Chef Chat, Part 3: John Ly of Strata Restaurant

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We wrap up our meeting with Chef John Ly by tasting some of the strata of flavors layered into his dishes.

We first sampled a fish entrée. Chef Ly's sea bass was pan-seared to perfection with a crispy crunch that made a great contrast with the moist, flaky fish. The filet was served atop haricot vert and tomatillo risotto.

The tangy sweetness of the tomatillo balanced out the buttery richness of the sea bass. Chef Ly explained that the layers he worked into this dish were the Latin American ingredients of the tomatillo and masa coupled with French-inspired seared sea bass and haricot vert.

Next up was a cinnamon-rubbed rib eye. Cinnamon, common in Indian cuisine, is an homage to the chef's time working in an Indian restaurant, which he combined with a very American rib eye steak. The marbled morsel of meat was served with rich cocoa demi-glace, sautéed arugula, cherry tomatoes and a pancetta crouton. The arugula provided a nutty bitterness that, to some, might be overwhelming on its own. However, eat the meat and arugula together, and the two become like a cute old couple bringing out the best in each other. The pancetta crouton was a buttery loaf of house-made breadcrumbs mixed with house-cured pancetta and fused together with custard and some paprika. The result was a very earthy, meaty dish that will please fans of rib eye steaks.

Last and far from least was Strata's crowd favorite, the Death Link. This house sausage's name is the chef's term of endearment for the habanero peppers that bring the heat. Though the sausages weren't as spicy as their name, I still caution the casual heat-eater to have plenty of water handy. (I've dined in groups enough to know when something I'd consider merely spicy is actually a four-alarm fire to others.) And as soon as the peppery smell of the Death Link singed the hairs in my nose and the salty, spicy meat kicked my taste buds, the only thing for me to do was to eat every last piece of the delightfully deathly link.

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