Young, talented Orange County natives ditching us for the big time is a rite of passage as fundamental to us as the swallows returning to Capistrano, and I thought that was the case when Felix Barron IV (what a name!) opened up KTCHN dtla in 2009. The SanTana resident had made a name for himself in OC going back to his days as chef de cuisine at Savoury's at Laguna Beach's Hotel del Camino, a fabulous place that didn't last long enough! But LA beckoned, and Barron got an industrial space in downtown for cooking classes, just before its current hipness truly took off. Angelenos soon flocked to KTCHN dtla, though, for Barron's pop-up restaurants, be-ins so successful they could be parlayed into a permanent restaurant.
And that was that, I figured. So imagine my surprise when Fourth Street Market's lineup was announced earlier this year, and a KTCHN dtsa was included. And imagine my happy shock when it turned out Barron was not only involved in the project, but would also be hustling in the kitchen nearly every day. Huzzah!
It's only a stall in a food court, and it really just serves breakfast and brunch, so KTCHN dtsa's menu is understandably limited, with but a hint of Barron's abilities. But no matter the dish, all show his trademarks: the perfect melding of flavors, a playfulness with genres and immaculate preparation. A lumberjack breakfast features pork belly, arugula, fried eggs and toast—and sometimes, that's all the world needs. Barron nails fattoush as if he were three days removed from Beirut, and he makes a French toast worthy of a diner. The daily special recently was shrimp and grits—as someone who's writing this from Mississippi, I know shrimp and grits—and Barron's version is more down-home than Yazoo City's.
And lest you think Barron is all fancy paisa, he makes chilaquiles that are already among my top five in the county: crispy, saucy, amazing. Did I mention chilaquiles are the one dish I'm most biased against, given my mom makes the best on Earth? Move over, mami; there's a new master in town.