I love ethnic restaurants that open in the abandoned shells of chain restaurants or, better yet, fast-food restaurants, and I love them even more when they keep the impedimentia and knickknacks of those former operations and end up serving their bulgogi beside napkin dispensers still embossed with a big, humped M or their noodles along the rail that once separated a Taco Bell's counter from its dining room. I love chefs who used to be something else (helicopter pilots or air-traffic controllers or journalists or rocket scientists), but fell into cooking the way that some people fall into drugs or prostitution — because they'd tried it once and liked it so much that, before they knew it, it'd become a de facto lifestyle choice. I love the crews that, like metal filings drawn to a magnet, found each other and themselves in the heat and noise and weirdness of a busy kitchen, in the riot of the dinner rush or the calm after closing. I love menus that come off as accidental, innocent fusions — the Indian restaurant that serves spaghetti or the pizza joint with samosa appetizers — and the kitchens that muddle up their techniques, cooking my steak in a wok or my barbecue in a... More >>>