As the Los Angeles “chill” continues, it’s only natural to crave the comforting foods in which we take refuge. Luckily, there’s Bar Pinxto, a tapas place that has reinvigorated the Spanish traditions behind the term that was once disgracefully applied to all “small plates.” The place has the most mom and pop feel of anywhere in the tourist hub of Santa Monica, and the reasonable price points, accommodating happy hour specials and prix fixe menu options clinch its status as a neighborhood favorite.
A couple days ago, there was an announcement of an alliance formed by Farid Zadi, David Haskell & Susan Park called FOH/BOHÂ³. Derived from Front of the House and Back of the House acronyms (“to the third power” is of no detail), the name is meant to capture the essence of their partnership – the pursuit of proper, hands-on restaurant training from the ground up.
The trioÂ wasted no time getting down to business as it has just been announced that they will be debuting at Jenee Park’s (also of Parkâ€™s BBQ and Don Dae Gam) LaOn (previous review) on Western this weekend. The location of their first projectÂ was secured at thisÂ newish restaurant just 3 hours after their interview with LA Weekly Squid Ink’s Amy Scattergood was finished. It’s a perfect setting for their launch, as Zadi has worked in Seoul for three years as a chef and managing partner at a restaurant. It also is expressive of David Haskell’sÂ intense passion for Korean food.
Park andÂ Zadi created a special menuÂ of 8 dishes, dubbed “Lucky Cat”, to complement LaOn’s traditional menu. One thing’s for sure: The menu of this “limited engagement” is not to be underestimated.Â Nothing on the menuÂ will be watered down, but instead will showcaseÂ the fabric of what Korean food is all about.Â
â€œI have a lot of respect for Korean cooking. My mother in law is from Jeon-Ju, the culinary capital of South Korea,” Farid says.Â â€œThis isnâ€™t fusion or even modern Korean. Weâ€™re taking Korean ingredients, flavors and techniques and recontextualizing them while retaining the soul of Korean cuisine: the bold, stick to your guts flavors that make it so satisfying.â€
Haskell will be pairing each menu item with a wine or beer, the pairingÂ pours of which will be available for $6 each – or glass pours for $12 each. Expect this pairing experience to evolve your perceptions ofÂ and experiences in Korean food, as I can’t recall a single time I’ve had traditional Korean foodÂ with proper wine pairing. FOH/BOHÂ³’s “front of the house” team will be on-hand to ensure top-notch service throughout both nights.
Check out the menu below:
LAON MENU (traditional tapas)
- íŽ¸ì±„ PYEON CHAE Beef carpaccio with onions,sesame leaf,radish sprout – 10
- ì¹ ì ˆíŒ SEVEN WRAP Cucumber,carrot,beef,shiitake mushroom,egg with radish wrap – 7
- ì–´ì„ FISH WRAP Steamed fish and assorted vegetables in an egg wrap – 10
- ê¶ì¤‘ë–¡ë³¶ì´ TEOKBOKKI Rice cake in soy based sauce – 10
- ê°ˆë¹„ì°œ GALBI JJIM Braised short rib – 15
- ì˜¤ì§•ì–´ìˆœëŒ€ STUFFED SQUID Stuffed with tofu,beef,squid & vegetables – 10
- ì „ë³µìš”ë¦¬ OPEN FLAME ABALONE Lightly seasoned fresh abalone – MP
- ìž¡ì±„ JAPCHAE Clear noodle with mixed vegetables – 7
FOH/BOHÂ³: Lucky Cat LaOn
- Spicy chicken kochi/foie gras fat fingerlings/ garlic chips – 12
- Crab and kimchi brik/orange and onion salad – 8
- Thai cobb ssam – 10
- Thai curry bacon, avocado, duck rillettes, quail egg, tomato, fried shallot, lettuce
- Grilled oysters – 3 each
Dashima, ponzu, serrano mignonette and gochujang vinaigrette
- Uni and scallop chawanmushi – MP
- Â½ dozen peel ‘n’ eat grilled prawns/shiso chimichurri – MP
Laotian curry marinated whole prawns
- Braised beef cheeks/ slow roasted corn cheese/baby carrot/arugula quick-chi – 14
Riff on braised kalbi
So be sure to secure your table now. This limited engagementÂ will sell out fast! Call 323.798.4648 or email David Haskell at email@example.com. (Also note that reservations go til 1 AM – perfect for you nightowls.) Reservation lines are open now.
