Those who live in Los Angeles know the flavors at E.P., as well as the stunning views and sippable delights on its rooftop deck, L.P. For visitors to the busy city, the unique property is undoubtedly a destination— and now for the Filipino-inspired cuisine by a new executive chef, Sabel Braganza.
Whitewaller spoke with Braganza about her culinary journey, her must-try dish on the menu, and how she’s preserving her cultural background with food.
WHITEWALLER: Can you tell us a bit about your culinary journey leading up to today, as the chef of E.P.?
SABEL BRAGANZA: During my fourth year at UC Irvine, I spent my Saturdays staging at a (now closed) restaurant called The Gorbals, where I got my first taste of cooking. I loved it. I ended up at LudoBites 7.0 working for Chef Ludo Lefebvre.
After some experience under my belt, I landed a job as an opening prep cook for ink under Chef Michael Voltaggio in 2011. After two years there, learning modernist cooking techniques, I went back to Chef Ludo in 2013 to work at Trois Mec to learn classic French techniques and pastry as a line cook.
In 2015 I joined the opening team of E.P. and L.P. with Chef Louis Tikaram as a line cook to learn how to cook what I really enjoy and love to eat—Southeast Asian cuisine—and worked my way up from junior sous chef to senior sous, then to chef to executive chef.
WW: What are some of the unique flavors and flair that Filipino spices and ingredients give to cuisine?
SB: The Philippines has a unique flavor profile based on its storied history. It draws heavy influence from China and Spain. From the Chinese we use soy sauce, fish sauce, and developed a heavily rice- based diet. We also have our version of eggrolls (lumpia), noodles (pansit), and steamed buns (siopao). When Spain took over, they brought a more European style to the cuisine, like relleno, empanadas, and hearty stews (caldereta). Americans took over for a while, too, and brought food like spaghetti, fried chicken, and burgers, which Filipinos put their own spin on based on the influences from China and Spain.
I would describe the Filipino palate on the sour end, with Filipinos loving acidity in most dishes, using tamarind, cane vinegar, or kalamansi limes. In balance to the sour, I find that most Filipinos also have a sweet tooth and add sweetness to a traditionally savory American dish to create their own Filipino version. And because of location as an island nation, coconut is very prominent in the cuisine in sweet and savory dishes.
WW: What’s your favorite dish on the menu at the moment?
SB: Grilled Pork Belly Liempo—the grilled pork belly with papaya tamarind slaw. It’s a version of one of my favorite meals from Pinoy Pinay, a turo-turo-type restaurant where you have a plate of rice and pick what mains you want to eat. I always ordered BBQ pork and sinigang (sour tamarind soup) and mixed it together. So I created a papaya slaw that captured the flavors of the soupy sinigang to complement the sweet, charred pork belly.
WW: Where do you like to eat in L.A. when you’re not in the kitchen?
SB: I live in Koreatown, so I eat a lot of Korean food out of convenience with my Korean significant other. We frequent Yuchun for cold noodles, Jinsol Gukbap for pork belly soup, and Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong for BBQ. I walk a block away to OB Bear to have a cold beer and soju and watch the Dodgers play.