Friday, July 19, 2024

Long Beach’s Ammatolí and Selva named (again) two of region’s best restaurants by Los Angeles Times; Tacos La Carreta joins

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Ammatolí (#24) and Selva (#99) are the sole two Long Beach restaurants to score a coveted spot on Los Angeles Times food critic Bill Addison’s 101 Best Restaurants list, marking Ammatolí’s third outing on the list and Selva’s second.

Also joining them is Tacos La Carreta (#85), the tiny-but-moghty estilo Sinaloense taco truck that has made its home in Long Beach for the past three years at 69th Street, just across from the Paramount border.

Announced tonight at an unveiling at the Rolling Greens on Mateo event center in Los Angeles, Chef Dima Habibeh of Ammatolí and Chef Carlos Jurado of Selva have become not just stewards for the food scene here in Long Beach but representatives


For Chef Dima of Ammatolí, a continued rise up in the larger dining scene

Chef Dima was asked by the Times to represent at the event with her food—an honor that she shares with food giants like Chef Nancy Silverton of Mozza (who served food at last year’s revealing) and Chef Wolfgang Puck of Spago (who she shares the serve-your-food revealing stage with this year).

“We’ve gone up in ranking every year, including this one—we couldn’t be more honored and excited.” And in true Chef Dima fashion, concluded: “But we are determined to score higher next year.”

Ammatolí is ultimately Chef Dima’s love letter from Jordan to Long Beach by way of the mighty Levantine cuisine, where she has taken gastronomical cues from the heart of the Levant—Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon…—and put them on beautiful display since 2018. Expanding her footprint in 2022, Ammatolí has evolved into one of our finest, where traditional, beautiful plates of Palestinian musakhan and sayadyieh are next to Chef Dima’s ever growing variety of in-house baked goods.

Joining her on the service side was Chef Jennifer Feltham and her boyfriend, Chef Teo Diaz-Rodriguez Jr., of Sonoratown, which announced they would be opening a Long Beach location in the former Under the Space next year—which could mean we’ll have even more represented on the list as a city come next year.

“We are so excited to come to Long Beach,” Feltham said at the event.


For Chef Carlos of Selva, a push to challenge himself

After moments where Jurado thought he would see Selva sold, there comes both a relief and sense of vindication that what he is doing is exactly how he should be doing it. Co-owners Geoff and Karna Rau put the restaurant—along with their neighboring space, Roundin’ 3rd—on the market, then backing away from selling Selva after they were able to convert his other space with Jurado, Bar Envie, into an extension of the Long Beach Beer Lab brand.

“I have a ticket to New Orleans [where I recently purchased a house with my wife, Karna] with no return ticket—so my time has taken me there,” Rau said regarding the previous potential sale of Selva. “But with a bit of my stress lifted following the partnership with Beer Lab, I can now take it off the market and let Selva continue to be its own thing under Chef Carlos.”

Jurado’s pedigree is rarely mentioned by the chef—for example, he worked under Chef Jordan Kahn, the genius-meets-frustrating creative whose work at Vespertine was hailed as the region’s best by much-loved food critic Jonathan Gold before his death—but it nonetheless should be noted: Jurado has been in the game at some of its highest heights and while he never once to blindly chase accolades, he does see this as a way to flex his culinary muscles.

“It’s time to bring some more challenging things to the palates of patrons at Selva,” he said at the revealing, noting that his upcoming “Test Kitchen Tuesdays” dinner series aims to do just that. “And this isn’t about altering the spirit of Selva but showing a different side.”

That is going to be reflected in the inaugural Test Kitchen dinner, where scallop crudo under squid ink tuile sit in a pool of coconut milk and ají and fried chicken skin acts a roof over fried bits of plantain and pork belly.

In other words, it is the perfect trajectory for Selva following Jurado’s much-deserved spot on the list.


Tacos La Carreta comes on the list… as a food truck

I first wrote about taquero José Manuel Morales Bernal Jr. back in 2020 when they first moved to Long Beach—and discovered that much of what José learned he knows from his father, who was born in Mazatlán, the Sinaloa city whose love for carne asada is so pervasive that every single urban sector has the sweet smoke and savor of carne asada on the grill.

As a way to kill time over the weekend, their popular, Compton-based popup was an instant hit—but the pandemic eventually altered that.

As first reported by Bill Esparza over at Eater LA, the pandemic is what caused Junior lost his nine-to-five position handling linen—and knew dependence on such jobs wouldn’t be secure enough in our pandemic-centric world. With that, he has now decided to offer his (and his father’s, though he is retired) famed tacos in a more regular fashion thanks to a food truck outing at 69th Street in North Long Beach.

True to the Sinaloense style, Morales’ biggest star is his carne asada chorreada: A thick tortilla is topped with a hefty scoop of the truck’s masterful carne asada, lathered in Morales’ pork lard-based sauce and onions.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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