Los Angeles or New York? The debate over which city has the best dining scene is ongoing, with NYC serving as the long-time champ but LA posing a new challenge. To dissect what's happening in each city's culinary universe, The Hollywood Reporter brought together chefs Eddie Huang, a New York-to-LA transplant, and Michael Voltaggio, who has been cooking in the City of Angels for most of his career, for an episode of its "Food Wars" podcast. Here, now, the best lines from the duo's conversation.
Huang, on the melting pot of condiments in Los Angeles: "The thing I find the most interesting about LA is a lot of the diners or mom-and-pop restaurants, they have Mexican hot sauce, Asian hot sauce, condiments from, like, southeast Asia or Mexico, but it's all blended with American food, and it's not a forced fusion. It's very natural. It's from the communities living here, and I like that."
Huang on New York chefs having it their way: "I also think New York has the idea of the authoritarian restaurant. I think it goes back to, like, the Soup Nazi as probably the first great example, but it's like, you're going to this guy's place. He has incredible food, but you're going to eat it his way, you're going to order it his way, and it's whatever they want to do in that dining room."
Voltaggio on cooking outside the box in LA: "I think what we have in LA that's different than in New York is we have the opportunity to break the rules a little bit more. I think there's a sense of anarchy here when it comes to the food. ... New York, to me, is the most respected food city in the entire United States, but that doesn't mean we're not playing on the same level. We're just playing on a different level. I think people are a little more likely to take risks out here, and the guests aren't so quick to criticize."
Huang on New York being tough for experimentation: "New York is a meat grinder. It's a great place to be in a crucible, get your idea refined, but people will shit on you, they'll kick you, they'll spit on you. If they don't like it, you're gonna know it, and you're forced to change and get up to that standard. In LA, you have time for your ideas to breathe and develop."
Huang on which New York chef he'd like to see cooking in LA: "I want to see Wylie (Dufresne's) dad in LA, Dewey. Dewey is the man. Obviously, Wylie's the genius doing the food, but Dewey is a New Yorker. That dude I saw a month ago walking down the street with a vintage L.L. Bean vest or something. Dewey was like the mayor of Clinton Street [in Manhattan]. And to see Dewey and Wylie in LA would be awesome."
Huang on LA Mexican food dominating New York: "If Coni'Seafood goes to New York, it's a wrap. Coni'Seafood destroys anybody else's attempt at Mexican food. There are chefs in New York that try to do their fancy fusion take on aguachile. It stinks. That aguachile at Coni'Seafood is perfect. ... They would come and show New York chefs, 'This is the way it is, it doesn't have to be adulterated, I didn't need your spin on it.'"
Voltaggio on overpriced New York sushi: "I wanted to go and experience a four-star New York Times sushi restaurant. I thought it was great, the restaurant was amazing. But we have that level of sushi for half that price here, and you could go five nights a week."
Voltaggio on going to a restaurant with a good attitude: "Go to enjoy it, don't go to criticize it. ... People go to restaurants to have a bad time. Stop going to have a bad time. Go to a restaurant to have a good time. If you have a bad time, let them know. But go in there — you're innocent until proven guilty."
Huang on which city has the best service: "New York. Come on, you never get a check in LA."
Don't have time to listen to the podcast? Watch a video featuring outtakes from the conversation here.