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.
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.
Hamasaku is a Westside strip-mall sushi joint, its designation as such not lost on the many regulars who have gone for a particular sushi experience for a number of years. There’s a menu full of celebrity rolls – that is, name-saken sushi rolls with ingredient combinations made up by celebrities – and it is this menu on which Hamasaku has built its reputation. Until recently, that is. Now, you’ll have to specially ask for the celebrity roll menu should you want to order off it.
With amaro cocktails being really popular right now – and with good reason – you can count on there being one to three of them on the menu of any semi-serious bar program. But I can’t think of any other bar that even compares to how Julian Cox’s program at Sotto has really advanced the cocktail classification in Los Angeles.
Poutine. It’s an import to Southern California, but you’d think it would’ve reached Universal Food Status by now…like cupcakes, burgers & frozen yogurt. After all, who doesn’t love gravy, cheese and fries? I can confirm that the combination of the three (or four – that is, with protein) is way better than the mere sum of its parts.
Then again, I hail from Wisconsin – and the frequency of my visits to Canada still outnumbers those to Mexico. So you can understand my Cheesehead’s frustration with the grated cheese application on fries everywhere in this city. Even at Animal. And Frysmith. (I still love both of you.) But this is not poutine. In fact, cheese curds exist as an actual ingredient even on its Wikipedia page. (I know! I just invoked the Wiki!)
You may call it “gourmet poutine,” I just call it “done properly.”
But perhaps I hold too much respect for the cheese curd. I can’t help it – nor can I contain my excitement that P’tit Soleil – across from Soleil, which has been a Westwood Blvd restaurant for 10 years – actually sources theirs from Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle, Wisconsin. Though curds are known for their squeak when fresh, these nuggets are expertly melted down from being laid atop just-out-of-the-fryer frites. Not too gooey to appreciate its original shape…softened enough to spread its love to the other frites in the Québécois haystack. It is the anti-steak fry, and it’s just the right size for a balanced ratio of potato to gravy and toppings. Melty morsels, not tiny slivers, are key in curds, I’m telling you!
AYCE. Or, All You Can Eat, for those not yet acclimated to the now-oft-used acronym. (You late-comers and non-Korean BBQ-grubbers, you.) But we’re not talking Old Country Buffet on this blog, nor the club tunes-pumping Manna, here. We’re talking gourmet all you can eat, now.
Take Roy Choi, for instance. The All You Can Eat Fried Chicken Picnic starts tomorrow on Saturday, July 14th and will go every weekend from 12-3 PM.
For $18 per person you get:
- Krispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken – legs and thighs sous vide in spices, herbs & chilies dredged in rice flour and a splash of lemon juice
- Supermarket Sweet Potato Deli Salad – smashed red garnet sweet potatoes, scallions, pickled shallot rings, whole grain mustard vinaigrette
- Zucchini & Cabbage Cole Slaw – buttermilk, dijon dressing, fresh herbs
If you prefer the Korean beer of choice to wash down your poultry, add $10 for endless Hite.
See you there.
If you’re more of a shellfish and Zydeco band lover, head to The Foundry on Melrose for Crawfish Boil Sundays.
For your aural pleasure, the Mudbug Brass Band will be on-hand for that authentic vibe. And from 5:30 – 8 PM on Sundays, you’ll get crawfish and jambalaya for only $25 per person
Also offered are Hurricanes for $10 each and Jack Juleps (Jack Daniels with mint & sugar cubes) for $8. Each week, a different Po’ Boy will be featured (this week: catfish) for $9.
All this, hosted by Chef Eric Greenspan, is of course one of the best ways to spend a summer Sunday on Melrose.
Since I’m a Hollywood resident, I admit I’ve been sorely behind on the West LA food scene – and Plan Check has been one of the casualties. Recently, I had a good reason to venture west of the 405 and really see what the fuss about the burgers were about.
Stüssy, the former surf-centric brand that you can now find as a Target clothing staple, has events to promote its brand – though shall we say they read more like pretty rad one-off parties held at varying venues. Plan Check was the site of one such event a couple weeks ago, whereby I tried “The ISB.” Made with Akaushi beef, jalapeno escabeche, cheese, smokey bacon, battered onion straws, “knowledge” sauce & crunch bun. I know bacon is a shoe-in ingredient, but this was one of the best bacon burgers I’ve tried in recent memory. The lush bun was of no detail!
It was a delicious burger reminiscent of Umami thanks to the fried onion, and ultimately alumni chef Ernesto Uchimura, but I could tell at Plan Check that their burger product is that much more reliable – barring a guerilla expansion plan to flood Los Angeles, that is.
