If you are new to this blog, please feel free to read the pages linked under the About section on the left sidebar to get a better sense of what this site’s about. The first, “The Offalo“, covers the genesis of this blog and gives you a little background on who I am. The second, “The Coloffalon“, is just a message to all the nitpickers on the internets. :-)
[Apologies for the not-so-brief hiatus. Just been busy with life. Still need to eat, so I have a backlog of material to post. I figure I'd restart with my favorite subject, sushi!]
Some of the best sushi-ya in L.A. are on the Westside. Kiriko, Mori, and Shunji are a stone’s throw from each other and all within 5 miles from where I live. Because of this, I rarely venture elsewhere for sushi. Of course, I have a wishlist of sushi/kaiseki places to try, both on the Westside (n/naka, Urasawa, Yamakase, etc.) and elsewhere (Asanebo, Kimagure Ike, Q, Zo, etc.), and I was fortunate enough to cross one of the top ones on my list off a little while ago.
Go’s Mart started off as an actual Japanese market, not as a restaurant, according to a regular who we were sitting next to at the bar. Opened and ran by Go-san’s brother Go-san, Go-san took over Go’s Mart from his brother Go-san (confused yet?) in 2007 and converted it into a restaurant, though he (in)famously continued to operate the VHS tape rentals that I presumed existed before his takeover. Nowadays, the tapes have gone, and Go’s Mart is strictly a sushi-ya.
I was meeting up with a friend from the Bay Area for lunch, and as usual I was running late. Didn’t help that I got lost. Fortunately, I arrived as they opened and my friend had already secured us seats all the way at the back of the small sushi bar. We ordered omakase, but rather than being served individual pieces, Go-san served us what I called “flights” (to borrow from wine terminology) of fish, which were grouped thematically.
The first flight consisted of four shiromi, white-fleshed fish: shimaaji (striped jack), kinmedai (golden eye sea bream), karei engawa (flounder fin), kanpachi (amberjack). The fish were all served with yuzukosho (a peppery, citrus-y chili paste), as well as yuzu zest and delicate strips of black truffle. The bold and complex mixture of flavors were quite different than what I’ve become accustomed to with sushi and worked better than I expected.
Next was the flight of maguro: kamatoro aburi (torched fatty tuna collar), kawagishi toro (scraped fatty tuna), akami (lean tuna). This was a most decadent and delicious trio. The kamatoro was topped with gold flakes, and the preparation rendered some of the fattiness instead into crispy edges. The kawagishi was almost tartare-like, and topped with caviar. The akami was the most traditional, with some scallion and a slice of fried garlic.
Ebiko (shrimp roe) served as our intermezzo. Soaked in ponzu, with a hint of sake, if I recall correctly, it was a refreshingly briny treat. It was rather difficult to eat with chopsticks, so I just downed it like a shot.
My favorite seafood tend to be invertebrates, so I was very much looking forward to this plate of non-fish sushi, or hokanomono: uni (sea urchin), amaebi aburi (torched sweet shrimp), zuwaigani (snow crab), hotate (scallop). The truffle oil, which topped each piece, rather than overpowered, really accentuated the sweetness of the each neta, which were exemplary.
Our second intermezzo was the fried head of the amaebi in ponzu, deliciously crisp and “refreshing” in its own way.
Back to sushi, and my preferred kind of fish too, hikarimono, or silver/shiny-skinned fish: sekiaji (horse mackerel from Oita, Japan), sanma (pike mackerel), ebodai (butterfish), kohada (shad). I’ve had some amazing aji and sanma at Shunji and Kiriko, and a really fantastic piece of ebodai at Yojisan last year. The pieces at Go’s Mart didn’t quite measure up to those top specimen (in my opinion–my friend absolutely adored the kohada here), they were still expertly prepared and delicious. The goji berries were an interesting choice to help cut the natural bitterness of hikarimono.
I was pleasantly surprised by the second flight of hokanomono that came next: awabi w/kimo (abalone w/liver), mirugai (giant clam), tako aburi (torched octopus). The tako, which was marked “live” (though I didn’t see it squirming during prep) was probably the best octopus nigiri I’ve had, snappy yet tender, with the slight smokey char from the torch. The mirugai was clean and briny. The awabi was excellent, and, true to my moniker, I loved the rich, buttery, bitterness of the kimo.
