Chi SPACCA is one of those places that while relatively young (compared to many eateries around town) has already risen to a certain level of awareness and popularity due to a strong debut and well-executed early years under Chef Chad Colby (who has since departed). Part of what Jonathan Gold humorously dubbed “The Mozzaplex,” Chi SPACCA is the 3rd arm of Chef-Owner Nancy Silverton and business partner Joe Bastianich’s success at the corner of Melrose & Highland, sitting next to Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza.
These days, Chi SPACCA is helmed by Chef Ryan Denicola who had studied under Chad Colby and Nancy Silverton before taking over the reins.
Charcuterie Plate - All 6 Selections:
Chi SPACCA makes all their Charcuterie in-house, which is part of the charm of the place (they do their own butchery, aging, etc.).
Their (Pork) Trotter Fritti is crunchy, rustic and meaty, and nicely seasoned, delicious.
Chorizo + Trappist Salame:
We liked the lightly spicy, different take on what you might think of as “Chorizo.” Definitely more porcine aromas and flavors in this version.
Just as @Porthos was scared away by Animal’s heavy dishes, I think Chi SPACCA’s Pancetta might be the one that I’ll be moving away from on future visits. There’s no other way to put it: Their “Pancetta” was really just pure Pork Fat. Yes, you might see a little striation of what looks like Pork Meat, but it’s really 95% Fat. I took a bite of it, and, yup, that was good enough for me. It’s decadent and big and a proud expression of what Chi SPACCA serves, but it was too heavy for me.
This was probably the most porky and beautifully pungent of all of the items on this Charcuterie Plate. Delicious.
Very good as well, but quite heavy, so it’s best in small doses.
If there’s one quibble with Chi SPACCA and its Charcuterie Plate, it’s that you have to order Bread separately (for $6) to pair with the various meats.
Veal Tongue (Oregano Vinaigrette):
Beautifully delicate, tender. The Oregano lent a pleasing herbal note to every bite. Fantastic!
Grilled Octopus (Pureed & Fried Ceci, Lemon):
Hearing @robert and numerous others recommend this, we had to give this a shot. The Grilled Octopus was smoky, with a beautiful char, tender (not rubbery) and the Pureed Chickpeas and Fried Chickpeas were a nice pairing.
Roasted Amberjack Collars (Labneh, Zhug, Radish):
I love Japanese preparations for various Fish Collars (e.g., Hamachi Kama (Yellowtail Collar)), and hearing @Nemroz rave about Chi SPACCA’s preparation meant a must order for us.
Firstly, @Nemroz was right: This dish had incredible flavor combinations! The Amberjack Collar meat was moist, flaky, just beautiful morsels of lightly smoky Grilled Amberjack. The Zhug was quite spicy and interesting in making an appearance with this Israeli cuisine renaissance of sorts. I remember first trying Zhug/Skhug at Kismet, and then seeing it appear at Mh Zh in Silver Lake, then noticing it at Ta-Eem Grill (which probably was one of the earlier places to serve it). Since then I’ve noticed some variation of this at a bunch of restaurants around town. Not that it’s a bad thing: It’s delicious!
So Chi SPACCA’s version is zesty, definitely spicier than many versions around town, and a nice pairing with the Amberjack, when added with the creaminess of the Labneh. Thanks @Nemroz for the recommendation!
Dry Aged “Liberty” Duck (Balsamic Glaze, Forbidden Rice):
Reading the words “Dry Aged Liberty Duck” immediately brought back happy memories of Chef Citrin’s excellent and amazing Aged Duck preparation at Charcoal. We excitedly ordered this in the hopes we’d have another great Aged Duck preparation around town to enjoy.
I loved the lacquering of the Duck Skin, although it wasn’t really crispy like Peking Duck or something. But still it had great flavor from the Balsamic Glaze and each piece of the Aged Duck was moist and tender.
I agree with @PorkyBelly that this is a great dish. I think I like Charcoal’s version more, but this one is still very good.
The Forbidden Rice that came with the Duck was just OK. A touch too oily and heavy for an already heavy meal.
Grilled Long Beans:
These also felt a bit excessive by the end of this meal, but perhaps they’d be perfectly fine on their own. The Grilled Long Beans were smoky with heavy charring and quite soft (perhaps a touch too soft).
Costata alla Fiorentina (Prime Dry-Aged Bone-In New York Steak, 60 oz):
The 60 oz Steak (a.k.a. “Appetizer” for @J_L @PorkyBelly). We didn’t order this (even with 4 of us), but I had to take a photo of how ridiculous this looked!
Focaccia di Recco (Stracchino, Olive Oil):
Decadent. I took a cue from @ipsedixit and had to scrape off the Stracchino because it was too much. But it was great in tiny portions.
Roasted Cauliflower (Crushed Lemon Bagna Cauda):
Crave-worthy, a touch of the ocean from the Anchovies, nice char.
Grilled Broccoli di Cicco (Garlic Lemon Vinaigrette):
Tomahawk Pork Chop (Fennel Pollen):
Absurdly juicy, smoky, quite supple, one of the best Pork Chops we’ve tried around L.A.
Pollo ala Diavola su Crostone (Roasted Jidori Chicken):
What this Roasted Chicken lacks in crisped skin, it makes up for it in good marinated flavors that seeped into the Chicken meat itself (even the Chicken Breast portion), and just a good juicy bird overall.
Chi SPACCA is one of those places that arrived on the scene with a big, bold culinary viewpoint (not in the absurd Guy Fieri fusion craziness, but with big cuts of meat, being unabashedly meat-centric and not afraid of fat or cholesterol). When you approach it from that point-of-view, you’ll be treated with some very good, almost bombastic meaty, fatty dishes that sing with flavors.
The Tomahawk Pork Chop, the Pollo alla Diavola (Roasted Jidori Chicken), the Aged Roasted Duck are all excellent and worth ordering. The Charred Octopus is great, as is the Grilled Amberjack Collars.
It’s when you order more than a few of these dishes (including Appetizers) together that you start to crave something lighter, something green, something not charred, not doused in heavy sauces, not mixed with fat that might slightly derail your enjoyment of the evening.
Chi SPACCA is great in small doses (for our palates), but I don’t think I could eat there every week. But when we do go and take our first bite of whatever meaty, smoky, grilled proteins the chefs are cooking up, we forget all about the concerns as the deliciousness hits our palate.
6610 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tel: (323) 297-1133