Kali Dining: The Sleeper Underground Supper Club

Chilled English Pea Soup | Mint (2-ways), Chantilly, Buckwheat Streusel

What’s a chef to do – and where is he to go – once he quits his posh Patina Restaurant Group post as Executive Chef at Cafe Pinot?

The answer? It’s infallibly to do one’s own series of roving dinners in various homes. Chef Kevin Meehan’s intention? Hosting a group of appreciative guests with adventurous and social bents.

Yellowtail Confit | Beet, Brown Butter Powder, Balsalmic, Pink Peppercorns

What you get, then, is a start-up dinner series that brings together a myriad of moving parts – but the difference with this particular dinner party is that the least questionable variable is the quality of the food. In essence, there’s no better way to enjoy a multi-course opus by Chef Meehan than within the context and intimacy of an 8-person dinner party. The mystery of the night’s dinner menu is navigated by that day’s foraged finds and treasures unearthed at the fish and farmer’s market. (Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let Chef know when the reservation is made.)

The evening begins with a reception of sorts as you sip wine in the comforts of an outdoor, dimly but charmingly lit patio and begin to get acquainted with your fellow diners – after all, you’ll be sharing a table so you may as well get cozy. Sidenote: It’s probably best to get a pre-dinner wine, or at least something a little unexpected or white, to share for this; it seemed that everyone at my party had food on the mind (and why wouldn’t they) when they picked out their wines.

Beef Tenderloin Fillet | Potato, Garlic Ash, Onion Variation

And for five inventive and intriguing courses (plus amuse bouche) and an unexpectedly pleasant group of characters at the dinner my guest and I were privy to, it was an evening well spent. Or if you have that special occasion in mind, you can book your own dinner party for you and your friends. After all, no where else will you get top-notch courses in an ultimately casual, stress-free environment. But I really like the idea of matching your “omakase” style dinner to the chef’s choice co-mingling of guests. Dinner parties, after all, are for adventurers.

One thing I’ve noticed about many dinner parties, too, is that there’s a pacing left to be desired for the diners, or shall I say guests? But each course at Kali Dining was evenly and perfectly spaced and a fitting ascension unto the next. And I, for one, thought it was the perfect amount of food. Each plate was a piece of art yet evaded being too fussy.

So you best get to Kali Dining before Chef Kevin “goes out and gets a real job” (disclaimer: his words, not mine). This is one temporary pop-up installment on the westside you won’t want to miss out on.

Various evenings

7:30 PM

$65 min. cash donation + a bottle of wine to share

Kali Dining
Undisclosed location

LQ @ SK: Laurent Quenioux Nights To Shine at Starry Kitchen

Tai snapper, citruses, zucchini, tomatoes, Kohlrabi, smoked black sea salts

Since Bistro LQ had closed, I had been eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to experience Chef Laurent Quenioux’s food. Apparently, Nguyen and Thi of Starry Kitchen, Chef Quenioux and staff have been working a long time to make this guest appearance happen at their home digs.

Oxtail compote, pickled spring vegetables, Mustard Tapioca

In a couple weeks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights and for most of the summer, you can experience 5 courses of LQ @ SK for $45. There will be a list of recommended wines that you can get from Domaine LA and enjoy them at your accord with zero corkage. If Laurent wasn’t reason enough to entice you downtown on an early-in-the-week night, the added reasonable price point and BYOB option should.

What I appreciated about all 5 courses was that though I knew Chef Quenioux to take chances, they reinforced that he is creative but not outlandish. No magic foams. Just well-integrated dishes that each express a simple statement.

To start things off, you’ll be treated to a surprise amuse. On the opening preview night, we were treated with Escamoles (ant eggs) smuggled straight from TJ that ran out during our run – complete with Sapporo chaser. Talk about taking “seasonal” to a whole new level – that is, to change by the day. It’s good indication you’re at an exciting place to eat.