At this point, we started ordering okonomi, or à la carte. The regular sitting next to us, Rick I believe his name was, said he gets the ankimo (monkfish liver) every time he comes in, which is often, so we had to try it. The piece was still warm from being made just earlier that day. Topped with some scallions and a goji berry, it was the best solid piece of monkfish liver I’ve had. It’s been called the foie gras of the sea, and the piece I had definitely lived up to that reputation.
Shirasu (icefish) was my next order, and it was great. Slighty bitter, but well balanced with the minced ginger mixed together with the Lilliputian fish.
As I mentioned, I really love non-fish seafood, so I had to try the mongo ika. I had a hard time determining the kind of squid it was, as the other species all had relatively clear translations: aori ika (bigfin reef squid), sumi ika (cuttlefish–literally “ink squid”), yari ika (spearhead squid), etc. It appears to translate as common cuttlefish. Regardless, it was sweet and tender, not too chewy.
For my last piece of nigiri, I opted for sayori (needlefish). I’m not sure if it’d fall under shiromi or hikarimono, but it seemed to have the best of both: delicate, mild flesh, but with a underlying earthy (ocean-y?) bitterness.
Dessert was a platter of mixed fruit drizzled with condensed milk. Simple and a great way to close out the meal.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Go’s Mart. I was really pleasantly surprised by the experience. Go-san projects a playful pseudo-gruffness with a mischievous edge. I heard him telling another patron who had asked what the uni was that it was peanut butter! Go-san was not the only interesting character in the place. Rick, the regular I mentioned previously, has apparently been going to Go’s Mart for 17 years, if I recall correctly, back when it was just a market. He comes in multiple times a week just to get the ankimo. The other regulars I saw were also super-friendly to the newcomers, and the place just has that Cheers-esque everybody-knows-your-name feeling.
Go’s Mart is a true neighborhood spot that belies the incredible quality fish and amazing skills behind the counter. If only it wasn’t so far away, I’d be willing to try to become a regular too. I guess I’ll just have to “settle” for Kiriko and Shunji. ;-)
Go’s Mart (Yelp)
22330 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. The first entry was on Ramen Hayatemaru. The second entry was on Sweet Rose Creamery. This third entry is on Night+Market in West Hollywood.
According to my “records” I have been to Night+Market “only” 9 times since my first visit in July. It would be more, except for the fact that it’s quite far from where I live. If it were any closer, I would definitely be in the high-teens by now. It has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., mostly for having incredibly delicious food, but also because it doesn’t try to be anything but what it is, a “neighborhood” spot, serving simple, authentic “Thai street food” (so says the masthead on their site).
Of course, the neighborhood is West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip, but that’s presumably where chef/owner Kris Yenbamroong spent some of his childhood, in Talisai, the restaurant his family opened and ran since the early 1980s. One actually accesses Night+Market by entering Talisai, turning right, and then going through a curtained, arched doorway. Street parking is a bit rough, but there is a public lot just across the street, for a very reasonable $1/hour before 6 PM and just-fifty-cent-more-than-the-meter $2/hour after 6 PM.
Kris will soon be opening Night+Market “Song” (meaning “Two” in Thai) in Silver Lake around Christmas, thanks to the success of the mothership, enjoyed by actors, musicians, artists (such as graffiti artist André, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi, and the band Arcade Fire, just to name a few recent notable customers from Kris’s Instagram feed), and us plebeians alike. In the past, when the restaurant hasn’t been too busy, Kris would take time out of the kitchen to chat with his patrons, so before he opens Song and has to start splitting his time between the two locations, I wanted to squeeze in a few more visits to WeHo while the captain was sure to be in the kitchen.
* * *
I went tonight and was joined by Chris Hei, who showed me the ropes on my first visit. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I joined him, as I arrived 15 minutes late, while he was early. The specials tonight included of some “regulars” that we had on my first visit, such as Hey-Ha Wings and Nam Kao Tod, but also had some new items, like Tub Hwan, an Isan pig liver salad that I was very interested in, and Tum Kanoon, a spicy jackfruit salad that was unfortunately sold out.