I arrived to our 7-top reservation on account of an invitation from Josh of Food GPS, but only after first following the noise and crowd into the very popular Don Dae Gam, which was located in the same plaza. I turned to each occupied table (they all were), and when I didn’t recognize one face I went back out the door.
At LaOn, we were one of two parties total that dined there in the duration of our feast. As the only non-Caucasian in the party, I had also learned that before I arrived, the servers verified repeatedly that indeed, this was the restaurant at which they wanted to be, and not next door.
Don’t judge a palate by its cover…
As each cooked or uncooked dish arrived in the practically empty restaurant, it became apparent that we were one of the first to discover this little gem. The best thing about our big party was that we were able to order a lot to ensure getting a bite of everything while not leaving a scrap by the time we were finished.
With the same people behind Park’s BBQ masterminding LaOn, this surprisingly pleasant dining space – though furnished with the obligatory fans above each table – isn’t the spot to court your singularly focused meat-minded friends (often the stigma I’ve found associated with Korean food). Sure, you’ll get an on-table iron charcoalÂ grill on which to cook your skirt steak, beef tongueÂ and skewers (the bacon-wrapped duk, or tubular rice cakes, are a must), but you’d really be missing out if you overlooked the peewee fingerling potatoes in green pepper & green chile sauce to start, the pork/egg/shiitake/cucumber/carrot wrapped in daikon “tacos,” the rice paper-wrapped steak tartar topped withÂ quail egg,Â the garlic abalone dish, the roe-uni stone pot riceÂ … I think you get the point.
With the only included banchanÂ being pickled, thinlyÂ sliced cucumbers and more-than-decent kimchi, it’s clear that this isn’t a Korean restaurant that rests its laurelsÂ on filler. But the servers and chef/owner wereÂ more than courteous – even friendly. Now gone are the days where I had to “corner a Korean” (UCLA proved useful for this) just so I could have a go-to guy that could order for me without the awkwardness of the language barrier and risk of being taken a less-than-courageous customer.Â A nice surprise was a dish that we hadn’t ordered but was gratefully sent out: AÂ kind of chapchae, butÂ made with rice cakes, instead. I would definitely classify this as a staple and would order this next time.
The best part about it? The raw cuts are of quality whileÂ LaOn’s location and audienceÂ in Koreatown prevents the BBQ as well as theÂ small plates from being too precious. Just make sure that in a party this big, you order 2 of most things. Proof: By the end, we were stuffed, and had only spent $34 per person including tax,Â just oneÂ bottle of wineÂ and 20%+ tip (no dessert).
So go forth and visit LaOn. “Small plates” is the arguably hackneyed phenomenon these days, but this little Don Dae Gam-adjacent place in Koreatown is a stand-out gem that does it all so well.Â And for those cravings of theÂ Americanized KoreanÂ tradition of BBQ – there’s more than enough to go around.
Mon – Sat: 5 PM – 1 AM
Sun: 5 PM – 11 PM
1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
As Fiona and I finished our small plates and resumed breathing – but realized we were breathing fire – we weren’t quite sure, exactly, where we were, anymore. We cajoled, “Is this restaurant called, ‘The Spicy Table’?”
The Little Tokyo spot has a shrewdly stylish, if still minimal, ambiance with bird cage accents surrounding light bulbs incandescent. The front bar area seems like the perfect place at which to perch around the central wood-fired oven and enjoy a dish or two with the desired size pour of beer or glass of wine. I did wonder if the faces of those who sat at the bar, directly in front of the oven, were burning off or not (I caught a good amount of heat simply from walking by); then again, Downtown LA benefits from any spot proffering warmth to their customers, no matter how literal. Just choose your proximity, I guess, and they’ll just make sure to leave some brick exposedÂ so you’re reminded that you’re downtown and cozy.
Though cost and variety was the reason were the reasons I chose suds (4 oz. beer pours are available for $2; glasses of wine are upwards of $14), light, cold and carbonated was, in retrospect, the perfect thing to wash down all those bold flavors. My Craftsman Hef was a great choice, and you’ll be glad to know that The Bruery’s Orchard White, Abita’s Amber Lager and North Coast’s La Merle Saison – and, true-to-form, the Singaporean Tiger Beer – are all available in 12- and 16-oz. pours as well.
The starting lamb belly skewersÂ ($10), or satay, were singed perfectly while revealing fully flavorful, slightly gelatinousÂ centers. The piquant yet indulgent spread in the Black Pepper Crab Toast didn’t have me thinking that one piece of bread between the two of us wasn’t enough; I simply piled that crab paste onto my toasted triangle about an inch thick.
