Hot Chef: LaPlaca serves modern Italian at the Mondrian
Crudo is raw fish, usually served with no more enhancement than salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Sashimi by way of Sicily, if you will. At Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar, the elegant, glass-ceilinged restaurant at the Mondrian Soho, newly appointed executive chef Victor LaPlaca is plating creative, seasonal crudo that we predict will make this traditional Italian preparation the next big thing.
We spoke to the Long Island native (whose first cooking job was at the slightly less chic Jordan Lobster Farms on Long Island) about his vision for Isola.
Is Isola’s cuisine based on any particular region?
It’s not limited to one region, which I think is great, because there are all these different areas that we want to draw from. … We can really get the culture and the freshness and the healthiness of the coastal cuisine.
Is crudo is a major trend waiting to happen?
I think as long as the ingredients are in season and treated with respect and not getting too crazy, I think that in general people will be really into it. Because there’s nothing better — even when it’s simple: nice fish, the acidity of whatever citrus you’re using and really nice olive oil, salt and pepper — that’s great. It’s very approachable.
We were really knocked over by the beauty of the room. Was knowing that your food was going to be served in this beautiful space inspiring to you?
It doesn’t hurt! I’m used to open kitchens and being right on the same level, so not being up there was a little strange for me at first, but when I walk in there, and with that day-to-night transition — I’ll take this over that open kitchen. Even when it’s raining, it’s great.
Does crudo give you a chance to get creative?
It certainly does, because really like every fish, texture-wise, taste-wise, it’s different, and there are all these different combinations that go with it. We’re constantly thinking, “What’s the next wave of crudo going to be?” Because we have some great stuff now, but we’re already working on phase two and phase three of the crudos, so we can be super-creative and definitely push the boundaries with it without getting, like, weird. [Laughs]