Fried Pig Tail, $7: The first of the items we ordered, the fried pig tails were excellent as always, simultaneously crispy and fatty and delicious.
[I joked with Chris that we should do a pig tail crawl. Going East to West, we could start at The Spice Table in Downtown L.A., which unfortunately is slated to close at the end of the year, followed by Animal in "Beverly Grove", then Night+Market in WeHo, and finally Tar & Roses in Santa Monica. Who's with me?]
Nam Kao Tod, “*SPICY* crispy rice salad w/spicy sour pork, raw ginger, onions, peanuts”, $9: I get this dish nearly every time. It is, as marked on the menu, quite spicy, so please be aware, but it is worth enduring the heat!
Hot Pot Tom Yum Shrimp Soup, $12: This was the first time I’ve had tom yum goong at N+M. The shrimp were plump, the broth spicy yet subtle in its complex flavors of lemongrass, galangal, and other ingredients.
It is a big pot of soup, a little too much for us with the other stuff we ordered; it would be good for 2 people as a bigger part of their meal, or even 3-4 people as just one of many dishes to sample.
Tub Hwan, “Isan pig liver salad with herbs, limes, fish sauce, chile… SPICY!”, $10: I didn’t find this dish to be as spicy as the last two dishes, but perhaps my taste buds had acclimated to the spice. As my moniker is “The Offalo”, it’d probably have been a safe bet that I’d enjoy this, and I did. Probably the best dish of the night, what surprised me the most was how sweet and tender the liver was. It had none of the grittiness or minerality of cooked liver, but it wasn’t raw either. The tanginess of the lime really came through as well. It was almost like a pig liver ceviche!
Kao Kluk Gapi, “shrimp paste-seasoned rice”, $13: I had had this dish on a previous visit and really enjoyed it. Though we already had rice in the form of the Nam Kao Tod, I wanted to have this dish again. Between the sticky-crispy candied pork, the fluffy shredded egg omelet, and the snappiness of the mango, this was a sweet, savory, pungent concoction of a rice dish.
Ice Cream Sandwich, $4.5: Of course, we couldn’t leave without having this signature dessert. The coconut ice cream is a great salve for the mouth, the fat in the ice cream carrying away the capsaicin. I only wish that more ice cream flavors were offered more often. On my first visit, we had Thai iced tea ice cream. On another visit, I had durian ice cream. Chris mentioned having pandan ice cream there once.
* * *
My penultimate visit to N+M was solo, less than two weeks ago, and it was the first time I had a certain category of food in my life. Before we get to that, however, that night’s Specials also had a few new items, including Yum Hed, a non-meat dish with mixed mushrooms that Kris was experimenting with as a potential dish for Song. It wasn’t quite vegetarian, having fish sauce in it, and, unfortunately, I did not try it, as I was distracted by the Razor Clams on special!
Nam Kao Tod, “*SPICY* crispy rice salad w/spicy sour pork, raw ginger, onions, peanuts”, $9: As mentioned above, I get this dish nearly every time…
Razor Clams, “(4) grilled clams topped w/lime, chile, + garlic”, $15: Kris had just picked up these razor clams that morning, and I could tell they were fresh, as they were quite tender (I could cut them with a fork) and sweet. They were a little gritty and sandy, especially in the “guts”, but perhaps there wasn’t time to “purge” them with a long soak since they were so fresh. Regardless, they were delicious.
Sai Uah, Chiengrai herb sausage, $7: I had had this dish on a previous visit, and I actually like it better than the Sai Krok Issan, the spherical fermented pork sausage. The nam prik noom, a roasted chile “salsa/relish”, was great, but there was another reason I ordered this dish…
Nam Prik Maendga, water bug chile relish, off-menu supplemental for the Sai Uah, $2: Yes, water bug. I had seen a picture of the bugs on Kris’s Instagram (to spare the squeamish, I will not embed the image here, click the link at own risk). Despite the fact that I love eating animal parts that most Americans wouldn’t dream of eating–a product of my upbringing in Taiwan, where as much of an animal is used for food–I have never eaten insects before. I am not someone who finds a thrill in “extreme” eating, but since I’ve really enjoyed expanding my palate with cuisines I haven’t been familiar with, such as the authentic Isan Thai cuisince at N+M, I really wanted to try this.
