The Brunchies

by Scott Bridges
Huffington Post
July 20, 2012

Among the pleasures of living in Southern California is unfettered access to fresh farmers’ market produce, a picture-perfect climate and our hallmark leisurely way of life, and nowhere do these characteristics combine so symbiotically than in our tradition of weekend brunch. It may very well be my favorite meal. After all, all the pleasures of breakfast and lunch become available; and when else is it socially permissible to drink before noon?

I give you, therefore, my humble awards in a handful of categories integral to a proper brunch. In the tradition of those ubiquitous award program euphemisms, I give you “The Brunchies.”

This list is by no means exhaustive, and no doubt there are gems I’ve overlooked or have yet to discover. And if it seems a little bit Westside-biased, I concede the point; but I’ll suggest that the best brunch is a local brunch. In the spirit of fairness, however, I welcome suggestions and recommendations. Let me know your favorite haunts.

So without further adieu…

The Charleston
Hands down the best jazz brunch in town. And on a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard with a handful of waffle-specializing restaurants, Executive Chef Jet Tila serves up the best chicken & waffles in the neighborhood. His modern take on classic comfort foods makes for a very American-style brunch. I should add that the cocktails are superb.

Vegan Burger Showdown at Mohawk Bend

by Lesley Bargar Suter
Los Angeles Magazine
July 17, 2012

Mohawk Bend on Sunset Boulevard in Los AngelesWho says you need meat in a burger? Well, actually, usually I do. But not in two weeks when I’ll be acting as a token omnivorous judge at a Mohawk Bend vegan burger showdown. On July 30, chef Mike Garber of the Echo Park restaurant will compete against chefs Jet Tila (The Charleston) and Kajsa Alger (STREET) for the title of vegan burger champion! I’ll be judging along with fellow pros like Heather Goldberg and Jenna Engel of Spork Foods, Antoanet “Toni” Aburto of Chica Vegan and M Café de Chaya, and Top Chef Masters judge and Los Angeles contributor Krista Simmons! But the public can take part too: For $12, you can order a sampler platter with slider versions of each burger and vote on your favorite. The winner will take home the coveted People’s Choice award, which, along with the Judge’s choice, will be announced at 9:30 p.m. by yours truly.

The New Icons: Jet Tila

The New Potato
June 27, 2012

Chef Jet Tila of the CharlestonJet Tila is not your average restaurateur. Growing up in Los Angeles, Tila learned the ancient traditions of Asian cuisine from his Cantonese Grandmother, and went on to complete his training at Le Cordon Bleu. This killer combination of a mastery of Asian ingredients alongside French technique makes Tila both unique and innovative. Whether appearing on Iron Chef to battle Morimoto, or touring with Anthony Bourdain – who refers to Tila as the unofficial mayor of Thai Town in Hollywood – on No Reservations, Tila is an icon when it comes to Thai food in America. Thai Town evolved from The Bangkock Market (opened in 1972 by Tila’s parents as the first Thai market in the country) making Tila its current expert and champion. Now, this restaurateur is also notable for his food writing in publications such as The Los Angeles Times as well as for opening Wazuzu – the Pan-Asian bistro at Wynn Las Vegas’ Encore casino resort, where he reigned as executive chef until 2011. Tila continues to open numerous pop-up restaurant experiences in Los Vegas and Los Angeles, most recently The Charleston in Santa Monica. The venue features 1930′s decor and live entertainment, alongside Tila’s take on classic American comfort food. It seems there’s no limit to what we can expect from this eclectic restaurateur, whose on-screen, off-screen and on-page presence make him the culinary version of a triple threat.

1. Can you describe what your ideal food day would be?
Dim Sum Breakfast: Fresh Har Gow, Sui Mai, and Chive Dumplings. Then Pineapple Custard Buns.

Lunch: Go back in time head to South Central for Golden Bird Fried Chicken. Damn I miss that place! Dinner at Yai’s in Hollywood with Spicy Basil Pork Belly and Steamed Curry…10,000 calorie day!

2. Where would you like to travel for inspiration that you haven’t been to yet?
Basque for sure. I’ve been dying to get there after working with their chefs at CIA last year.

3. What are your favorite places to travel for food?
Mexico City DF, Bangkok, Singapore, Morocco

4. What do you love about pop-up restaurants? What do they allow for as a restaurateur?
It’s a break from the day to day that all restaurants need. It’s also an opportunity to attract a new demographic. It also promotes collaboration.

5. How does your background play into your food?
Wow. My background is the foundation; it’s my perspective. I see the world through [the eyes of] an Asian American born in a Mexican neighborhood in LA. It’s a unique perspective that allows me to be grounded at all times but understand refinement.

