinning from the first bite.” Tang isn’t new to the kitchen: The Virginia native apprenticed in some top New York restaurants, served as sous chef to a James Beard winner, and spent three years doing pop-ups and catering. Clearly, he has his own vision. Your $65 four-course meal begins with buns inspired by the ones Tang adored while growing up in Hong Kong. Then you make choices: a salad of julienned kohlrabi, perhaps, or roasted baby carrots that have been dry rubbed, dressed with barbecue sauce, and accompanied by a spoonful of cornbread ice cream. Nothing here is less than very good, and some dishes are “ethereal,” including the gnocchi with shiitakes and preserved lemon. There’s just one problem: “Fifty seats is too few for the crowds I predict.” 2436 14th St. NW, (202) 813-3976
Alta Adams Los Angeles
Maybe the time has arrived for what chef Keith Corbin calls “California soul food,” said Bill Addison in the Los Angeles Times. Raised in Watts, the former kitchen manager at Roy Choi’s Locol grew up on the soul food cooked by his grandmother from Alabama, and he’s a synergist: seeking ways to boost or complement familiar flavors while dialing back the least healthy features of a cuisine he suspects has drifted away from its agrarian roots. Corbin “makes oxtails and rice his own,” for example, by braising them in a liquid infused with miso and soy and serving them with slivers of pickled Fresno chile. He sweetens his yam gratin with almond milk and uses West African red palm oil to lend his squash-peanut soup a nutty earthiness. It’s no wonder this charming West Adams eatery was set up by fellow chef Daniel Patterson to give Corbin a platform. Even Corbin’s fried chicken is an original: “He deep-fries the bird first, then par-bakes it, and right before serving it finishes it in a skillet. The method achieves the kind of sheer, crackling crust that’s all but disappeared in restaurant fried chicken. I’m obsessed.” 5359 W. Adams Blvd., (323) 571-4999
Verbena BYOB Philadelphia
Everyone loves seeing a wunderkind chef rocket to the top, said Craig LaBan in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Some talents, though, bounce around for years, soaking up wisdom, before stepping up to a featured role. So it has gone for Scott Morozin, a formerly nearly anonymous sous chef now overseeing a great little 36-seat BYOB in Kennett Square. Whatever the reason he’s previously been a background player, “the man can cook.” Order the chicken and what arrives is an upright cylinder of juicy breast meat wrapped in a sheet of bronzed skin, stuffed with mushrooms, and perched atop slow-cooked leeks with truffled cheese. And the rest of the locally sourced bird is put to good use, too, with the leg meat cured in a spicy brine and then ground for a “beguiling” Bolognese sauce. Morozin sometimes overdoes a dish, as sous chefs sometimes do, but “his successes easily outweigh the missteps.” His servers should learn not to sell his achievements as hard as they do; “the quality is evident on the plate.” 120 E. State St., (484) 732-7932 ■