What came out looked nearly identical to the nam prik noom that accompanies the Sai Uah. I tasted some by itself, and if no one told me, I wouldn’t have known that this dish had any kind of insect in it. I asked Kris later how he prepares the bugs, and he said he steams them, then opens them up and uses the insides, so I wouldn’t have encountered any carapace or anything identifiably “buggy”.
The taste was interesting. Compared to the nam prik noom, this had a more fragrant quality, and I experienced a numbing sensation that was more like what one gets from mint or eucalyptus than from really spicy foods. It was great with the sausage and with slices of cucumber!
Ice Cream Sandwich, $4.5: See above! :-)
* * *
So that was my two most recent visits! I got to have some old favorites and try some new stuff! To wrap things up, I will highlight one more dish, not from a recent visit, because it’s damn good, and then call it a night!
Moo Sadoong, ‘startled pig’, “grilled pork, basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, bird eye chile”, $9: Chris had recommended I try this after our first visit, so I did, on my second visit a few weeks later. This is an incredibly strong dish, with big flavors that all work incredibly well together. It’s spicy, tart, fragrant, and spicy. (Yes, I listed it twice on purpose.) I’d definitely recommend some sticky rice or coconut rice to go with it. In fact, an order of this and a side of rice would make a great meal (or two) on their own.
Okay, I lied about the above being the last dish. Just like I have to end (nearly) every meal at N+M with an Ice Cream Sandwich, I’ll close with one last Instagram of this signature dessert, this time with the aforementioned durian ice cream; all the deliciousness of ice cream with a touch of fragrant gasoline. Durian’s definitely an acquired taste, but this is probably the most accessible way to try it! I enjoyed it!
Of course, I’ve had many, many more dishes across my 1.5 dozen visits, too numerous to include in one post. Most of the dishes are very affordable, especially for the neighborhood, and encourage experimentation. I urge everyone to go and just try a few.
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9043 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. The first entry was on Ramen Hayatemaru. This second entry is for Sweet Rose Creamery’s second location in Santa Monica, on Pico Boulevard.
According to my “records” I have been to Sweet Rose Creamery‘s Pico location 17 times! I know that already sounds like a lot, but keep in mind SRC Pico only opened a month and a half ago, so I’m averaging nearly 3 visits a week. (Yikes! Can I blame my kids?) In that time, I’ve tried nearly every flavor that they’ve offered, either through samples or by having actual servings. I’ve also tried most of the baked goods from Milo & Olive and some of the coffee drinks by Caffe Luxxe, and they were as good as ever.
In fact, the issue I had with the Pancetta Quiche being too oily the first time I had it has not reoccurred. However, my favorite baked good is still the Chile Cheese Scone.
SRC Pico maintains a list of flavors under the “Classics” banner like Salted Caramel, Caffe Luxxe Coffee, and some form of Maggie’s Mint with an assortment of chocolate admix (e.g., chips, ripple, Valrhona pearls), which are all still offered, though my younger daughter’s favorite, Cookies and Cream, has fallen off the menu in the past few weeks.
Another highlight, the “PB&J”, a twist of their two inaugural soft serve flavors, Kyoho Grape and Peanut Butter, always had a warning attached that the flavors, especially the grape, were a limited time offering. I’m sad to report that the “PB&J” has finally gone away, not to return at least this month, per the staff member I asked this week.
Some of the newer “Seasonal” flavors introduced since open include Earl Grey, Banana, Gaia Melon (frozen yogurt), Apple (sorbet), and Apricot (sorbet).
However, I guess chef Shiho Yoshikawa takes seasonality pretty seriously, as she’s already started transitioning away from those selections in favor of more autumnal flavors, such as Brown Sugar Butter Pecan and Spiced Pumpkin. Another new flavor, one of my current favorites, is Honey Stout! On the toppings front, they made Ghost-mallows (my name for them) for Halloween!
