LABOR OF LOVE: BESTIA’S CHEFS ORI MENASHE AND GENEVIEVE GERGIS DISH ON AFFAIRS OF THE KITCHEN AND DEVOTION

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Chef Ori Menashe and Chef Genevieve Gergis are more than just the talented visionaries behind Bestia, one of LA’s premier and innovative Italian restaurants located in the Arts District. They are also the warm and passionate husband-and-wife team with plans to expand both their restaurant and family in the coming months. The pair discuss their inspirations, the LA food scene, and, of course, the challenges and rewards of mixing love and cooking.

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LAC: Dishes like “sea urchin with mint and nectarine” or “cacao pasta with oxtail and currents,” and in the dessert arena, “tarts laced with butterscotch and coconut,” scream innovation and creativity. Not to mention all of your in-house cured meats. What inspires your menu?

Chef Ori: I create depending on the season. So when nectarines were in season, I created that dish to center around the nectarine. Maybe the sea urchin seems like the main ingredient there, but it was more about the nectarine. For example, I taste the nectarine and then I try to balance the nectarine with other flavors. Very seasonal and we try to think outside of the box—not to be too focused on a traditional Italian menu. Though there are a lot of traditional elements, we try to put a spin on it based on what is here in California or what produce we have available. For us, it’s all about fresh ingredients, local ingredients, and the highest quality possible. The flavor profile is just things that make sense in my head. So, you have the nectarine that is sweet and you have the brininess of the sea urchin, and add the element of mint to balance the two.   Nectarines work really well with mint, maybe not with sea urchin, but with mint bringing the two together, it makes sense. Then, we put some lardo on top, which acts as the binder. You need that balance to create a dish. Whatever it is– sweetness, acidity, herbs—for me it is all about balance. The right bite of everything on the plate.

Chef Genevieve: Mine is a little bit different. I am very focused on the season too, but I would say my inspiration comes from childhood. A lot of my desserts are about experiences in my childhood. So the butterscotch and coconut actually comes from a Samoa cookie. When I was little, my absolute favorite Girl Scout cookie was a Samoa. I tried to recreate it, but I felt that the chocolate overpowered it. I ended up just using butterscotch and coconut and pairing it with a fresh coconut sorbet to give it a freshness. You get the dry coconut and then the summery coconut that goes with it. When I create a dish, I will often use an inspiration from something I’ve had and end up turning it into something that no one recognizes. Everything comes from things I love or have had along the way—a cookie, a candy, anything.

 

READ THE FULL FEATURE ON BESTIA HERE.

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text NOAH BRISCOE
photo KATHRYNA HANCOCK

BITE THIS: BESTIA

 

In what feels like a slew of restaurant openings every other month, 2012 has been a very good year for LA diners, particularly if you’re spending more time Downtown. As the renaissance of the city center continues so does its food scene, coming leaps and bounds in the past few years ever enriched by a growing network of some of LA’s finest dining establishments.

Enter Bestia, preceded by its reputation thanks to a series of Test Kitchens, a lot of hype and restauranteur Bill Chait, it is undeniably one of the most anticipated openings this year. The $1.2-million, 140-seat trattoria comes to DTLA headed up by Ori Menashe (Angelini Osteria) delivering finely curated modern Italian fare. Chances are you’ve already dined at one of Bill Chait’s establishments, in the last four years he’s opened some of L.A.’s best restaurants (Short Order, Sotto, Rivera, Picca) and if his current portfolio is anything to go by, Bestia has all the makings to live up to the excitement the restaurant has so far seen.

 

 

Nestled deep within the Arts District, neighbored by the 7th St Bridge and some very interesting company, a strip club no less, Bestia is hidden in an unassuming alleyway. Staying true to its environment and mixing the industrial with soul, the veins of the once factory are left exposed with metal pipes drawing a grid across the roof of the restaurant while leather booths, floor to ceiling windows and hanging lamps give light and warmth.

Bestia feels personal, like a tiny community in huge contrast to its immediate surroundings. This is felt even more so as you sit at a communal table and watch the open kitchen with awe as chefs slice fresh meats and swiftly arrange them with precision on charcuterie boards. The menu reads like an Italian dream with seafood lead antipasti such as steamed mussels, griddled sardines and white fish crudo; while rich handmade pastas and pizza delivered from the Acunto pizza oven (direct from Naples itself) combine traditional and modern elements presenting an interesting take on the classics. Each dish is sophisticated in its own right yet accessible enough to be simply enjoyed, a highlight is the Cassoela Milanese, a classic winter dish of braised pork & veal ribs, pork sausage, winter greens and cabbages appealing straight to the heart of the greatest carnivore and the perfect dish to welcome Bestia to the world. And for those who like to dabble in the latest food trends, the menu offers you a journey through of the moment roasted fare like bone marrow, beef heart tartare and pan-roasted chicken gizzards.

 

If it is a drink you prefer then you will find solace in the fact that Bestia is just as much a drinking establishment as it is a restaurant. Find yourself sitting at the magnificent open bar, a spectacle connected to the exposed kitchen where chefs and bar staff work fervently alike. Indulge in an ever changing schedule of artisan cocktails or a perfectly executed classic, thoroughly entertained by some of the most well-dressed mixologists L.A. has seen.

Bestia sees the L.A restaurant scene end 2012 on a highlight. Only time will tell if it can live up to the hype, but for now it is an exciting venture into one of the most interesting parts of our town and anything that breathes life into the hidden treasures of this city is alright by us.

 

by Emma Gogonovski