Eating Pico Blvd with Chef Micah Wexler. (And Headcheese Taco!!) The Residency at Umamicatessen. Downtown L.A.

residency sign
Special of the day - Pico Blvd.

The Residency at Umamicatessen is a guest chef series where a chef pops in on Thursdays for 10 weeks (at least that's the initial conceptand prepare an up-close and personal prix fixe meal for a small group. Diners cozy up to one of Umamicatessen's cooking stations and nibble on small dishes while witnessing the process of a chef creating the food they are about to eat. Chatting with the chef is encouraged as well.

Chef Micah Wexler was the inaugural chef (formerly of Mezze) for The Residency at Umamicatessen. He has dubbed his 10 week run "To Live And Dine in L.A." where every Thursday Wexler will take guests on a tasting tour through many of L.A.'s most influential food neighborhoods via his plates.

Pico Blvd. was the theme for week 1. Of course, for those foodies in L.A., Pico Blvd. is famous for the Jewish restaurants along some stretch of Pico known as the "Kosher Corridor". Eliat, the popular Kosher bakery, was one of Wexler's inspirations in which he riffed on a cheese bureka. The pastry was divinely buttery with a nice bite and meaty with big bacon flavor (not so Kosher though!). He also did a take on Versailles Cuban restaurant's famous chicken called, well, Famoso Pollo Versailles, a garlic chicken, where he worked in crunchy chicharron. The Apple Pan was represented for dessert with a version of its cult hit banana cream pie.

Concha Negra
There will be blood.

One of my favorite items of the night was the bloody clam ceviche as borrowed from La Cevicheria located in the Latino-Byzantine district. Wexler's bloody homage to this raw plate is populated with concha negra, fat, juicy, briny shellfish that burst with oceanic flavors and, apparently, bleed red like us.  The blood red, cold beet soup balanced out the brininess with a sweet and earthy profile. It was part borscht, part chowder, and a little gazpacho all in one, and it was bloody delicious!

residency headcheese taco
Headcheese taco. Never ever will be available at Taco Bell.

However, hands down, my favorite plate of the night was Wexler's charcuterie remix on the good ol' tacos de cabeza or head taco. This tribute was a shout out to taco stands in general scattered along Pico.  Pickled habanero added spunky flavor without blowing heads off. A refined avocado mousse cooled things down. But, the flat, circular slice of gelatinous headcheese on the freshly made corn tortilla elevated this head taco to head of the class. I only wish there was a second slice of headcheese to make it absolute perfection.

residency micah
Doing his residency, Chef Micah Wexler.

The Residency continues at Umamicatessen with Chef Micah Wexler when he interprets the grub of Boyle Heights. In that case, maybe he'll do something with pig snout. I can only wish.

852 S. Broadway, Los Angeles