New Café on La Brea Presents a TWIST on the Basics

Counter at Twist

Sometimes, you don’t want something fancy, high-maintenance or completely out of the ordinary when you’re hungry, but you can always appreciate a reliably delicious, no-nonsense lunch at the ready.

Enter TWIST, a new eatery on La Brea, which has some pretty tasty selections that you’ll enjoy in a tasteful, slate and wood-tinged dining room with just enough industrial and cheery, yellow accents. Already a popular lunch spot, it’s easy to see why as the deli selections include a refreshing mint-beet salad, sumptuous greek orzo, spicy whole grain chicken salad and a subtly sweet chickpea and carrot salad. Since I’ve always been a “sides” kind of person, this is right up my alley.

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Pingtung Brings Pan-Asian Café Favorites to Melrose

Neighborhood Hot Spot

It’s curious that Pingtung is called an “Eat-in Market,” the “market” designation perhaps being a way of propping up the Asian goods that lie on overhead (to me) shelves along the sides of the deep-drawn cafe. Though I have a few guilty snack pleasures such as Yan Yan, Shrimp Chips, that clear, Japanese soda with the swingy little ball, Calpico and the like, I’d make the trek to 99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Zion if I wanted to go Asian grocery shopping. (I’m trying to cut down on the snacks, much less MSG-laden ones, anyway.)

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Thursday Night Family Dinners at Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery

Free Range Country Fried Chicken & Dwelley Farms Corn Pudding

City-wide pastry and sweets addicts know and love Huckleberry for their wonderful selection of treats. Always a proponent of the highest quality ingredients – down to their organic flour – Huckleberry’s impressive display case is quite the Westside attraction but their fresh salads, sandwiches and weekend brunch dishes also hold their own thanks to Executive Chef, Head Baker, and Co-owner Zoe Nathan.

Now, on Thursdays, nobody will have to bid adieu to the cafe favorite earlier than they have to enjoy a family-style dinner. With a new seasonal menu featured weekly, you’re offered a different experience each time. Take-out options are also available on the 3-course, $30 per person weekly. To get the menu of the week, sign up for the restaurant’s e-newsletter.

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Venga! Debuts Lunch & Sweets on Canon

Quiche

Correction (10/10/11): Venga! is now closed and will re-open at a future date as a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Israeli focus.

There is a new cafe, patisserie and gelateria all rolled up into one on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. No, it’s not Bouchon, but from one lunch experience, I ended up very surprisingly pleased with the results.

Canelé

You will appreciate the small, concentrated menu once you step inside the nondescript shop. Although it’s hard to tell exactly what they do since the dessert cases face sideways, it seemed like the neighborhood had at least mildly become acquainted with Venga! just two weeks into their opening on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Owner Shahriar Besharat and Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey (who has studied under the tutelage of Pastry Chefs all over the world as well as with Master in Gelato Giuseppe Scaringnella and in the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna; Joel Robuchon Las Vegas is on his resume) have cultivated a brightly-lit cafe with a minimalist look and menu – but the strength rests in these few items.

Macarons

For instance, the slow cooked chicken sandwich is prepared in a vacuum and packs punch with slices of jalapeno and carrot. It’s tender thanks to its preparation, but it’s also got great flavor. The Croque Monsieur (or Madame, should you choose to add a sunny-side up egg for $1, as we did) is delicious. Too often have I had a Madame with bread that was too thick and overwhelming. At Venga! the layers were harmonious in thickness as well as taste – not too rich, and just enough. The quiche with spinach, shiitake mushrooms was also tasty. The crust was golden and delicious. I almost wanted another slice. The tomato salad with whipped cheese and basil is also a beautiful rendition (perfect for before the end of summer) – especially with the heirloom varieties that are used.

Pastries at Venga!

But you mustn’t leave before you have dessert. This would be a grave omission. There are plenty of gelato varieties to choose from, but my favorite was the Almond with Caramelized Almond flavor. The Passion Fruit Sorbet was also super potent and a perfect flavor for a hot day.

The macarons are also delicious, and a tad denser than others that I’ve had. I can’t argue with more flavor in my macarons, however, and there are plenty of flavors to go around. I love the dustings on the outside of some of them, which add quite delicious details. Salted Caramel and Coconut are now my go-to.

A must-try is the Canelé, which is done quite expertly with the outside coated with a crispy beeswax. The inside was a soft, tender, almost-custard texture – just how a perfect Canelé should be. As you peruse the brightly-lit pastry cases, you’ll definitely have a hard time resisting all of the beautifully presented pastries in all their colorful glory. I’m due for a return visit to try some more.

