Photo Courtesy of Michael's NYCIconic on both coasts, Michael’s is where Manhattan media powerhouses go to see and be seen, and where ABC News in Los Angeles went looking for Oscar Night party tips. And where some iconic restaurants keep the same concept year-in and year-out at their flagship venues — to the point where even fans are hankering for a reinvention — Michael McCarty is always introducing something new, fun and timely. We asked McCarty to talk about five new things we’ve noted about Michael’s recently.
Michael McCarty: My love affair with Asian cuisines goes back as far as time I spent cooking in the 1970s in Paris. One of my best friends there, Robert Vifian, had emigrated there in 1968 from his native Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and at his restaurant Tan Dhin I was experiencing Asian “fusion” before it was even being called that. With extraordinary young chefs of Asian heritage heading the kitchens of both Michael’s New York and Michael’s Santa Monica, we’ve certainly got Asian influences happening big-time on their menus.
In New York, 25-year-old Korean-born executive Chef Kyung Up Lim is offering appetizers like a sashimi of hamachi with pickled jalape?o, bell peppers, salmon roe, and a vinaigrette made with the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu; and, as a seasonal special, he’s offering an amazing Nantucket bay scallop crudo dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and lime juice and garnished with lime zest, shaved ice radish, sea urchin roe, poppy seeds, and micro-cilantro. And Kyung’s Korean heritage shines in his Bar Bites menu, which features such apps as miniature Korean tacos filled with kal bi-marinated hanger steak, pickled cucumbers and carrots, Korean red pepper paste sauce, sesame seeds, and Hass avocado — perfect with one of our mixologist Michael Flannery’s Oaxacan Negronis.
Michael McCarty: At Michael’s Santa Monica, our Asian influence stretches back to the ‘90s, when then-rising Korean-born Chef Sang Yoon (now renowned for Father’s Office and Lukshon) headed the kitchen. Now, our 24-year-old Executive Chef John-Carlos Kuramoto brings the influences of his own Japanese and Mexican heritages, along with an even wider range of Asian influences. He’s serving amazing apps like an ahi tuna tartare with avocado puree, piquillo pepper salad, Marcona almonds, and Japanese nori seaweed; and even adding an East Indian influence to the California classic beet-and-goat-cheese salad with a curry vinaigrette.
Michael McCarty: At both Michael’s restaurants, we feature fresh, seasonal, local cuisine, so of course we have the closest possible relationships with our nearby farmers’ markets. At Michael’s Santa Monica, we have one of the West Coast’s greatest and longest-standing farmers’ markets just a short stroll down 3rd Street from our restaurant door, so we decided about a year ago to share with Michael’s regulars and Angelenos at large our connections with local growers at the market by offering regular monthly Michael’s Market Meet-Ups.
Guests gather with us at Michael’s Santa Monica at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning for freshly made cinnamon rolls, cappuccinos, and conversation, before Executive Chef John-Carlos Kuramoto and I lead them on a walking tour of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, where we introduce them to our favorite farmers and discuss how to select the best seasonal ingredients. Then, we return to the restaurant, where John-Carlos and his team prepare special dishes featuring the ingredients we’ve just purchased, and we enjoy the food with wine pairings on the restaurant’s garden patio. Guests also leave with an autographed copy of my latest cookbook, Welcome to Michael’s.
Michael McCarty: At both of my restaurants, we feature special seasonal cocktails. Michael Flannery and his mixology team at Michael’s New York are having a ball now coming up with special cocktails for the season. Citrus fruit are a winter specialty, of course, and they really zest things up in his Your Sparkling Eyes cocktail, which features Campari, lime juice and grapefruit peel. The Winter Rendezvous is a classic winter sipper with its combination of Louis Royer VSOP “Force 53” Cognac, vermouth, framboise, and bitters. And, for those cold winter nights, you’ve got to warm things up sometimes with a hot drink like The Latin Lava with its warm cider, “Santa Teresa 1796” Rum, and Marie Brizard Anisette Liqueur.”
Michael McCarty: A year ago, Michael’s Santa Monica mixologist Jason Robey got things going with a rooftop garden that inspired his “Farm-to-Glass” cocktails program. As spring approaches, the garden is coming back strong again, and he’s busy coming up with a new roster of exciting seasonal cocktails that feature fresh produce and herbs in ways that perfectly complement our farm-to-table cuisine.