Hello from Hawaii,
After a busy week of filming a food show for PBS in London, I stopped in L.A. for a hot minute wrote this letter to you before quickly jumping on a plane to Hawaii. This might be the first time I’ve spent time in too many different time zones in a very short period, and my internal clock is out of sync. I will be away this week to take a much-needed break and will be back cooking with you next week. Thank you to everyone who sent me their recommendations for restaurants to try; they were very helpful.
London was amazing and the food and company equally wonderful. We wrapped our final day filming ended on a wonderful note at my friend Asma Khan’s beautiful restaurant Darjeeling Express. You’ve seen Asma on Netflix’s Chef’s Table and hopefully, have a copy of her first book, Asma’s Indian Kitchen (and hopefully, as excited as me for her second book that comes out this spring, Ammu). Her food is special, it always reminds me of home. While this is home food at its best, each dish carries a special memory that connects to Asma’s life. It isn’t numbingly hot where you can’t taste a thing because your ears are burning and you live the next few hours in absolute anxiety knowing what is to come the next day. Asma’s cooking and her stories are what draw me to her restaurant every time I visit London. This week, I tried her non-vegetarian thali that can best be described as regal - from her dal to the tender lamb curry and potatoes in a spiced tomato sauce.
If you aren’t familiar with a thali, it’s a way of eating Indian food. A large plate filled with several small bowls called katoris containing food is served together. Everything is compartmentalized like a bento. The type of food served is dictated by the region and religious holidays. For example, I grew up on the West coast of India and the thalis often contain coconut, meat, and seafood. In the North, where my dad’s from, thalis served at his parent’s home were vegetarian and rich in dairy. Of course, you can skip all the rules and make your own thalis with your favorite dishes, and at some point, I will show you how I make my thalis. After I arrived home, I kept thinking about thalis in L.A. and made the disappointing observation that in the two years I’ve lived here, I’ve not tried any of the thalis that my city has to offer. Based on your comments on Twitter and Instagram, Rajdhani in Artesia is one of the top places in L.A. county but if you have more recommendations to share, please let me know in the comments below. If you want to share recommendations from places outside L.A., share those too!
The other notable restaurants I ate at on this trip were Noble Rot and Brasserie Zédel. As expected, the wine selection at Noble Rot is excellent, but the food blew me away. Every dish was thoughtfully composed, and their desserts were spectacular; their Campari blood orange sorbet is one of the most refreshing sweets I’ve eaten in a while. Noble Rot carries the vibe of a cozy, friendly neighborhood restaurant that, if I lived closer, would make it my regular haunt. Now Brasserie Zédel is quite different. It’s glamorous; I felt I'd walked back through time and entered a room with shiny gold decor and glossy marble walls that spanned the entire room of this French brasserie. I tried the steak au poivre and finished it off with their rum baba; they were both lovely (Sorry, I left my phone in my coat and forgot to bring it to dinner, so I've got no photos to share).
There were other important stops too, Paddington got a Paddington bear (I want to dress him up as his namesake for Halloween this year and need to find an outfit for him) and so did my friend Sam’s baby from the store at Paddington Station. Things have come full circle and this means more to me than it does Paddington, I know…
Since my last cookbook, The Flavor Equation, came out right when COVID kicked off, my entire book tour fell through, and I couldn’t visit London. For those of you who’ve been waiting patiently for signed copies, they’re now available at most independent bookstores in the U.K. and also at Abrams Chronicle (if you’re in America, I signed stock at Now Serving L.A., order copies through them). I stopped by the Abrams Chronicle headquarters and signed A LOT of books for you to grab.
Now, I’m off to shed off my coat, pack my shorts for Hawaii, and relax!
See you soon and have a lovely week!
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