We were almost to theÂ noodles, by then, but not before the squidÂ special came out. And though we sat in the dining room, this was where I fully appreciated that oven situated behind the bar. The deliciously charred, squid shell was not rubbery but as tender as its sticky rice center, with bits of familiarly rich Chinese sausage and just-as-meaty black mushrooms filling out the tubular vessels. The vinaigrette we spooned on top added the bitter-sweet note we didn’t even know was missing. You may end up wishing that this was a regular menu item.
But then came our fiery hot noodles. The first, the Kon Loh Mee, featured springy, thin egg noodles topped with ground pork, char siu (because one kind of pork is never enough), sambal and choy sum – the lattest of which were, I realized later, the only vegetables short of the garnishes we had consumed the entire night. The egg noodles were superbly cooked; I’m wondering if they were made in-house and regret that I didn’t ask. The entire dish, however, were some of the most punishingly delicious dry noodles I’ve had in some time.
The Laksa, a coconut curry broth enveloping rice flour noodles, mussels and fish cakes and topped with coriander and a slice of soft-boiled egg, was almost as punishing. The creaminess of the coconut recanted some of that direct sting. It was enough of a break to entice us to press on, breathing in and out, while admiring that the restaurant didn’t pull any punches for The Stereotypicallly WeakÂ White Man’s Palate. (Or, gave our Stereotypically Tough AsianÂ Woman’s PalatesÂ their fair treatment – either way.) It even came with a hefty portion of sambal, which is allegedly traditional but something we had no intention of actually adding! The soup was thankfully delicious as it stood. I loved all the textures of the rice noodles and fish cakes while the mussels – let’s face it, I love shellfish – were that extra kick in the flavor pants.
If they brought out the spicy dishes last for a reason, I have an inkling on what that reason is: Dessert.
It worked. Well done. (Okay, and, there’s always a valid argument for palate fatigue, right? Anyway.)
Our Kaffir Lime Custard wasÂ a refreshing, fluffyÂ yet tart reprieve. The perfect, thematicÂ ending to an adventurous meal by a former Mozza chef featuring Vietnamese and Singaporean flavors in a Japanese district calledÂ Little TokyoÂ in DowntownÂ Los Angeles. That is all.
Love this town.
I’ve found a couple more reasons to eat in Pasadena. With those reasons being a few favorite dishes at CHAM, I thought I’d share the news of the now one-year old Korean bistro that is actually an off-shoot of the spectacular, all-meals-prepared employee perks program of iT! jeans. The creators of the jeans line and the bistro are one and the same, and casual Pasadena diners are reaping the benefits of their kitchen.
This is definitely approachable Korean food – so all you hardcore types can save your money while those who have been previously scared away by these flavors can appreciate the foray into Korean cuisine. A great starter with a spin on the traditional was their pickle sampler, which showcases white asparagus, sweet onions, carrots and thinly sliced beets. I appreciated that the brines in which each of the vegetables were specialized with the beets and onions being sweet yet the carrots and white asparagus having a perfect amount of sour. The white asparagus was my favorite, if only because I’ve rarely seen it prepared pickled, before.
My favorite sugared chili dish was the Spicy Cold Bibim Noodles. Bibimbab, it’s not; cold noodles with just the right, spicy flavoring to go with its cool temperature and texture – it sure is. While the dish wasn’t traditional, the flavors seemed like it.
My other favorite dish was the Tofu Crouton Salad. The tofu were perfectly fried with an almost-tempura like texture on the outside. The butter lettuce was the perfect choice of greenery with barley to add a perfect weight. The black sesame vinaigrette was thankfully not too sweet and ultimately delicious.
The other favorite at this Korean Bistro is decidedly not Korean food – but let’s not fault Executive chef E.J. Jeong (former A.O.C.) for having an imagination, shall we? This other favorite featured very sweet, cubed watermelon at its center with refreshing mint notes in the salad and in the vinaigrette and generous helpings of earthy feta and figs sprinkled on top. This is the quintessential summer treat.
The kicker of this eatery is that their beer list is rather intriguing and offers great pairings with the vibrant flavors of your Korean-style food. Sure, there is Hite, but also the Maredsous 8, Oskar Blues (Mama’s Little Yella Pils), Houblon (Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel) and Lost Abbey’s Devotion. The wine list is also modest but really, all you need. I especially enjoyed the Saddlerock Chardonnay straight from Malibu with my food.
