Even chefs play favorites.
When asked about her top picks from her own menu, Antonia Lofaso, the celebrity chef behind DTLA’s Latin-American restaurant DAMA, was more than welcome to offer her thoughts and suggestions.
For the uninitiated, DAMA is the brainchild of executive chef and TV personality Antonia Lofaso and her partners, restaurateurs Mario Guddemi and Salvatore Aurora. The restaurant’s success comes to no surprise as the trio had launched other successful concepts, such as Scopa Italian Roots in Venice on Washington Boulevard and Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City.
DAMA is Lofaso’s attempt to put all her Latin-American influences under one roof, and the feedback to her own expression has been ecstatic to say the least. “DAMA,” penned the Los Angeles Times in its review, “earns your trust by being consistently good.”
For first-time visitors who have no idea where to begin, Chef Lofaso offers the following recommendations.
Every Spanish-speaking country has a version of this dish, and DAMA’s own is an amalgamation resulting from Chef Lofaso’s travels. Patrons who order it are treated to a whole snapper butterflied and stroked with guajillo and chile de arbol spices to evoke the flavors of al pastor. The Caribbean influence can be seen in the escabeche toppings: the carrots, celery, and pineapple, Lofaso said, were inspired by her time in Jamaica.
Aguachile is a type of ceviche that originated in the coast of Sinaloa. The original was recipe was based on shrimp seasoned with lime, chilies, and other spices. Lofaso’s version is made of amberjack, or kanpachi, the new darling of the culinary world, thanks to its versatility. Seasoned with red pearl onion, radish, cilantro, chives, and lime, this spicy and tasty dish is the perfect partner for tostadas and Saladitas.
This classic Latin American turnover is a staple dish among Latin-American countries. Lofaso’s version is filled with dry-aged ground beef spiced with smoked paprika served with Brazilian hot vinegar. The aging process makes the meat more flavorful and tender, making each bite a delectable experience.
If you think that nothing extraordinary could result from celery, think again. This salad is made with celery stalks, leaves, and seeds mixed with parmesan, slices of quail egg, olive oil, and lemon. This surprisingly, tasty, crisp, and tangy concoction is Chef Lofaso’s reimagining of the classic Caesar – with better crunch and zest. The Los Angeles Times said it was “marvelous”. Who are we to disagree?
Chorizo and Clams
One of the more popular dishes among DAMA’s patrons, and for a good reason. The spiciness of the chorizo perfectly complements the sweetness of the broth. It’s so good, you’d want to wipe your bowl clean with that charred bread that comes with every order.
No Latin-fusion place is complete without Peru’s number one dish. DAMA’s ceviche consists of octopus, calamari, and shrimp topped with cherry tomatoes, charred summer corn, avocadoes, and chilies. A squeeze of lime gives the natural flavors of the seafood and greens an added kick.