As mentioned above, SRC Pico finally changed their soft serve flavors just this week, and it may change again soon according to staff. Right now they’re making limited batches of Passion Fruit soft serve. The other flavor in the machine is a more pedestrian Chocolate. I decided to be adventurous and try the twist. Not sure that the flavor combination works, but the Passion Fruit soft serve by itself is amazing! Get it while you can!
Update: Brought the kids back tonight (see, it really is their fault!) for visit number 18. Flavors are changing left and right. No Honey Stout tonight, but Cookie Dough is a new flavor. Of course, my younger daughter, missing her Cookies and Cream, had to try it, with (I think) a relatively new topping, cocoa nibs. The base has a distinct sweet yet tangy taste of really fresh cream, like in their Cookies and Cream. The cookies were not quite as prominent as I would have liked.
The cocoa nibs were a little too bitter for my younger daughter so I had the “horrible” task of eating it, and any accompanying ice cream that it was embedded in. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. ;-)
My older daughter and I shared a Passion Fruit soft serve. No chocolate twist this time. Despite what the workers say behind the counter, that combination still doesn’t quite work for me. The Passion Fruit on its own is definitely the way to go!
Sweet Rose Creamery
826 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
I (generally) devote a single post to my first visit to a new place (e.g., most recently Gjelina, Littlefork, Pizzeria Mozza) or for great individual meals at familiar haunts (e.g., Shunji, Kiriko), but I have a rotation of places I like to visit regularly that I haven’t posted on recently. So I will be working my way through some of these places in a series of posts I’m calling “Revisitings”. This first entry is on Ramen Hayatemaru in West L.A.
According to my “records” I have been to Ramen Hayatemaru (Official, Facebook) over 20 times. Is it my favorite ramen-ya? No, that honor goes to Tsujita ANNEX, but what keeps me going back are two main factors: convenience and cost.
On convenience, while Hayatemaru’s parking lot is small, and nearly half the spots are reserved either for the 7-Eleven or the dry cleaners that share the strip mall, there is almost never a wait there, unlike at Tsujita ANNEX (or the original Tsujita across the street at lunch). On cost, Hayatemaru offers half bowls of ramen starting at $5, and their best regular side dishes (gyoza, zangi, amazu) are all priced at $3.90. It is cash only, but one could have a feast for $10!
Of their regular sides, the Amazu is “amazu-ing!” The fried chicken chunks are not too heavily breaded and are crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. The sauce is like ponzu but with more sweet and sour flavor. The pun at the beginning of this paragraph may have been terrible, but this dish is terrific!
One other thing that I like about Hayatemaru is that they have been expanding their menu, bringing in seasonal items like cold noodle dishes and adding to their side offerings with chicken wings, egg omelets, fried chicken skin, and more. One of my favorite new items is the Ebiton, which debuted at the Ramen Yokocho Fest in September.
The Ebiton is still a pork-based ramen, but infused with shrimp flavor. It comes with half an egg, either hard or soft boiled depending on your preference, and it is topped with minced dried shrimp and ground pork and two small fried shrimp that you can eat whole, shell and all.
The Ebiton is $9 and unfortunately does not come in half sizes. It’s a little oilier than their other ramen offerings but is still very good! It’s the only ramen I order now at Hayatemaru!
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
ShopHouse‘s second L.A. location, on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, opened mid-October. I made a short post on it at Chowhound at the time, but I thought it might be useful enough to post here as well.
My wife and I went to check it out just before noon on opening day. I dropped her off and went to find parking. When she went in, only one other person was in line, so she got our food really quick. By the time I parked and walked in ~10 minutes later, the line was out the door. However, only about a quarter of the seating was taken. Most people were getting the food to go.
My wife’s bowl consisted of jasmine rice, grilled chicken satay, green beans, green curry, green papaya slaw, and toasted rice. I tasted it and it definitely had some kick to it.* The spices seemed authentic. I was pleasantly surprised.
My bowl consisted of chilled rice noodles, grilled steak laab, eggplant & Thai basil, tamarind vinaigrette, pickled vegetables, and toasted rice. Again, a little heat, nicely spiced, pleasantly surprised.
In and out, lunch took less than half an hour, but remember that my wife beat the line, and our meal cost less than $16 for both bowls including tax (no drinks).
