Tara Monsod

Welcome back! This week we chat with Tara Monsod, who recently took over as executive chef at Animae, the high-design Asian fusion restaurant owned by Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer. Tara has also worked at Herringbone, Burlap, and at the acclaimed Mozza Pizzeria, and this is her first executive chef position. She recently changed Animae’s menu, and several of the new dishes reflect her Filipino American heritage and the flavors she grew up eating. David and I checked out the new menu (and didn’t invite Troy), and we recommend the scallop crudo with calamansi (a citrus fruit from the Philippines) and the beef short rib kare kare, made with a savory sauce of peanut oil and bagoong (shrimp paste). We chat about Tara’s passion for cooking and have a bigger discussion about whether Filipino food is finally getting the recognition it deserves, especially in a city that has one of the largest Filipino American communities in the U.S. She also shares the biggest lessons she learned from the late chef Anthony Sinsay, who mentored several chefs in San Diego and helped put our Filipino food scene on the map.

In Hot Plates, Ponto Lago opened in Carlsbad last week with a Baja-inspired menu of ceviche, a daily roast of different proteins, and even dishes prepared tableside. Chef Phillip Esteban, our 2020 Critic’s Pick for Best Chef, opened the brick-and-mortar location for White Rice in Liberty Station last week. It serves silog, Filipino rice bowls topped with an egg.

For Two People, $50, Tara recommends the hand-pulled biang biang noodles from Shanxi Magic Kitchen (which we featured on the cover of our June issue!). David visited the North Park Farmers’ Market for Gourmet Tamales and hot sauces from Down to Ferment. Troy enjoyed his first brunch at Breakfast Republic, and I liked the carne asada torta from Roxy’s Tacos.

Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Need a restaurant recommendation? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at happyhalfhour@sdmag.com. See you next week!

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