The word "tartare" is often used to describe raw meat and fish dishes — the most ubiquitous of all, tuna tartare, was created by Shigefumi Tachibe at Chaya Brasserie right here in LA — but it's not always French. Chefs and cooks around the world have been serving raw meat dishes, from Middle Eastern kibbeh to Korean yukhoe, for ages. But right now, raw meat is hot on menus all around town. Here are six versions to try right now, from traditional to tartares with a twist.
Republique: The grass-fed beef tartare from Walter Manzke is a dream for tartare lovers. The beef is incredibly good to start with, mixed with onions and maybe even a bit of fennel, and studded with thin potato chips for scooping it all up.
Totoraku: The secret Japanese beef restaurant, where most of the meat is served or eaten raw, isn't the easiest to get into in town (you have to be invited by someone who's been there before, who has the special card and reservation line, and in essence, has been approved by chef and owner Kaz Oyama), but the version of tartare there is a sublime example of quality ingredients and simple presentation. Just beautiful slivers of beef with Asian pear, apple and quail egg.
Cavatina: We're fans of the new direction at the Sunset Marquis restaurant. From chefs Michael Schlow and Roger Eggleston, the tartare here is served with a colorful swash of violet mustard. It's not just a garnish, either: swipe a piece of bread through it, add a dollop of tartare and enjoy.
Petit Trois: When the diminutive French bistro opened a few weeks ago, the steak tartare was exactly the way chef Ludovic Lefebvre ate it growing up in Burgundy: finely chopped meat mixed with a rich aioli until super creamy. It turns out that's not the way all Americans like it, so it's now a courser chop with only a hint of aioli. It comes with slices of heavily (dreamily) buttered grilled bread. And starting next week, September 2, you'll be able to get it all day long, when the full menu will now be offered from open till close. On September 22, the restaurant opens seven days a week.
Bestia: Ori Menashe had beef heart tartare on the menu for the longest time, but now it's veal tartar crostino, a play on veal tonnato with raw veal blended with shallots and pasley, and topped with tonnato (anchovies, tuna and caper) sauce.
Faith & Flower: Chef Michael Hung's version at the swank Downtown spot has a few Asian twists, like being dressed with roasted sesame oil and a relish of konbu seaweed that was braised in soy and sake. It's finished with miso cream sauce and more sesame seeds, with puffed rice crackers on the side.