*It’s not marked on the menu, either online or the to-go menus they were handing out, but on the board, there were small “flame” icons to indicate spiciness:
- None of the bases were marked as spicy.
- Of the proteins, only the tofu was marked as spicy, with 1 flame.
- Of the veggies, the order of of spiciness, from 1 flame to 4 flames, was charred corn, eggplant & Thai basil, broccoli, and green beans.
- Of the sauces, the spicy red curry had 4 flames, the green curry had 2 flames, and the tamarind vinaigrette had 1 flame.
- Of the garnish, the green papaya slaw had 1 flame.
- None of the crispy toppings were marked as spicy.
1401 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
Gjelina’s been on my must-try list for quite some time, but stories of long waits and insensitive service have kept me away. However, the potential of a butterscotch dessert that could rival Pizzeria Mozza‘s budino was enough to entice me and my wife to finally give it a try on an early Sunday afternoon. And yes, we took our older daughter, last seen with me at Littlefork, along with us.
Since the restaurant doesn’t take reservations for brunch, for parties of our size at least, I dropped the wife and kid at the door and went to look for parking, which I somehow managed to score within 5-10 minutes on busy Abbot Kinney. However, the time for a table was significantly longer at ~45 minutes. As we had already perused the menu while we waited, we ordered quickly once we were seated.
Niman Ranch Lamb Burger, Harissa Aioli, Arugula, Roasted Tomato, $15: This was my daughter’s dish, and she enjoyed it. The burger was prepared medium-rare, was tender and juicy, and had a mellow grassiness to it. The toppings were simple and complemented the burger well.
Open-Faced Turkey Tartine, Rapini, Tomato, Caramel Onion, Gryuere, Béchamel, Fried Egg, $16: This was my wife’s choice, and ended up being a rather pedestrian dish. The turkey was thin-sliced and not too dry, but didn’t have much going for it. The mélange of other ingredients all worked well together, but the best part was probably the rapini, which were properly bitter yet bright.
East Coast Fluke Crudo, Passion Fruit, Lime, Cilantro, Fresno Chiles, $15: The first of my two dishes, I was hoping for the king mackerel version that’s on the brunch menu posted on their site, as I enjoy the richer flavor of that fish. That day, the crudo was done with fluke, which is a very mild fish. It had good texture, but not much flavor, and served more as a proteinous platform for the other, more piquant, ingredients.
Anchovy & Burrata Toasts, Pepperonata, Capers, Sherry, $15: The second of my selections, I liked this one much better than the first. The burrata was top notch, sweet and creamy, which contrasts perfectly with the salinity of the anchovy and capers.
Butterscotch Pot de Crème, Salted Caramel, Crème Fraîche, $8: The dessert comparison we had been waiting for, my wife enjoyed this quite a bit but still liked Mozza’s budino better, which she said had more of the deeper, burnt sugar flavor that she prefers.
Yogurt Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit, $10: Panna Cotta is one of my favorite desserts, and Gjelina’s did not disappoint. The yogurt base is an interesting choice, making the dish more tart than I’m used to, but it worked. It was still sweet, of course, and the passion fruit helped highlight that.
I did not post any pics of the drinks, but the Mint Iced Tea was good. The Limeade was even better! Lime, perhaps fresh squeezed, mint, maybe basil, some kind of sweetener, obviously, and a splash of club soda, I could drink it all day long!
Service was pleasant; when my wife asked if the egg on her tartine could be prepared any way other than sunny side up, her request was declined, but politely and without attitude. Service was also a bit slow, and uneven; our waiter said that my dishes would be prepared at the charcuterie “kitchen” (or “bar” or whatever) and would likely come out before the other dishes, but they ended up coming out quite a bit after the rest of the dishes, when my wife and daughter were both nearly done with their meals.
It’s not quite at the same level as Tar & Roses for me, but the food at Gjelina is definitely worth a repeat visit. If only it weren’t always so crowded–it took longer to get a table at Gjelina at 2:30 PM on a Sunday than it did to get in at T&R on a (different) Sunday at 6:30 PM without reservations–I would definitely go to Gjelina more often.