6. What we all should know about Asian cuisine…
That it’s many countries and perspectives! Do not judge all Asian [food] by the trip to one country in Asia or your favorite Asian restaurant! It’s like growing up and only eating Granny Smiths and thinking the world of apples is Granny Smith. You are missing Red Delicious, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, etc. I hate how everyone is a critic with no foundation!

7. What flavors make everything better? Which are overrated?
Balance makes things better…not extremes! What is salt, sour and spice without sweet? More is not better…better is better!

8. What is your go-to recipe when cooking for family and friends?
I can cook the piss out of any piece of meat or seafood! I’m an animal specialist not a vegetable specialist.

9. What do you always put out at a dinner party? Why?
I love balance in a meal, so there will be two or three vegetables to every meat. I love seasonals like snap peas, favas, and amazing seasonal stones and citrus.

10. What are your favorite cities for food? What spots do you go to in each?
Answered above. There’s a Hainanese restaurant in Bangkok called Kuan-ah. My grandparents, parents, cousins have all eaten there. Best Hainanese chicken and rice in the world…no BS!

11. If you could pick a chef to be in the competitive arena with, that you haven’t yet gone up against, who would it be?
Battling Morimoto was awesome. But battling Amanda Frietag, Scott Conant and Aaron Sanchez on Chopped would be fun as hell!

12. What ingredient would you like to be assigned?
Pork Belly, blood clams, bone marrow, and durian!

13. What ingredient would you dread?
Any and all insects!

14. Could you give us some menu favorites from the newly opened Charleston Grand?
Korean Tacos are super fun. Pork Belly Buns, and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna bring the drunken noodles!

15. A recipe you’re willing to share with us…
Please see attached.

16. What would your last meal be, and who would it be with?
Grandma’s sweet soy ginger braised pork trotters with a bowl of jasmine rice and a diet coke!

17. Is there any advice you have for chefs starting out?
Always assume you don’t know shit! Keep your eyes and ears open and mouth shut. Attach yourself to the best always if you want to be the best, and always have high standards. If you find yourself the one in the room that is being thought of as asking too much…you will make it! And just enjoy the journey!

18. Do you have any favorite upcoming chefs?
The two chefs in my kitchen that I work with daily, Carlos Arizaga and Marco Awad.

19. Are there other iconic chefs whose career you’ve always followed?
Fergus Henderson and my grandmother!

20. Whats always in your refrigerator and always on your grocery list?
Schmaltz, Diet coke, braised brisket, and greens.

To view Jet Tila’s recipe for Charleston Korean Tacos, click here

Charleston Korean Tacos: Jet Tila

The New Potato
June 4, 2012

Charleston Korean Tacos

Braised Short rib
1 (750 milliliter) bottles dry red wine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher Salt
Cracked Pepper
4 pounds beef short rib
1/4 cup butter
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1# Mirepoix
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 cups beef broth

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Simmer the red wine in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Meanwhile, combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge the beef in the seasoned flour, and shake off excess; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a roasting pan over medium-high heat. Brown the oxtail on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Melt another 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Stir in the shallots, garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add wine and reduce by half. Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and beef broth. Place the browned oxtail on top of the vegetables in a single layer, and then bring to a boil.

Cover with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil, then bake in preheated oven until the oxtail is very tender and nearly falling off the bone, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Once the short rib is tender, remove the meat to a serving dish, cover, and keep warm. Fork meat off the bone and reserve.

Korean Taco Sauce

2 tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar has dissolved and mixture is smooth. You can make this a few days in advance and store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

To Assemble

Small corn tortillas
Chopped Onion
Sliced Brussel sprouts
1 limes, cut into wedges

Sauté some shredded short rib with Brussel, onions, salt and pepper. Heat some tortillas on the grill. Spoon some of the taco filling into each tortilla. Serve with taco sauce and lime wedge.

The Charleston: Surprising, Delicious, And Memorable

by Sallie Oto
Santa Monica Mirror

June 8, 2012

Interior of the CharlestonYou’re not going to get what you expect at The Charleston – but in such a good way that when you leave, you’ll be feverishly texting all of your friends about “this cool new place on the Westside.”

Recently I sat down with chef Jet Tila and, as we relaxed to the heartwarming live RandB and disappeared behind cocktail rims, he talked about his menu, dreams, and what he had for breakfast.

“We want you to leave saying “WTF?” so you’ll go Facebook us, tweet it, yelp it, and everything else you do to spread the word,” he explained, as I pointed out the surprising juxtaposition of live music, pork belly buns, old school chandeliers, and a drink named the Victoria’s Secret.

