DineL.A. is back and it’s time to scour the menus of participating restaurants all over town. I’ve come up with some reasons to jet to a particular dining establishment near you, whether for lunch or for dinner. Some restaurants offer exclusive dishes to dineL.A., others are offering a particularly enticing lunch and/or dinner menu. There are also participants that might normally be out of your price range or sense of adventure, but dineLA might just be the right occasion to give them a try.
When you move apartments in the middle of Los Angeles Food & Wine weekend, you still make an effort to attend at least one session. It would be last Friday night’s Asian Night Market in my case, and the results were pretty fantastic. The main venue of the event was a nice, less commercialized change-up from the Nokia Live Plaza venue of years past. Instead, we got to bite and sip in the foreground of Frank Gehry’s beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall, which did a lot to augment the classy feel of the series of tasting events (at least it did for the night I was able to attend).
This summer’s dineLA Restaurant Week commences today and lasts 10 days – over two weekday stretches and one weekend. And since we’ve had a few of these by now, it’s probably time we got smart on maneuvering through the multitude of menus. The trick with dineLA prix fixe is that it may get people through the door, but it may or may not be quite the deal you had in mind. The danger is that you might just be stuck with fewer, albeit recommended, choices for about the same price you’d normally pay.
May I propose lunch? They tend to be better deals than dinner – often true between both offerings of the same restaurant – because there’s more incentive to increase lunch traffic with dinner reservations filling up more readily. So whether you’ve got a 9-5 in the area or are in a certain neighborhood for an audition or client appointment, there’s probably a great dineLA power lunch strategy wherever you end up.
Now would be a great time to finally and formally introduce you to my “Upcoming Events” column over on the right (–>). It’s but a few months old, but a great way to short-handedly let you know about the best things that are coming up as far as goings on in Los Angeles. It also means less pre-event write-ups, since you can get the skinny right in that column. (You’re welcome.)
For now, though, I’ve anticipated a slew of food events in our beloved city – especially while everyone’s trying to get everything wrapped up before the holidays. I believe the following, however, warrant special attention. Be sure to make your reservations & buy your tickets. Here they are, in order of date:
1. Now: LudoBites 10.0 Reservation Window Now Open (until 10:59 AM Thursday, November 29, 2012)
Right now we’re in the middle of a 24-hour window that first opened at 11 AM PST. So until 10:59 AM tomorrow (Thursday, November 29), you’ll get to enter the lottery for a reservation on one of 14 days (weekdays, December 4-21) of LudoBites 10.0 at Gram & Papa’s in Downtown LA. No guarantees that any of you will actually GET a reservation, but all we can do is try, try, try, right? (No seriously – don’t submit that form twice. It will make Krissy very mad. Just once, guys.) Protip: To increase your chances of getting a reservation, be sure to be as available as possible, since you have to fill out your available days and time slots. Or maybe that was obvious.
And if you don’t know what LudoBites is, by now, I’m afraid I can’t help you…or can I?
I met a good friend of mine after he got off work on his vocational side of town, the famous and infamous Sunset Strip. I had heard about Night + Market, the adjacent room to Talesai whereby Chef Kris Yenbamroong is serving up campy (code for “street”) Thai food, and I was eager to get an introduction to this night spot by trying out their Happy Hour.
The decor, however, is far from it (it’s way more Sunset Blvd), and you’ll find yourself with plenty of natural sunlight invading the concrete-floored space if you visit during their opening hours – that is, Happy Hour (6 – 8 PM daily or all night Wednesday) this summer. Each plate is $5 and drinks include beer, wine, a Lychee Martini and a Mekong Old-Fashioned (again with lychee) at reasonably discounted prices.
All fried food came out piping hot and therefore fried-to-order, which was really important in maintaining the quality of the bites. My favorites? The pig tail (kind of a mis-placed pork belly since the meat has the same texture and consistency) and the chicken wings. Your server will ask you how spicy you want the dipping sauce for your wings (and be subsequently surprised if you say, “hot”).
