Fusion has been the hot trend of the decade, and no city has seen the marrying of various cultural flavors and culinary techniques quite like Los Angeles has. Whether it’s the glamour that attracts celebrity chefs, the vast array of local ingredients, or the benefits that come with being a port city, Los Angeles has been a breeding ground for ingenuity on a plate.
Josef Centeno is no stranger to the concept of fusion; he’s been doing it for years at Lazy Ox Canteen, Baco Mercat, and Bar Ama, blending Eastern-Mediterranean influences and Spanish classics while throwing in a good smattering of Mexican flavor.
Orsa & Winston is the new fine-dining playground of his own making, where he can show off the extent of his skills as a chef and bring to fruition the flavor ideas he keeps in a carry-along notebook.
Centeno’s passion for the kitchen borders along obsessive-compulsive in the best possible way. His menus will vary dramatically day by day based not only upon farmer’s market availability but on a morning’s whim. One night you may receive pork loin atop a creamy pâté and cranberries, only to return the next evening to a hand-torn pasta with braised beef cheek and spigarello.
Does it matter that the classically-French pea soup with muscat grapes isn’t a logical follower to a heavily-Asian trout course with yuzu kosho creme fraiche? Perhaps, but watching the chef wield a knife with the enthusiasm of a puppy and the precision of a heart surgeon will make you question your critiques of his art.
To accommodate Centeno’s inspiration whenever it should strike, Orsa & Winston is tasting-menu only, offered in five course, omakase, and super omakase formats. The five course option is the most structured, with a crudo, soup, grain, meet, and sweet progression, although you can be sure that the chef will throw in a few other small plates throughout.
Highlights may include a coddled egg sprinkled with pancetta or a sunchoke custard overlaid with a slice of applewood-smoked ham cap. Most plates will be laced with Asian flair, whether it be through several varieties of oriental mushrooms or the housemade togorashi pepper that is the chef’s favorite seasoning. The only course without a hint of far-eastern influence? A decadent chocolate and caramelized banana tart that you would never have expected from Centeno, who hasn’t put much stock in the dessert industry.
Perhaps Josef Centeno will fall into more of a predictable pattern with the coming months, and perhaps his dishes will come together as a meal in due time. In the meantime, Orsa & Winston is still worth the visit, if only to pay tribute to the king of culinary fusion in his rightful castle.