Unlike most bars, Chef Tila doesn’t want his patrons to have to order pizza, smuggle chips, or wait for a food truck in order to satisfy their hunger.

Since this is Santa Monica, his menu spans enough genres, themes, tastes, and trends for anyone who wants a snack or a full plate to piece together a meal of utter fancy.

Bacon Egg and Cheese FlatbreadDuring the flashback of 1990’s RandB, we tucked into the Short-Rib Tacos and Machengo Stuffed Piquillo Peppers for starters, followed by the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Flatbread, Shepherd’s Pie, and Smoked Macaroni and Cheese for mains, all topped off with the Chocolate Bread Pudding (a la mode) for dessert.

Short Rib Tacos with Korean SalsaAs we bonded over our mutual love for everything pig, I hogged (pun intended) the Pork Belly Bao (succulent five-spice braised pork belly, tender bao buns, pickle, and hoisin), and totally swooned over the Bacon-Wrapped Dates (marcona almond-stuffed).

The Bread Pudding was so good I’m pretty sure I blacked out through that portion of the conversation (I blame the brioche and crème anglaise) and just as I forgot I was in a bar.

We got reminded with several signature drinks from the beverage menu.

With the Minted Mule, Jet 75, Victoria’s Secret, and the cucumber cooler, we were set, and began to see the transformation of The Charleston from a supper club to a sexy Santa Monica bar. And then everything went silent – well – almost: Chef Tila was telling me that he had a protein bar for breakfast when his operations manager and resident mixologist Myke delivered a drink that had a stick of candied bacon curved coyly against a cinnamon-prosciutto dusted rim.

Sallie? Sallie? It took several seconds and a few calls of my name before I was able to pull out of my delighted delirium and fittingly that’s what I think it should be named, and have lobbied ever since. So if you like to drink and love bacon then ask Myke for the candied-bacon Sallie. It’s fantastic, and sums up The Charleston exactly: surprising, delicious, and memorable.

But it gets better. While The Charleston is open at 5 p.m. during the week, on the weekend it opens its doors several hours earlier for Jazz Brunch from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

A firm believer that there is always a need for more bruncheries in Santa Monica, here is the newest and coolest: live jazz, endless mimosas, and bombastic fare like Brisket Hash (Chef Tila recommends his fried Chicken and Waffle), I’ve officially added this to my GPS favorites.

And so should you – for any and every occasion.

What: Gastrolounge.

That Means: You’ll eat well and drink a lot as you relax back and listen to house-vetted music.

And Will Remind You Of: A Kogi truck in Vegas with a splash of what we love from the 1930’s (but tastier, closer, and current).

5 Great New Brunches Around LA

by Lesley Balla

June 8, 2012

Chicken and Waffles at the Charleston Jazz BrunchAccording to the LAT, there’s an upswing on brunch becoming a daytime dance party. But some of us just want brunch – lingering over Bloody Marys and mimosas, plates of eggs, and chatty conversation (or the crossword) well into the afternoon. Luckily there’s a spate of new weekend options around town. Here are five favorites worth checking out.

The Charleston

If live jazz and waffles make your weekend brighter, check out the brunch at this Santa Monica newcomer. Classic dishes from chef Jet Tila – like bread pudding French toast, or short rib hash – and cleverly named cocktails (Charlie Sheen Tiger Blood-y Mary, anyone?) go down pretty easy. Bottomless mimosas are even better (Sat-Sun, 10 AM-2 PM).

The Charleston: A Westside Speakeasy

by Scott Bridges
Huffington Post
May 23, 2012

The Charleston is what you get when you take a celebrity chef, a menu of classic American comfort foods, a team of mixologists and a friendly staff and put them in a small space full of art deco décor and fill it with live music every night. That might not be anything out of the ordinary downtown, but “Iron Chef” Jet Tila’s latest creation is in Santa Monica, in the location formerly occupied by Angel’s.

Apart from his television celebrity, the Le Cordon Bleu graduate gained respect with his pan-Asian Wazuzu at Steve Wynn’s Encore resort in Las Vegas. But this restaurant is a very different enterprise, featuring Tila’s modern take on traditional comfort foods like mac n’ cheese, shepherd’s pie and pulled pork sliders.

