The Unexpected at Michael's

By D.J. Costantino | Briana Balducci


D.J. Costantino
Briana Balducci
Yam, hoison, treviso radicchio, grenache vinegar marshmallow, pink peppercorn
Yam, hoison, treviso radicchio, grenache vinegar marshmallow, pink peppercorn

“Hello, hi, it’s me! You know me!” shout the sassy, orange batons on the plate. Those aren’t papaya waving back up at you, or cantaloupe, or even carrot. They’re wands of yam. Remember yams? In the canon of classic American home cooking, they’re most notably buried under dark clouds of marshmallow. “You have this cast of characters that doesn’t change for four months [of winter], and you want to do right by them,” says Rising Stars alum Miles Thompson, who took over the storied kitchen at Michael’s in Santa Monica in late 2016. At just 30, Thompson is revitalizing the institution (one that helped launch the careers of Jonathan Waxman, Nancy Silverton, and Roy Yamaguchi) with a punk-jazz vibe. In the same vein, his double-take dish spikes the workaday yam with vivid acids and shades of bitterness. It’s a bold, unusual, and tantalizing vegetable plate that tastes as striking as it looks. 

Yams: Thompson sources oriental orange yams from Thao Farms in Fresno. Peeled and roasted in brown butter, juniper, and savory, the subterranean sweetness of the yams grounds the dish. 

Grenache Marshmallow: “Somewhere deep in the psyche was sweet potatoes and marshmallows,” says Thompson. But his sharp and savory version is a meringue seasoned with Grenache vinegar and salt, piped out into different shapes, and torched for the campfire effect. 

Treviso: A soft, lettuce crunch and caressing bitterness comes from theis long, purple-striped radicchio variety. Inspired by a salad at Animal, Thompson “wanted to freak it my own way,” coating it with a ginger-yogurt dressing that gives it a cooling, “nostril-burn sweetness.” 

Hoisin: This ain’t no Lee Kum Kee poison. Thompson uses a recipe passed down from Cyrus in Napa. Pungent, sweet, and lingering flavors from black beans, ginger, lime, and kecap manis are the antidote. This zippy sauce dots the plate.

Shaved Spring Peas: A green element in flavor and in color, adds freshness and a snappy, defined crunch.

Pink Peppercorns: Peppercorns that grow around Thompson’s home are roughly ground for a punch of pink and “firework explosion” of flavor.

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