1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
Seafood restaurants are hot in L.A. these days, particularly New England-inspired ones. Littlefork, which opened earlier this year, is doing this trend justice by executing a signature New England dish that holds its own against the ones I’ve had growing up on the Right Coast.
Before we get to that, the main reason that I had wanted to try Littlefork was for their $1 “Oyster Hour” (daily 5-7pm and Friday & Saturday 10pm). A couple Saturdays ago, I decided to go. Not wanting to dine alone, and taking advantage of a break in her very busy social schedule, I dragged my older daughter along.
We arrived shortly before the early evening Oyster Hour was about to end, an hour after we departed (@#$% L.A. traffic!). We were late for our reservation but still promptly seated. When we inquired about the $1 oysters, the waiter informed us that the deal could only be had at the bar.
Since my daughter is not of drinking age, we were moved to two stools flanking an eating “surface”–let’s say it was just a little bigger than an airplane tray table–in the bar area. It didn’t phase us; we were here for the food (and one drink, the excellent house-made Ginger Beer, $4)!
Grassy Bar Oysters, from Morro Bay, two dozen for $24: I’ve had dollar oysters before. I’ve had oysters at AYCE buffets. They almost always disappoint. Fortunately, the ones at Littlefork were probably the best buck oysters I’ve had. Not one out of twenty-four had any grit or shell; not one out of twenty-four tasted off either. All were fresh and plump. I’ve had other oyster varieties I’ve liked better, but in terms of quality and prep these Grassy Bars were top notch!
(Note: The variety of the oyster offered for a dollar does change. Also, our table was so small, that we had to eat the oysters in two waves. No pun intended.)
Pork Rind Cheet Toes, $4: My daughter pointed these out to me, and we had to try them. A bowl of orange-powdered chicharrón were brought out to us, hot and surprisingly light. They did indeed have the cheesy taste of the popular snack the name puns on. It was a fun dish to follow the fancy, grown-up, raw oysters we just downed.
Steamers, Habanero, Beer, Garlic, Shallots, $18: This special is available only on Friday and Saturday nights. The few times I’ve ordered them around L.A. (before I gave up on them), the steamers were always sandy, shriveled, and had broken shells. With that history and the memory of some amazing steamers I’d enjoyed at the Matunuck Oyster Bar in Rhode Island a few months ago fresh in my mind, I tried to be cautiously optimistic but also prepared myself for disappointment.
What a relief! The steamers were on the smallish side but were also tender, sweet, and perfectly cooked. They must have been well purged; not a single one was sandy. And, no broken shells! No need for a dunk back in the bowl except to pick up more flavor from the broth, which I really enjoyed. Mussels and hard-shell clams, sure, but I can’t recall ever having steamers prepared spicy.
(At this point, I toyed with ordering the crispy oyster sliders, which I had heard great things about, or the smoked meat poutine, but we were getting full and wanted to save room for dessert…)
Apple Cider Donuts, Apple Butter, Salted Caramel, $8: Cider doughnuts are apparently a thing that I somehow missed growing up in New England. Anyway, how can you not like hot doughnuts, fresh from the fryer, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar? I didn’t think the combination of apple butter and salted caramel would work, but they did. This was a great way to wrap up the meal.
Littlefork seems custom-made for me. I may have mentioned once or twice above that I grew up in New England, but I also lived in Montreal for several years. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to explore the Québécois aspects of the menu, but I will definitely remedy that on a future visit.
(And in case anyone’s wondering how my daughter liked it, she ate everything and enjoyed it all too! Having accompanied me to Tar & Roses last month, she’s quickly supplanting Chris Hei as my partner-in-dine.)
1600 Wilcox Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
All photographs © 2013 The Offalo
I’ll keep the pre(r)amble to a minimum, since Pizzeria Mozza‘s bona fides‘ already well established. My wife and I went for lunch on a Sunday in early September for two main reasons: First, we were celebrating our anniversary. Second, perhaps more importantly, we wanted to see if the famed Butterscotch Budino that I had heard so much about could live up to the hype that surrounded it. We were, ironically, not in the mood for pizza (though the clam pizette called strongly to the New Englander in me), so we ordered a simple selection of Antipasti, Insalata, and Bruschette, starting with…