Last month, after Pizzeria Mozza, we went to pig out at Son of a Gun, another perennial LA favorite.
ora king salmon crudo, jerk spice, kiwi, palm sugar vinaigrette, habanero
crispy brussel sprouts with slow-poached egg and radish (first time trying this dish, which I really liked. brussel sprouts are great when both savory and crisped, and the gooey egg made for a great medium to bind loose sprout leaves and contrast with their slight crunch)Continue reading »
My friend Ashley had been touting the lasagna at Angelini Osteria for a good year now, so I made it my first meal on my trip back to LA. It was still a bit chilly (mid-60s?) when I first got in (I know, I know, such are the trials and tribulations of Southern California…), but warm enough for me to sit outside. I’d just flown in from snowy, pollution-wracked Beijing, so my definition of al fresco weather was definitely broader than most Angelenos’.
At first glance, this seemed like a tenable situation for anybody. Anyway, I nibbled on some crispy flatbread and a nice bowl of cold pasta salad (I can’t for the life of me figure out what it’s called though) while I waited for the lasagna.Not that I really knew what to expect, but the scattering of fried spinach was a surprising presentation, if only in that it scrambled whatever initial memories or ideas I had of what this lasagna might taste like. The spinach did add that minerally mouth-feel (as spinach does), contrasting with the luxuriously creamy and savory (beef and veal) ragu, and the tender spinach pasta layers. Eat your heart out, Maggiano’s.
My secondi was a fat (and tender and crispy) slab of pork chop alla Milanese, with a side of fried squash and eggplant. It was a good welcome back to the City of Angels.
The resurgence (or …surgence?) of downtown LA has resulted in a bunch of new restaurants, of which The Spice Table was the first I finally got to (bum a ride from a kind friend and) try. Along with a few other LA newbies (like Red Medicine and Susan Feniger’s Street), Spice Table has an eclectic Asian-fusion menu, with strong Southeast Asian influences, some street food adaptations, and a bare-brick, low-lighting industrial look. The open hearth and the sizzling meats on rotation made for easy admiring while we hungrily waited for our table.
We started with the creamed kale (with grilled pork belly and housemade paneer) and spareribs (with Vietnamese caramel sauce). Although firmly rooted in the soul food armament, creamed vegetables aren’t usually my thing – Chinese food rarely cooks vegetables down that much, so that consistency and heaviness always seems a bit foreign. But the paneer is a really clever touch, a clean flavor and smooth texture that blends in with the kale. The ribs were tender, and the fried shallots were a big plus.
I am a person who enjoys a well-lit, organized atrium space, and on a sunny LA afternoon, Tavern is a good spot to grab a quick lunch and soak in the abundance of natural light.
One little detail that I liked was that the butter came with a bit of sea salt. I’m a sucker for sea salt.
I ordered a white bean puree as an appetizer, and then the market fish (a pan-seared salmon with black rice, pine nuts, and roasted beets). Simple bistro-y dishes, well-executed.
The service was an improvement on past Tavern forays, and while not superb (certainly compared to some of its friendly Italian neighbors like Osteria Latini and Palmeri), better than its reputation for sometimes being neglectful. Plus, the power lunch and well-heeled dinner crowds that Tavern attract made for fun people-watching. Lots of big sunglasses and cashmere sweaters and valet’d cars and big smiles, like the slow parts of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.
Oh, Jitlada, how I missed you and your sweat-inducing curries and Thai spices and just about everything. Too bad Jas (the jovial Thai woman who owns the place and always puts a smile on my face) wasn’t working the lunch shift, but the food wasn’t lacking for it. We ordered New Zealand green mussels, mango scallops, crying tiger pork, spicy mint beef noodles, and a spicy acacia omelette curry. Most of these were old favorites. Although I usually get clams instead of mussels, these New Zealand babies turned out to be quite tasty, plump and juicy without the weird taste and chewiness that I have historically associated with mussels. And the broth, oh, the savory, aromatic broth. The mango scallops were new, and the freshness and acidity in the mangoes were a nice balance for the fried scallops (and a tangy sauce to soak into the breading).
While I was gallavanting about LA, my friend Ashley took to me a frequent lunch haunt of hers, Tsujita (LA Artisan Noodle, is the full name), for one of the joint’s specialties, ajitama tsukemen with char siu. I added a plus order of bamboo shoots (cuz dey deliciousss) for good measure, and off I went to an elaborate land of delight.
The noodles and char siu came in a separate bowl, with some seaweed and a slice of lime (which, per Ashley, you squeeze onto the last remaining third of the noodles when you reach that point in your Japanese journey). The dipping sauce was thick and savory, and I added a good dollop of spicy pickled mustard leaf and sesame seeds. I really liked the consistency of the hard-boiled egg (not pictured), particularly the gooey richness of the egg yolk.
As a side note, Sawtelle was a oft-frequented spot of mine during my LA days (in particular Furaibo, an izakaya of sorts, across the street from Tsujita), when the neighborhood was in a bit of transitional phase from the lowkey collection of hardware stores and bungalows to the spattering of food outlets and supermarkets. It was well on its way to the crowded development of shiny restaurants and condominiums it is now. I suppose it is only a natural progression, especially when the food is this good and rightfully draws a crowd. But other than the food, there’s a little bit of love lost, or at least charm lost, in stepping out on those same sidewalks.
I was in LA for a brief stint, shadowing my friend at his Italian restaurant and also doing a fair amount of inspirational eating for my own Shanghai project, which largely involved stuffing my face with delicious things hoping to be inspired. It’d been about two years since I was last at Ado, a nondescript yellow house off Main Street in Venice, just a few blocks before the sceney dives and restaurants of Abbott Kinney. But in the meantime, I continued to hear good things, so I came back for a catch-up with former coworkers, many of whom were Ado aficionados.
I was happily surprised to find it mostly unchanged, still small and unlit and noisy, still without air conditioning (in a hey-it’s-a-little-warm-in-here-right sort of way). The loudness and the darkness (and the wine) really go a long way to create an intimacy that I enjoy, of being at the house (figuratively, I suppose) of somebody who knows how to host a tasty dinner. I skipped the antipasti in favor of the red beet tagliolini with quail ragu and melted taleggio (a wise decision, in retrospect), but the carpaccio and the tuna tartare that my friends ordered were tasty as well.
Then one of the folks at the table stepped it up a notch (by which I mean two orders of white truffle agnolotti): Continue reading »