You’ll want to begin with a cocktail. Depending on when you come, there may or may not be room at the bar. It’s worth choosing an off-time just to enjoy the environment and get to know the talented bartenders there. The white leather seats are a nice touch, too. There’s a list of specialty cocktails that should be tried, including the Sazerac (Ri whisky, lemon peel, sugar, peychaud bitters, angostura bitters with Kubler absinthe wash), the Cucumber Cooler (Hendrick’s gin, a slice of cucumber, basil leaves, a sprig of rosemary, fresh lime and honey syrup) and the Ginger Kiss (Bombay Sapphire gin, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh ginger and habanero chili). There’s also a good selection of top-shelf liquors, and for the bold — a variety of absinthe.

For starters, consider the bacon-wrapped dates. Stuffed with marcona almonds, they’re not typical of the appetizer. Another dish worth trying is the short rib tacos with shaved Brussels sprouts and Korean Salsa.

The sides are good, too. The fries — both sweet potato and the garlic & herb — are what you’d expect from a modern take on American cuisine. And you can’t go wrong with the wedge, grilled Caesar or asparagus salad.

One of the most decadent items on the menu is the pork belly bao buns — spiced braised pork belly, pickle, hoisin sauce and five buns. Another is the pulled pork sliders — slow-smoked pork shoulder and cole slaw on a country roll. The cheese-crusted filet mignon crostini is yet one more.

The desserts are pleasantly unique. Imagine a crispy plantain with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts or a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream floated in Guinness stout. I would also suggest the chocolate chip bread pudding, featuring brioche, chocolate chips and crème anglaise.

I’ve heard varying opinions on The Charleston, but everyone seems to agree that the food and drink are great. The discrepancies are a result of the atmosphere you are expecting. There are not a lot of booths — I strongly recommend reservations — and if you’ve got a loud group next to you, that may color your dining experience. The lines outside can be excruciating. The parking is basically valet or no way. The space is small and can become loud and overcrowded. The jazz is fantastic, for those who appreciate it, and the karaoke and ’80s night are fun — again, for those who appreciate it.

The bottom line is that The Charleston is a great experience, but you need to check their website ahead of time to make sure you’re planning a visit that fits with the experience you desire. Pick the time and date that suits your style and you won’t be disappointed. On the contrary, you’ll find a speakeasy like nothing else on this side of town.

Brunch Plans: The Charleston

strong>Celebrity chef Jet Tila debuts delectable jazz brunch with all the fixings.

by Michelle Ward
Los Angeles Confidential
May 11, 2012

Bread Pudding French Toast

Jet Tila’s new gastrolounge, The Charleston, is now open early for weekend brunch. Known for his inventive culinary repertoire, the celebrity chef has combined live jazz and American comfort food for a fun-filled, 1930s-style experience.

The Richard Glaser Band takes to the stage to perform classic jazz stylings while guests tuck into bottomless mimosas and breakfast favorites, including bread pudding French toast, chicken and waffles, and brisket hash and eggs. Brunch menu is available Saturdays and Sundays, 10 AM-2PM.

Jazz Brunch at The Charleston

With bottomless mimosas

by Tiffany Wang
Taste Terminal
May 6 2012

Bread Pudding French Toast

The Charleston in Santa Monica, CA has kicked off its very own Jazz Brunch with Chef Jet Tila’s twist on traditional brunch dishes to the sound of The Richard Glaser Band. Available on Saturdays & Sundays from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., some of Chef Tila’s menu items include the Short Rib Hash & Eggs with your choice of Eggs and Toast and the Bread Pudding French Toast made with Brioche Bread Pudding with Maple Syrup. Brunch cocktails include the Charlie Sheen Tiger Blood-y Mary – Vodka, Sambal Chili Sauce, Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Capers, and Pickles and of course, the Bottomless Mimosa – fresh squeezed Orange Juice and Champagne.

Do The Charleston

Where Los Angeles
May 2012

Short Rib Tacos with Korean SalsaAmerican comfort fare meets house-made specialty cocktails and nightly live entertainment at a sexy restaurant and bar in Santa Monica. Transporting diners to the Jazz Age, The Charleston features a studded white leather bar, red-upholstered booths and vintage beaded chandeliers. Chef Jet Tila, noted for his appearance on Iron Chef America and his cooking at Wazuzu in Las Vegas, delights with shareable plates such as short rib tacos with shaved Brussels sprouts and Korean salsa and Manchego-stuffed piquillo peppers with toasted pine nuts and pesto. There are also flatbreads, salads and entrees including the five-spice pork belly bao buns, cheese-crusted filet mignon crostini and the Charleston Burger, made with cheddar, argula, onion marmalade and sun-dried tomato aioli. Monthly pop-ups showcase local and national chef talent and nightly entertainment includes ’80s cover bands and dueling pianos.