Another other must-try limited edition item is the World Fries, which comes topped with chorizo gravy, fried egg and roasted pasila chile. These were done way before the burgers came – because if you love eggs, chorizo and chiles, there’s just no saying “no” to these fries.
Ever had cereal milk soft serve at Momofuku? The Stoopid Fresh Donuts are the real-life incarnation of the mere flavor, made with cooked cruller, raisin frosting, cereal milk ice cream and carmelized cornflakes. The cornflakes were a nice touch to the dessert thanks to the sweet crunchiness. So don’t forget your Stüssy-fied dessert.
With these limited edition items pretty much hitting it out of the park, I can’t wait to try Plan Check’s regular menu – complete with cocktails by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix.
West LA, I’ll see you soon again.
Check below for that special menu, available now:
All food and drink were hosted.
We’re about due for another Dionicess event. Of course, these guys won’t stop outdoing themselves as they’ve brought a beer & booze pairing to fruition.
Matt Biancaniello of The Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar is brought into the fold with Randy Clemens, Dave Watrous and Gev Kazachyan as they pair five craft beers with five craft spirits. Prepare for a boozy evening in late October at Steingarten LA to benefit the Real Medicine Foundation for an all-inclusive $65 entrance fee.
And if you know anything about Matt or the Dionicess crew, you’ll automatically know this is something unique they have up their sleeves. Expect garden-fresh ingredients a la Matt with your spirits and beer pairings.
Better start arranging that taxi… See you there.
As they say: “Better late than never.”
I had wanted to make it out to Sotto for awhile since it opened back in March, when it had taken over the space formerly occupied by the all-abuzz Test Kitchen, the establishment that was a literal revolving door for LA chefs to test out their menus on adventurous diners. Gone are the one- (and two- and three-) offs and in come Steve Samson and Zach Pollack – permanently.
Sotto is the incarnation of Steve and Zach’s thankful relocation to LA from behind the Orange Curtain, and I am so glad they are here. With the inclusion of a stellar cocktail program making it an all-around solid place for food and drink, my pocketbook itself is thankful I’m not actually located on the Westside. Regardless, Sotto is a place I would gladly become a regular.
The Southern Italian dishes source Southern Californian ingredients beautifully – starting with a grilled salad enticingly called “Blistered Little Gems,” with anchovy garlic pestata, breadcrumbs, pecorino Moliterno. Yes, it’s a delicious warm salad, three words I never thought I’d ever have put together, but the way in which the flavored bread crumbs, anchovies and garlic gracefully season the still-crisp lettuce was an impressive, physics-defying feat. My knife cut through the greens as loudly as the crunch of the crumbs while bite after bite tickled my tastebuds. It was a starter that made me more than eager about what was to come.
From the ravings from friends in myÂ Twitter feed, however, I had missed out on the most blissful yet simplest of starters: The housemade bread with lardo pestado. So – you’re hereby ordered to try that. I, on theÂ other hand,Â won’t make the mistake, again.
Next were the Sardines and Sicilian citrus salad, with shaved fennel in a crushed olive-pistachio vinaigrette. I loved how the salty skin of the sardines were complimented by the fennel and parsley, making the entire dish a medley of fresh and flavorful textures. The grapefruit was the perfect citrus – not too sweet, a little sourÂ and adding nicely to the overall aroma.
Street Food Monday is back. And for tonight’s installment, it has relocated to Test Kitchen in West LA. This one is especially exciting because contemporary Sinaloan and Nayaritan cuisine from Mariscos Chente’s will be served in anticipation of the opening of a future location. Sergio Penuelas, who was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa has over 15 years experience cooking Nayaritan cuisine.
Tonight’s guests will get to enjoy his Pescado Zarandeado. Snook is butterflied and cooked over a mesquite grill. It’s a deliciously tender preparation incorporating chile and garlic. And here’s the full menu of what you can be expecting tonight – all for $35:
- Tostaditas(3): Ceviche de Camaron, Pate de Marlin, Aguachile Rojo
- Albondigas de Camaron: Soup with shrimp balls
- Taco Gobernador: Shrimp taco with cheese
- Mignon de Camaron: Grilled shrimp fillet
- Pescado Zarandeado: Grilled whole fish served family style
- Capirotada: Mexican bread pudding
So be sure to make your online reservation ASAP. Tonight is a great chance to get a real taste of Sinaloan and Nayaritan food. I had a visit recently to their Inglewood location, which is owned by Connie Cossio and which I can’t sing enough praises about. I would definitely attend tonight if I weren’t out of town right now!