Mike Riboli is a master of spices and rubs, food and wine. His family owns Los Angeles’ oldest winery – San Antonio Winery.
With his knowledge in hospitality, food and wine, Riboli recently opened his first restaurant – Turningfire in Eagle Rock. With the help of Chef Chris Stagliano, they serve rotisserie meat plates, wraps, bowls, and vegetarian dishes. This is not your traditional fast, casual dining restaurant, its more gourmet.
Cutting into the rotisserie lemon lavender chicken, I commented to my husband after taking one bite, “This chicken is going to put Turningfire on the LA culinary map.” What makes this chicken so flavorful is the jus. The free range, non GMO chicken is massaged with Mike’s special lemon and lavender spice rub, before cooked for about an hour on the rotisserie. A few sprinkles of Riboli’s handmade Herbes de Provence and a little thyme give it pizzazz. While this chicken is cooking, it makes a delightful jus that is basted on the chicken to keep it moist.
When our plate of white meat chicken arrived to our table, I noticed the ethereal lemon lavender chicken jus on the bottom of the plate. Cutting into the breast, I swiped the white meat in the jus to glaze it, and appreciated the sweet, savory and tangy flavors.
When ordering a rotisserie plate, it comes with a large salad and side dish. I recommend the cold carrot salad, with diagonally sliced carrots dazzled with goat cheese, toasted pistachios and chopped mint. Another winning side is the roasted white yams. Riboli has been making these at home for years. “Yams are persnickety to cook, and shallots are crucial,” he said. These cubed yams are heightened with toasted spices, cracked herbs and a pinch of his secret herbs.
Another rotisserie favorite is the Roman spiced pork rubbed with wet and dry spices. Riboli found a meat purveyor who would cut the meat specifically to his desired width to stack it on the vertical rotisserie. It makes a great sandwich and is also a hit on the wood fired flatbread. Another dish with the rotisserie pork is Turningfire’s meatballs. Chef Chris grinds the pork from the rotisserie, add a few secret ingredients and bathes the meatball in a traditional tomato sauce. “It’s simple, yet traditional,” said Riboli. I urge you to break off a piece grilled ciabatta and swipe the sauce. It’s just too good to leave on the bottom of the bowl.
For those who like to dip their rotisseries meat into a spicy sauce, Riboli makes Mike’s Scorpion Fire sauce that offers some heat. Seeking a more mellow profile, there is a yogurt creme with roasted red peppers; dried fruits mostarda; housemade harissa chile paste; tomato garlic confit and apple pepper jam.
Beverages at Turningfire include a pretty, pink lemonade Arnold Palmer; refreshing cucumber mint aqua fresca and Riboli’s house-made sangria. There are six beers on tap, including a local Eagle Rock Populist IPA, Boomtown Pilsner, Allagash White, Track 7 Panic IPA and Baba Organic Black Lager.
Since Riboli is a Level 2 sommelier he offers an appealing variety of wines. Looking at the wine list, I noticed a few family wines. Guests can order a glass or bottle of Maddalena Chardonnay and San Simeon Viognier. His red wine selection includes a Black Granite Cabernet, San Simeon Pinto Noir and Bodegas Bula blend made with Granache, Syrah and Mazuelo. He also offers a bubbly Fornarina Prosecco sparkling wine.
Besides chicken, pork or salmon, they also grill steak. All go well with roasted potatoes slicked with rotisserie au jus, lemon and thyme. The rotisserie meats can be filled in a toasted lavash wrap or as a sandwich on a rustic roll.
To appeal to the bowl craze right now, the staff offers an International tasting experience with four different multi-cultural bowls. The Tea House bowl offers Japanese flavors, and the L.A. Caesar offers a Latin spin, while the Marrakesh bowl is layered with Moroccan inspired seasonings.
Turningfire offers value driven dishes during Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m., on Tuesdays through Fridays. Try the LA Street Fries topped with grilled hand-cut street corn sprinkled with grilled scallions, cilantro lime creme, crumbled cotija cheese and pink pickled red onions. It’s a tasty vegetarian dish. Also on the Happy Hour menu is a mushroom flatbread, ciabatta crostino and Riboli’s meatballs.
Turningfire is ideal to eat in, take-away on a picnic or cater for your next party. $ 2146 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles (323)274-3008.