Alas, I’ve learned that they have free wifi! This could be a dangerously indulgent destination (yet productive?) for me in the near future. Blog or eat? Lunch, dinner or dessert? Now, I won’t have to choose.

All food and drink were hosted.

 

Sun – Mon

10 AM – 6 PM

Tue – Sat

10 AM – 10 PM

Menu
Beverages & Desserts Menu

Free wifi

Venga!
452 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.205.9400

@vengabh

Mahon and Haskell’s Magnum Migrates To Royal T

Royal T, Culver City (Credit to Kawaiikakkoiisugoi.com)

The power duo is back – and they’re bringing back more options than ever to the Culver City cosplay cafe called Royal T. Chef Joseph Mahon and Sommelier David Haskell have expanded their thrice popped up pop-up to … you guessed it, three nights, starting on Sunday, April 17 and ending on Haskell’s 35th birthday, Tuesday, April 19th.

Mahon’s French cuisine will be paired with Haskell’s sake, Asian beer, and French and Italian wine selections. Choose from the five ($62), seven ($80), or ten-course menu ($118) with optional wine pairings ($45-92 additional) – or go for the special uni menu and separate wine pairings on Tuesday, April 19 in celebration of Haskell’s 35th birthday (The Feast LA).

Magnum is working in collaboration with Tomo Kurokawa to donate a portion of the event and silent auction proceeds to benefit the Japanese Sake Association and subsequently sake breweries affected by the tsunami in northern Japan.

Courses will include thoughtful selections such as:

  • Fennel Royale with Sea Urchin, Apple Cloud, and Nori Powder
  • Braised Baby Octopus with Leek Risotto, Pine Nuts, and Pancetta Vinaigrette
  • Miso-Cured Hangar Steak with Creamed Spinach, Shitake Mushroom Tempura, Sesame Seeds, and Ponzu Sauce
  • Yuzu Crème Brûlée with Poached Apricots

All wine, beer, and sake pairings will be announced the day of the event via Magnum and Royal/T’s Facebook and Twitter pages (@Magnum_dh and @RoyalTCafe).

At the bar, small plates and sake pairings will be available throughout the three-night series. Inspired by Royal/T’s newest street art exhibit “FACEMAKER, the bar bites will reflect graffiti’s free-form streaks, which include:

  • Sliders with Grass-Fed Beef, Potato Chips, Bibb Lettuce, and Chipotle Aïoli ($15)
  • Tuna Rolls with Crab, Jicama, Mango, and Spicy Mayonnaise ($19)
  • Oysters with Brown Butter and Lemon ($14)

Everything sounds absolutely delicious. Pop-up restaurants may come and go…and come and go…but this bigger and badder rendition of Magnum looks like one not to be missed. Be sure to call or email to reserve. Zeus The Cat will be standing by.

Also, be sure to check out the items up for silent auction, which are constantly being updated on Twitter and on the official Magnum website.

Sunday, April 17 – Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 – 10 PM

Call 323.798.4648 or email [email protected] to reserve your table.

Magnum at Royal T
8910 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
(Restaurant phone number: 310.559.6300)

Favorite Dish: Bibimbap Style Farro at Black Cat

Bibimbap-style Farro

Though I’ve always been a kind of “over easy” kind of gal when it comes to eggs, more and more I’m apt to go “sunny side up.” Especially when it comes to Korean food. The runnier, the better.

And that’s really the only thing that the so-named “bibimbap-style farro” has in common with the actual Korean dish. I’m not questioning the taste, however; I’m just wondering what exactly is so “bibimbap” about this dish. No chili paste, no silver bowl – but you know, perhaps the mixture of vegetables – including asparagus, roasted tomato and swiss chard - on top of, yes, farro instead of rice is just enough to warrant the name. The most pleasant surprise, though, was the burrata. (If it were “dolsotbop style,” do you think farro could result in a crispy bottom caused by a stone pot?”)

Regardless, this is one delicious and surprisingly filling dish out of many tasty selections on Black Cat’s reasonably priced menu (see: $2 coffee). Though nothing can take away from the cultish longevity that Mani’s had in the same spot, I’m sure glad that Black Cat is now filling the neighborhood space.

They’ve remodeled the interior and kept the decor simple. The best indoor seats remain in the Fairfax-lining bay windows built for 2. Of course, there’s still sidewalk seating for those who like to really make the most of Black Cat’s neighborhood feel.

I came for lunch, so my appetite didn’t exactly call for one of the fresh pastries (baked on-site with breads coming from Homeboy Industries) behind the counter. But thanks to this great experience with the farro, I’ll be sure to return for more menu items, earlier in the day. My wallet can handle it.

Mon – Fri: 7:30 AM – 5 PM
Sat – Sun: 8 AM – 6 PM

Black Cat
519 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
323.932.1500