My Top dineLA Restaurant Week Lunch Picks for Summer, 2013: July 15 – 26

RivaBella’s Nidi di Rondine

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.

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Night + Market: The Best Happy Hour On Sunset Strip

Fried Pig Tail

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.

Fried Chicken

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”).

Papaya Salad

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 skewers 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. The environment is contemporary (apparently, this also signifies communal seating) and the music selection was actually impressive. Zola Jesus!

Night + Market Interior

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 free 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)!

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Open nightly

6 – 11 PM

Happy Hour: 6 – 8 PM Daily, All night Wed’s

Night + Market
(Enter through Talesai)
9043 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310.275.9724

My First Taste: Rad Na Kee Mow at Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle

Rad Na Kee Mow ($7.49)

I’m somewhat new to the area, but I’ve finally hopped on the Wat Dong Moon Lek bandwagon. The Thai noodle house is one of the rarely-disputed mainstay gems nearby. Its humble enclave in that Silver Lake strip mall on Fountain Avenue exudes more personality than a n00b like me might ever expect from a noodle house on her initial visit.

Like Thai Town to the northwest, its blue interior doesn’t escape Hollywood influences. But what you won’t find here are the pages and pages of countless soup-dry-noodle-curry combinations; instead, there’s a manageable, well-executed menu that comes in pamphlet size should you not want to read the wall. You can sit at the counter, one of the high-tops or low-. The curry list is simple – just choose amongst red, green, yellow, panang or jungle. I’m also intrigued by what the rice dishes and blackboard menu have to offer

The drawback to dining alone, no matter how peaceful the experience, is the lack of companions’ dishes to scalp bites from.

My rad na kee mow (gravy boat drunken noodles) with tender slices of chicken was as delicious as it was beautiful. Those green beans were little bursts in the sea of gravy (yeah, that’s a bubble in there), with an island of delicious, soft rice noodles even having a subtle pan-fried crisp.

The Thai iced tea was good, too.

Next up: Pa Ord. And Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle, again. Now if both places could get a 3 AM close time…

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Mon – Sun

11 AM – 10 PM

Cash only

Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodle
4356 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
323.666.5993

Healthful, Conscientious Pan-Asian at Fresh East Is Actually Delicious

Emperor's Lamb ($12.95)

Good Chinese, Indian and other Asian food is known to be sourced from the dirtiest, rudest hole-in-the-wall shops around town – especially east of our Metropolis off the 10 and 60 freeways. I can put it this way:  There were plenty of great reasons to visit my aunt who lived in West Covina for those two years, and they were all within a two-mile radius around the house she later flipped.

Spicy Garlic Noodles ($8.25)

There’s usually a direct relationship between taste and MSG in Asian food, however. It’s just one of those known facts, along with the cost-effectiveness of an often cash-only operation – and a lot of these Mom and Pop shops using styrofoam and other unrecyclable products and just plain being un-green.

Fresheast is the first known-to-me Pan-Asian place that integrates an Eco-conscientious (organic when they can) business model into actually delicious food. No MSG is in their recipes, all their sauces are made in-house and their plates are made from recycled, bio-degradable palm fronds. As for your side, you can choose from white rice, brown rice, quinoa or greens.

Interior

The best part of all of this is that they’re Midtown Lunch LA price point-friendly (that is, under $10). To start, anyway (sorry, Zach, you’ll have to drink water). They also have beer and wine on their menu, so you can wash down your Jidori Chicken with some Singha or Fess Parker Pinot Noir. And there’s free parking. In West Hollywood. And there’s energy outlets! And wifi! Talk about blogger-friendly.

My favorite dish was definitely the Emperor’s Lamb, which really impressed me in that there was little-to-no gamey taste. Their Jidori Chicken was also solid and had really good flavor. The Spicy Garlic Noodles were so-so, but nothing extraordinary. It seems that for the most part, they’ve been able to hone in on the right recipes, creating dishes that utilize fresh and made-in-house ingredients while keeping the price point fairly low.

I also loved the Fresheast juice, which was a great, natural energy drink made with beets, kale, apples and other ingredients. Feel like coconut? They got them. And don’t forget dessert. Their sorbet flavors are potent yet fluffy – I loved the mango!

So try it out. You won’t get that MSG hangover or icky feeling you typically get after consuming bad-for-you Chinese. And if you’re looking to get some work done, you might as well bring your laptop, too.

All food, wine and beer were hosted.

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Open daily, 11 AM – 10 PM

Happy Hour: 4 – 7 PM daily
Get 50% off wine and beer with food purchase

Free parking, energy outlets and wifi

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Fresheast
8951 Santa Monica Blvd- Suite G1
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310.859.9989