Philadelphia's Jose Garces, the Ecuadorian-American Iron Chef behind restaurants like Tinto, Amada, Distrito, and Village Whiskey, made a stop in Los Angeles on Monday to prepare a five-course menu at Manhattan Beach's Strand House in support of his new book, The Latin Road Home. Though some nosy neighbors in this notoriously stoosh seaside city called the cops upon catching a glimpse of Garces and chef Neal Fraser roasting a suckling pig for a capping course of Cuban lechón asado, the iron one's defenses remained impenetrable through well-regarded dishes like an Ecuadoran hamachi, orange, and yuzu ceviche and black cod bacalao. As a seasonally appropriate welcome, one of the restaurant's managers even carved this "Jose-O-Lantern" in the visiting chef's image.
Following dinner, shortly before Garces took his seat to sign books aside his company's culinary director, Michael Fiorello, he raised a glass to toast the assembled crowd. Having been on the road for fifteen days, Garces announced, "I have to say, this was by far my favorite night of the tour." At which point, a table mate leaned in to whisper, "He said the exact same thing the other night in Palm Springs," yet again demonstrating that food just might really be the new rock.
And speaking of Palm Springs, where Garces recently opened a Distrito-doppelganger called El Jefe at The Saguaro Hotel, what about rumors that he was considering an L.A. outpost? While his appearance at The Strand House may not be enough to firm up validity that he's got the city in his sights, some loose tongue at L.A.'s Custom Hotel recently let slip that it was staffing up for a new "tavern" concept, to which it would offer no details when pressed by Grub Street.
Considering both the Westchester-based Custom and Saguaro in Palm Springs are both owned by the same operators, Joie de Vivre Hotels, we'd say it's worth keeping an eye on for a future Garces sighting. When asked about any conceivable L.A. expansion, with specific allusions to The Custom, the chef told us, "No comment," while again confirming his love for L.A. and desire to someday bring a restaurant to The City of Angels.
Earlier: Jose Garces Goes Ape for Animal's Foie Gras Loco Moco [GS]