Amid post-pandemic and inflation jitters, creativity thrives in restaurants

Creative Defiance —

There is a certain crackle you hear when you break into the crisped skin of an expertly cooked piece of fish. I heard that crackle Thursday night as I was served a lovely piece of tilefish at the chefboylee x kinn collaboration dinner hosted by this year’s L.A. Times Food Bowl. The dinner, held at chef Ki Kim‘s Koreatown restaurant Kinn, was just the latest example of the culinary artistry we are seeing in the face of slow pandemic recovery, supply-chain holdups, industrywide staffing issues and growing inflation.

With chefs Kim, Kevin Lee, better known on social media as @chefboylee, and H Woo Lee behind the counter, diners were served Santa Barbara spot prawns that Kim says were marinated in soy sauce with apple, onion, garlic, ginger, tequila and Sprite, then served with a sauce of grated sea urchin that was so good I used my finger to get the last bit before the waiter took the plate away. There was also steamed abalone, dry-aged duck, handmade pasta with perilla sauce, leeks so rich they tasted like meat, squash ice cream with a spoonful of caviar and, for dessert, perilla sorbet followed by a persimmon doughnut. It was an extravagant version of Kinn’s usual tasting menu, which distinguishes itself by being one of the most (relatively) affordable prix fixe meals at $72.