You might expect Chef Daniel Roberts of L.A.’s Café del Rey to have more offerings on his menu that reflect his roots as a native New Yorker who hails from an Italian-American family of foodies. Yet, while he can cook veal saltimbocca that would make anyone’s mama proud, a range of cultures and cuisines, including Asian, Latin American, and Mediterranean, inspire Roberts’s repertoire. At the helm of Café del Rey since late 2010, Chef Roberts took the OpenTable R.Q. test, revealing his ideas on aphrodisiacs, Valentine’s Day, and why you probably won’t bump into him on a date at your local coffeehouse.
What are your thoughts on food and drink having aphrodisiacal qualities?
I think it’s more mental than anything. There may be certain foods that affect people differently. Chiles, for instance, actually heat you up inside because of the pH level, the acid. You feel that heat inside you. Some people really get off on that, if they have a strong, tolerable palate.
If you had to pick a favorite aphrodisiac ingredient, what might it be?
The first thing that does it for me is vanilla. It affects the five senses for me.
Aphrodisiacs aside, what are some dishes you associate with being sexy?
Delicate foods; nothing really heavy. You don’t feel sexy when you’re all weighed down from eating. And, it has to have some pop to it. Something like a nice oyster with white zinfandel vinaigrette and some foie gras. It’s the ultimate surf and turf dish. People who’ve never had it are like “Wow!” afterwards. Really, though, if your date is not working out, I don’t care how good the food is — it’s not gonna be sexy.
Have you ever wooed a love interest with a particular dish or drink?