Dining with Our New Top Cheftestants: Alex Reznik

Cafe Was Top Chef

Alex Reznik has taken his share of hits on Top Chef: Season 7 thus far. So it might surprise those who haven’t experienced his cooking that he is one of Los Angeles’ most creative and impassioned chefs.

Of course, getting attention for the food isn’t easy in an environment like Café Was. The eatery-cum-cabaret creation of Ivan Kane (Deep, Forty Deuce) resembles nothing more than the set of a 1940s-era New Orleans film noir, complete with secret alcoves and hidden passages. When the Forty Deuce dancers hit the floor on Fridays, it’s hard to concentrate on anything else in front of you.

Luckily, Reznik’s plates are up to the challenge. “What we’re doing is California cuisine with a little French technique,” he explains, “try and get everything indigenous to California, really seasonal–If I can’t get them from the farmers market, I’m not going to use it–and make something interesting. Bold flavors.”

Alex Reznik Cafe Was Top Chef E.C. Gladstone

Some current highlights Chef Alex let me sample (that’s us in his kitchen above) included a complex but delectable Hiramasa Yellowtail Duet with meyer lemon, espelette pepper, tomato marmalade, and avocado crème; an earthy-fresh Barley Risotto with English peas and heirloom cauliflower; and a short rib preparation that he described as a “deconstructed borscht,” with oxtail ragu, pinot wine jus, beet puree, pickeled baby cabbage and onion confettI—an outstanding dish. Of course, Reznik does his spin on more comfort-style food like steak frites and mac’n’cheese as well, and his chicken is commendable.

“I’m not trying to do 1000 covers,” he tells me. “I’m trying to give individual attention to our guests. I like to have fun in the kitchen. Starting next week, we have a chef’s prix fixe every day that will change. I want people to come here every week, brunch, lunch, have different experiences every time.”

As for Top Chef, Reznik is respecting the producers’ wishes and staying mum, which just means we’ll have to keep returning each Wednesday night for his viewing parties.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t visited our other local cheftestant, Amanda Baumgarten, at Water Grill, this Wed-Fri dinner, she and Executive Chef David LeFevre are offering a special dinner inspired by this week’s episode: Columbia River King Salmon, sautéed with poached egg, pancetta, baby arugula and potato gallette.

Ivan Kane’s Cafe Was is located at 1521 Vine Street, 323.466.5400