The next time I’m in Pasadena (I am locatedÂ further east, after all) and need a bite – or three – to eat, I would certainly stop by Cham. While this isn’t the place to order your soon tofu on the scale of spiciness like an O.G. Korean eatery, Cham is a place that does justice to and serves its influences well.
P.S. – At the end of your meal, don’t forget the raspberry lambic beer float made with Framboise. Unlike other beer floats, this one is decidedly a dessert for your sweet tooth!
All food, beer and wine were hosted.
Mon – Sat: 11 AM – 9 PM
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova St.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Perhaps you’re in the neighborhood but not in the mood to commit for the night. You want bites, not entrees – and were thinking something more elegant than bar food: The Nobu bar or lounge might be the perfect place to stop. They’ve recently made some additions to their already-popular menu – like Uni Dry Miso, Wagyu Dango Wasabi Saffron Aioli and Spanish Baby Octopus with Ginger Soy. Not to mention a brand new dessert menu. I will have to try that Suntory Whiskey Iced Cappuccino at least once!
And if you just want the best of what Chef Alex Becker has to offer you, you can always choose the 6-course omakase for $40. The first 3 courses are direct from the sushi bar followed by 2 dishes from the hot kitchen – and then dessert. Choices, choices…some of us are just more decisive than others.
Peep the new tapas menu below forÂ the full range:
NOBU COLD TAPAS
Nobu Style Sashimi Tacos with Yellowfin Tuna, Lobster, or Crab 8
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno 9
Whitefish Sashimi with Dried Miso 9
Yellowfin Tuna Tataki with Tosazu or Cilantro Dressing 9
Oysters with Nobu Sauces (Ponzu, Nobu, Maui) 10
Lobster Ceviche Butter Lettuce 12
Nobu New Style Sashimi – Salmon, Whitefish or Scallop 8
Uni Dry Miso 12
Tiradito – Whitefish, Scallop, or Octopus 8
Kanpachi Agua de Chile 12
Baby Artichoke Salad with Crispy Leeks 7
Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing 10
Hearts of Palm Salad 7
NOBU HOT TAPAS
Wagyu and Foie Gras Gyozas 10
Scallop with Jalapeno Salsa 8
Photo credit to tinynancer on Flickr
Breadbar Century City’s monthly Hatchi series continues in January! The “foodie exhibition” of sorts rotates guest chefs for one-off nights so Angelenos can get a taste of everyone. Thursday, January 28, Hatchi will feature Chef Ricardo Zarate of Mo-Chica fame. Contemporary Peruvian tapas will be served, and if the glowing concensus about Mo-Chica is any indication, reservations will fill up fast.
True to its title, the night will feature eight dishes running $8 each. And if you’re smart about things, you’ll dine with at least a couple others so you can try everything on the menu. (Apologies ahead of time if I underestimate your capacity, perhaps, to single-handedly handle all eight by yourself.) Six of the eight will be savory, two will be desserts. Peep the “Peru Mucho Gusto” menu below (still under revision, subject to change):
SOPA DE COLIFLOR
Cauliflower soup, crispy pancetta, croutons, feta cheese dressing
Trio of Peruvian potato salad
Blue crab, mayo, huancaina sauce
Spicy blue fin tuna, rocoto aioli
Scallops menatiko sauce
Tairagai, uni, sea bass, aji amarillo leche de tigre sauce
TIRADITO DE PESCADO
Yellow tail tiradito, sundried tomato yuzu dressing
Peruvian sun dried potatoes, pancetta, roasted black cod, chimichurri sauce
SECO DE CORDERO
Stew lamb shoulder in black beer and cilantro sauce, canario beans, red onion salsa
Flourless chocolate cake, lucuma ice cream, tamarillo sauce
KIWICHA CON LECHE Y ESENCIA DE MAZAMORRA
Kiwicha coconut pudding, purple corn essence, mixed nuts
Rarely find yourself in the USC area? Have an unfounded aversion to strip malls or do you simply love quality Peruvian food with a contemporary feel? Make your reservation at Breadbar for Chef Zarate’s turn at Hatchi.
Mo-Chica: The Best Peruvian Ceviche Might Be In a Warehouse South of Downtown – Jonathan Gold for LAWeekly
Thursday, January 28, 2009
6 – 10 PM
$8 per dish; 3Â per guest minimum
Breadbar Century City
10250 Santa Monica Blvd. R-2
Los Angeles, CA 90067