Love it or hate it, the pear-shaped purple vegetable is hot this fall, not only as a staple at Italian eateries but on Mediterranean and Asian menus with interesting twists.
Piccolo in South Pasadena is a new Italian Westside transplant, where Michelin-star Executive Chef Antonio Murè features his pici pasta sauteed with tomato confit, fried eggplant, and ricotta basil pesto.
A beloved staple on Fair Oaks for 21 years, a meal at Gale’s is not complete without the roasted eggplant Siciliana with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pesto, which is always on the menu. Longtime manager Joshua Johnson recommends ordering it with a pasta dish or choose one of the eggplant parmesan specials.
At De La Nonna in the Arts District, the eggplant caponata is flash fried to give it crispy outer texture, then tossed with agrodolce hot-and-sour house-made sauce—it’s a must-order.
A tiny walk-up counter with a few tables under sunny-yellow umbrellas on a Sunset Blvd. sidewalk in Silver Lake, Ceci’s Gastronomia is known for slabs of focaccia bread but also serves an eggplant salad that is worth trying to find a parking spot for. The dish is fried with tomato, red onion, and olives, then served chilled—perfect for a picnic.
New to K-Town, Olivia chef-owner Mario Alberto makes a sundried tomato with smoked eggplant, cashew cheese, Brazil nut parmesan, and house-made einkorn focaccia. The nasu tempura at OTOTO in Echo Park is fried Japanese eggplant covered in shaved onion and tare sauce with soy, sake, and mirin.
Known for Bangkok street food, at Holy Basil’s downtown walk-up window you’ll find a wok-fried eggplant and kabocha squash with Thai basil, soybean, scallions, and bird’s eye chili. Not far away, kodō serves an eggplant tomato agebitashi with okra, myoga, and tangy wasabi that you can order on the patio or at the bar.
The move at Elena Greek Armenian Cuisine in Glendale is to order the stuffed eggplant—which is fried then topped with red and green pepper, zucchini, corn, onion, and herbs—as a main dish or as a side with rice and a kebab.
In keeping with its modern Mediterranean philosophy, Atwater Village favorite Momed features a deconstructed version of a traditional Persian side dish of kashke bademjan, using the sweeter Japanese eggplant. It’s charred and topped with dry yogurt, infused mint, turmeric olive oil, and fried crispy garlic slices, served with Israeli pita bread for dipping. “This is how my mom used to make it for us back home in Iran,” says general manager and sommelier Ehsan Mackani.
Mandolin Taverna at Soho Warehouse, a Greek-Turkish, ground-floor patio restaurant, is now open. Come with friends for cocktails and be sure to order a mezze platter with the charred, smoky eggplant dip.
Saffy’s on Fountain, from the team behind Bestia and Bavel, serves a bright, summery tomato and feta salad starter served on a bed of eggplant puree. Plant-based newbie Avant Garden (by the Death & Co. founder) on Melrose serves eggplant toast with tangy pickled apricots, miso, and parsley.