Never fear, though, if you order the Papaya Salad. It’s a delicious and refreshing reprieve from all that hot sauce and fried food. The Pork Satay Skewers were also really good, tender and flavorful – and come through with 4 skewersÂ in all.
I went with the Mekong Old Fashioned, which, I had to try but was proved right when I suspected it might be a little sweet. There was lychee in it but not much alcohol; my recommendation would be to get a carafe of wine to share or the large sized beer.
Still, though, I loved the value of Night + Market Happy Hour. Indeed, I’m curious to go back and go for a full-blown dinner with some friends.Â The environment is contemporary (apparently, this also signifies communal seating) and the music selection was actually impressive. Zola Jesus!
Remember, if you have a hard time finding it, you have to enter through Talesai. The doorway is on the right. And be aware that they may not have everything even on Happy Hour menu – as we would’ve surely had the Fried Salmon Head had we had the chance. But the selections on that menu were all solid, so we were very much happy with our experience. We came out with $27 per person after tax and before tip when all was said and done.
Reading this before Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 11 AM? Be sure to grab this freeÂ Blackboard Eats code, which wouldn’t apply to the Happy Hour but would be a great opportunity to get a free bottle of wine for your party as well as a small plate per person. It’s quite a steal (and a good reason for me to go back as mentioned earlier)!
Do you have a regular 9-5 that makes you unable to make it to the daytime weekday farmer’s market in the neighborhood? Looking for an outdoor rendezvous with a view that makes it possible to simultaneously support local growers and vendors? Never consideredÂ farmer’s markets especially romantic (well – why would you)?
The Thursday night Yamashiro Garden Market may be your answer – especially as our “Spring Forward” daylight savings comes up this weekend, thereby making our days longer as the temps get warmer. Last night my girlfriend accompanied me as we visited the second-ever Garden Market on the Yamashiro (“mountain palace” in Japanese) groundsÂ above Franklin Avenue and met up with Lindsay and Julie of LAist. While the Hollywood and Highland traffic may affect your journey there, once you’re on the hill, all traffic will seem miles (ok, at least a mile) away. It’s a quaint space with hands-down the best view you will ever see at a market and the budding weekly gathering seemed to be well on its way to being a go-to Thursday event.
Worried about parking? Valet with Garden Market validation will run you only $2 – plus tip, of course. Not bad – especially by Hollywood standards.
You even have the option to come hungry without expecting to have to shell out major Yamashiro-levelÂ dough. The restaurant provides hot food, with yourÂ choice of two black cod, korean shortrib or duck tacos which come with chips and salsa (even wasabi guacamole) for $6. Or get 3 tacos for $9. Executive Chef Brock Kleweno served them up himself last night.Â The black cod tacos were the hands-down favorite in my group – even though I had forgone them since I coincidentally had black cod for lunch. What are the chances? The wasabi guac was another favorite – not exactly sinus-clearing but I always love guac with a little punch.
Eight words: Bulgarini Goat Cheese Gelato with embedded cocoa nibs. Do also try the Blood Orange for that tart craving. Unfortunately, I had been looking forward to olive oil gelato thanks to a Twitter convo that had been happening over the past few days, but it wasn’t available last night so now I have another reason to return.
I spent the most time at the stand featuring Spring Hill Cheese, whose creamery is located in Petaluma, and walked away with garlic cheese curds ($5). Also in attendance was J&P West Coast SeafoodÂ from San Pedro, Â the Breadman, Ace Ranch Certified Organic Producer, Klauses Bees’ Raw Honey, Gourmet Blends’ Barrel-Aged Organic Balsamics & Oils andÂ Cobbler ManiaÂ amongst other local producers and vendors.
A live jazz band successfully provided a festive atmosphere in spite of the still-growing attendance. I can see only more people venturing uphill for the unique experienceÂ and view that is the Garden Market as the days get longer and the temps get warmer. What’s key: Their outdoor event liquor license is on the way. 😉
5 – 9 PM
Valet $2 with validation