Written by By Lisa Hipp, CNN
Jellyfish nuggets, crab-stuffed quail eggs and grilled miso beef are common ingredients at Diner + Bar.
But Chef Robbie Hojilla stands out by throwing many non-vegetarian dishes in the frying pan. The California-born, in-demand culinary pro wants customers to share his culinary creativity, particularly in relation to tofu, which he welcomes as a possible source of protein.
“A lot of times, people think tofu is something you eat for its fat content. But it’s actually made from soy,” Hojilla says. “When you cook that, when you reduce it down to a puree, you can almost have a creamy, tangy, coconut like flavor.”
For beef tenderloin, the chef draws upon his Armenian upbringing and uses a combination of yogurt, sesame seeds and sesame oil to “bond” the meat without sacrificing the beefy goodness of collagen.
“My family made it just like what a New Orleans or Californian diner would put on the table,” he says.
Coco tapa, coconut vinegar and soy
When it comes to making an addition to the tapa, Hojilla says coconut vinegar fits the bill nicely.
“The acidity of this — the coconut — is perfect for the graininess of the cashew nuts. For some, they look like braised meat.”
The chef adds soy sauce and sweet and spicy chile relish to garnish the avocado and kale salad, before mixing in barbeque sauce and coriander to taste. He adds two rows of curls of mint leaves for a twist on the “Mexican” dining experience.