Teriyaki rabbit albondigas, teriyaki foie gras, miso, green Garlic tempura

I loved the Oxtail compote, which was accompanied by a pickled cucumber slice and carrot stick, topped off with a dallop of mustard tapioca. It’s no LQ uni tapioca, which is a dish all on its own, but I really liked this sweet and sour flourish to the oxtail. While I tend to think “sated” whenever I think of oxtail, all the stringy, crunchy and ballsy (couldn’t help it) textures were the interpretive bells and whistles on the down-to-earth flavors of this first course. Wonderful!

The Tai snapper was perfectly cooked – its juiciness, tenderness yet mildness further highlighted by the citrus fruits and vegetables. A really simple dish yet pleasant and even refreshing, which served as a good reprieve for the rabbit, foie gras and sweetbread richness to follow.

If Panda Express gave me ill associations with teriyaki sauce or even flavorings, Chef Quenioux may have just reversed those very misgivings. So subtle – and not so sweet – was the “teriyaki” savory albondigas (rabbit meatball), I could enjoy the miso that was poured into the dish at service. The green garlic tempura was delightfully fluffy and crunchy, which was a great contrast to the seared foie gras in taste and texture. The foie gras itself? I don’t really need to talk about it. It was heavenly.

Chocolate chipotle mousse, lime serrano gel, Cinnamon soil

But those gloriously breaded and fried Veal sweetbreads. Morels and chanterelles really brought forth an earthy tone to the dish while the shishito peppers added a subtle spice while the pastiness of the yuzu kosho were a great way to add a kick while keeping up with the breaded texture of the sweetbreads. Were the sweetbreads really sweet, you ask? Almost. But it doesn’t matter – since the dish itself was fantastic.

And what topped the entire night off was no less than the most artful dish, doubling as a splendid dessert. Chocolate chipotle mousse and a churro sat with lime serrano gel (with basil seeds) and cinnamon soil, or crumbs from the churro. This was also the best wine pairing of the night (disclosure: no wines included during the pop-up) with the subtle sweetness of the NV Terres Dorees FRV100 cutting the spice in the mousse yet rounding out the cinnamon quite well.

Anyway. LQ @ SK. You should “pop-in.” This is Chef Quenioux at his most accessible, an opportunity not to be wasted. His dishes are playful, but they also have vision and thanks to the efficient staff, underwent a successful execution even on the very first preview night. Not bad for a test run. All I’m saying is, all systems go on this exciting and sure to be short-lived LQ run. Stay tuned for the official start date, which expects to be June 5th.

Now how about bringing back that cheese selection?

Update:  So it’s been announced that start date IS Sunday, June 5th and there will be two seatings at 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Prix fixe stands at $45 per person. Menu is subject to change whenever Chef Quenioux feels like it. Sorry, no substitutions. Parking is validated. Also, reservations are available online only, here, for dates: June 5-7,13-14, 19, 20. More dates will be added later. You are confirmed only when you receive an email stating so. Go, go, go!!

Starry Kitchen
350 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071
213.617.3474

Orgasmo de la Boca: The Underground Supper Club of the Senses

Duck Breast, Roasted Cauliflour, Basil Puree, Dried Fig and Brandy Gastrique, Crispy Fennel | Photo credit: Tricia Romano

When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.

Oyster Two Ways: Sauteed Cornmeal Crusted Oyster on Red Wine Onion Confit & Fanny Bay on the Halfshell With Red Wine Shallot Mignonette | Photo by Tricia Romano

It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.

And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.

Dining the Orgasmo de la Boca Way | Photo by Tricia Romano

I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom Salad was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powdered basil on themselves as a scent and figs were Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!

Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagus and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.

Coriander Crusted Salmon, Sunchoke Puree and Latke, Tomato and Asparagus Broth | Photo by Tricia Romano

Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruit and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.

While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.

For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.

All food and wine were hosted.

Special thanks to Tricia Romano for the photos.

Orgasmo de la Boca

Undisclosed location

Dinners organized on case-by-case basis

Average cost: $125 per person

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)