Dashing gauchos shave sirloin straight from swords at Brazil-born Fogo de Chão. Bananas caramelize in a flaming pan of brown sugar, butter, and rum at old school Pico Rivera restaurant Dal Rae. Caipirinhas coalesce in a liquid nitrogen swirl at The Bazaar by José Andrés. More LA restaurants are pairing flavorful foods and drinks with dramatic flair by modernizing classic tableside service.
Tableside service is not new to Los Angeles. Just flip through To Live and Dine in LA, Josh Kun’s book that tells the city’s story through vintage menus. For example, Scandia, which thrived on the Sunset Strip for 42 years before closing in 1989, served specialties like lammesadel, “young filet of lamb, roasted and prepared in the Scandia way, carved and served at your table.” Scandia’s “Viking Sword” sounds even more dazzling: a “large brochette of broiled breast of turkey, small Chateau-Briand, center of a smoked pork chop, tomatoes, and mushrooms served on a flaming sword.”
French gastronomy historically embraces showmanship. Take the pressed duck, a specialty of the Seine Valley in which the carcass of a roast duckling is compressed in a silver dome-covered press in order to extract its blood and marrow, which are then reduced with cognac into a sauce and served with the breast and legs. Dave Beran serves duck à la presse at his new Santa Monica restaurant Pasjoli. Walter Manzke prepares a version with torte Gibier and sauce Rouennaise at Table 500, Republique’s new tasting menu experience.
Duck à la presse is fashionable again, but not novel for LA. To Live and Dine in LA includes a 1950 menu from Paul’s Duck Press Restaurant, which Paul Della Maggiora ran in what is now the DTLA Arts District.