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3 6 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t Michael's Santa Monica Executive Chef Miles Thompson was recently shortlisted for the James Beard's Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Thompson's dish of Denver steak with porcini bordelaise, Russian kale and chanterelles showcases his love for unusual but delicious meat cuts and hyper-seasonal and local produce. A unique dessert: roasted barley pot de crème with rosemary, chamomile and feuille de brick. ON THE MENU RISING STAR CHEF MILES THOMPSON TAKES OVER THE KITCHEN AT REVAMPED LOS ANGELES CLASSIC MICHAEL'S WITH A FEW TRICKS UP HIS SLEEVE by Jesse Hom-Dawson ANY LONG-TIME LOS ANGELENO has heard of Michael's, opened in Santa Monica by Michael McCarty in 1979. The restaurant became an institution, ushering in the trend of California cuisine, boasting famous alumni like Jonathan Waxman and Mozza's Nancy Silverton, and spawning a New York offshoot in 1989. It's rare to see a restaurant stay in business for so long in a city like Los Angeles, where culinary trends evolve and older restaurants often resist inevitable change. However, with the hiring of Miles Thompson as Executive Chef this past August, McCarty has made a bold move and reinvented Michael's with a young chef focusing on a hyper-seasonal menu. Thompson has an impressive pedigree, with former stints at L.A. favorites NOBU, Animal, Son of a Gun and the short-lived but beloved Allumette. "My original agreement with Michael's was to stick to the previous menu, allowing small tweaks and adjustments," Thompson recalls. "But then the space underwent a physical renovation, and we decided to completely flip the menu as well." What emerged were dishes heavily influenced by the nearby Santa Monica farmer's market and many housemade accoutrements like butter and bread. Almost all the produce is sourced from nearby farms like Coleman Family Farms in Carpinteria and Coastal Organics in Ventura. Thompson admits, "I'm highly distracted by produce, so there will be one to four new items on the menu every week. Even if we find a product that has a low yield in crops, we'll put it in a dish that will only be on the menu for a week or two." A recent dinner at the restaurant showcased a Denver steak that was almost outshone by its sides of a porcini bordelaise, Russian kale and chanterelles. If you haven't heard of a Denver steak, a shoulder cut that's well-marbled and juicy, it's because Thompson places emphasis on using unusual and unexpected ingredients— and cuts—in his dishes. "We could just serve you a New York steak and serve it well, and call it a day," Thompson says, "but I like seeking out cuts that are typically underutilized and taking people outside of their comfort zone. We want people to come here and expect some- thing different." This is highlighted in the dish of pork collar with XO sauce, coconut-chile cream and miner's lettuce; it's another dish show- casing a unique shoulder cut that comes out much juicier and more tender than your typical pork chop. Unique dishes benefit from pairings with unique cocktails and wines, and Thompson collaborates with Bar Manager Meredith Hayman on the Michael's cocktail list, resulting in drinks that often feature the same ingredients or spice mixtures found in the kitchen. The Michael's wine list is a surprise as well, featuring varieties unheard of in many restaurants. "We wanted to move the focus away from traditional food- pairing wines like Cab, Syrah and GSM toward lesser-known varieties," explains Thompson. "Right now we are into Italian white wines, which pair very well with the food." The Tenuta di Fessina 2014 LaeNeo was an opportunity to explore a new wine with new cuts of meat, a Sicilian red that paired excellently with the steak and pork. Rather than ending the meal on a safe note, Thompson, who works on the desserts as well, doubles down with a roasted barley pot de crème, rosemary chamomile and feuille de brick. Thompson, a fan of the light barley tea traditionally served at Korean barbecue joints, infuses the tea into half-and-half and then serves it through an ISI can- ister to create a light, fluffy pot de crème fragrant with warm barley, a contrasting flavor to the cold texture of the cream. It's a daring dessert that pays off, the perfect ending to a meal that proves no matter how long a restaurant has been around, it can still surprise you. With a just- announced nomination for Thompson as a semifinalist for the James Beard Award in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category, it's clear big things are ahead of Thompson and the revamped Michael's. PHOTO: RACHEL JACOBSON Reinventing the Meal PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL'S SANTA MONICA PHOTO: RACHEL JACOBSON ■cr

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