Fork in the Road’s Happy Hour

Charcuterie plate?  Check.
House-pickled vegetables?  Check.
Flat breads from a wood-fired oven, located just outside the kitchen, in view of the dining area?  Check.

Main Street Santa Monica’s Fork in the Road opened in late 2013 and had all the essential ingredients to make it a hit with “food enthusiasts” (my alternative term for “foodies”), like Waterloo & City or Gjelina.  Yet it had only a smattering of pre-opening coverage from Eater LA, one mention on LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, and nothing I could find in LA Times’ Food section, which isn’t that unusual as the Times can’t possibly cover every new restaurant that opens in the greater Los Angeles area.

However, with the number of food bloggers in L.A., I was surprised to not have found any independent reviews of the place longer than a paragraph blurb.  What’s more surprising was lack of recon on Chowhound LA, which, with its grassroots army of food enthusiasts, generally covers much more ground than the above publications.  I could only find a handful of mentions on the board, all of them positive, but light on details, so my wife and I decided to check it out for ourselves one early evening last week.

We arrived about a half an hour before their Happy Hour wrapped at 7 PM, without reservation, with the restaurant and bar about half full.  We were seated at the bar, and, after perusing the menus, we ordered three items from the Happy Hour menu and one additional, not realizing exactly how much food we would get.  This is definitely a place for sharing.

Salmon Tartar[sic] Jar ($8 at Happy Hour, $15 otherwise), with capers, beets, dill crema, toast:  Served in a large, squat mason jar, garnished with edible flowers and house-pickled vegetables, with more on the side in the jar lid, this dish made my wife very happy, as she loves all things salmon (see: our salmon-centric birthday lunch).  I managed to get a few bites, and I found the tartare to be very well balanced, with the brininess of the fish cut by the tart capers, and the earthiness of the beets balanced by the crema.  The pickled vegetables were excellent, especially the caper berries, which I am always excited to encounter.  An amazing deal at $8 during Happy Hour!

Salmon Tartare Jar at Fork in the Road

Salmon Tartare Jar at Fork in the Road

Charcuterie ($13 at Happy Hour, A.Q. otherwise), with pickles, mustard, relish, olives, sourdough:  A selection of salumi, including prosciutto and salami, with cornichons, more caper berries(!), a great chutney-like relish, this was a larger-than-expected charcuterie plate.  Not sure how much the as-quoted price would be, but for the portion, this was another great deal at $13 during Happy Hour!

Charcuterie Board at Fork in the Road

Charcuterie Board at Fork in the Road

Mushroom Flat Bread ($12 at Happy Hour, $15 otherwise), with truffle, manchego, garlic confit:  You can’t go wrong with these ingredients.  This arrived after we polished off most of our first two dishes, which were no small amount of food.  A generous portion in itself, the flat bread probably measured 6″ by 18″.  We ended up taking most of it home and had it cold as a midnight snack, and it held up surprisingly well.

Mushroom Flat Bread at Fork in the Road

Mushroom Flat Bread at Fork in the Road

Pig Tail ($15), with red hot, cheddar tot’s[sic], smoky blue, celery.  This was our one non-Happy Hour dish.  Having sampled pig tails from the likes of Animal, Night+Market, Spice Table, Tar & Roses in Los Angeles, and Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, when I saw it on the menu, I knew I had to order it.  While the accoutrements are obvious nods to buffalo wings, and therefore may invite comparison to Animal’s preparation, unlike Animal, or any of the aforementioned establishments, the pig tail I had at Fork in the Road was not prepared bone-in.  Instead, the tails were cooked until the meat falls off the bone and then made into essentially giant croquetas de jamon, with crispy breading on the outside, and the tender, fatty, flavorful meat on the inside.  This was a creative, and, more importantly, delicious, dish!  (The bottle held more hot sauce, to be applied as needed by medicine dropper.)

Pig Tail at Fork in the Road

Pig Tail at Fork in the Road

Truffles ($1 each), with organic chocolate, smoked almond:  Since we were quite stuffed by this point, we opted for a light dessert.  We didn’t expect a show in the form of a burning rosemary branch.  The truffles were good, though I didn’t get too much of a sense of the smoked almonds.

Organic Chocolate Smoked Almond Truffles at Fork in the Road

Organic Chocolate Smoked Almond Truffles at Fork in the Road

The conventional wisdom among some food enthusiasts seems to be that Main Street Santa Monica is not worth much culinarily, and perhaps that’s why Fork in the Road has been somewhat overlooked by food media.  I definitely think the place deserves a little more attention than it seems to be getting online.  But it seems to be doing alright.  It has 4 stars on Yelp across 100+ reviews, 5 stars on Facebook with nearly 800 Likes, and it usually look busy when I’ve driven by.

Fork in the Road may well be that real neighborhood spot that people who live nearby actually walk to, rather than a destination restaurant that requires valet parking.  And that’s fine.  Let it fly under the radar of the fooderati.  I know I’ll be back!

Fork in the Road
2424 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 450-2244

24 October 2014 by The Offalo
Categories: American, Gastropub | Leave a comment

Night+Market Song

Pla Meuk Tod Gratiem (Fried Baby Octopus) at Night+Market Song

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written about Night+Market, the ultra-popular West Hollywood Thai “street food” restaurant, and quite a lot has happened in the past year.  Most significantly, Night+Market Song, the long-awaited Silver Lake location debuted in March.  Helmed by power-couple Kris Yenbamroong and Sarah St. Lifer, back-of-house and front-of house, respectively, Song has been receiving accolades from the start.  While less convenient a location for me personally, I made a point to dine there a handful of times since opening but had not been back very recently.  Having my sister, her husband, and their toddler son visit this weekend was the perfect excuse to have a big meal with them and my own clan.

Arriving right at 6 PM on a Saturday, we squeaked in before the crowds built.  By the time we left shortly before 8 PM, a large crowd had gathered outside waiting for tables.  I was in charge of ordering, and with some direction from the lovely Ms. Sarah, I got a good variety of dishes, including all four items on the Specials menu that night, starting with…

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13 October 2014 by The Offalo
Categories: Fried Chicken, Offal, Thai | Leave a comment

b.o.s. (Beef. Offal. Sustainable.), a review

Whole Braised Oxtail at b.o.s.

In a cozy, 24-seat space next to venerable Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo, b.o.s. (beef. offal. sustainable.) has been trying to entice potential diners to experience their beef-centric, nose-to-tail concept since late 2013.  Despite positive reviews by press, blogs, and customers alike, business never really picked up, and, unfortunately, b.o.s. will be serving their last supper on Saturday, September 27.

This past week I had the privilege of dining at b.o.s. for my first, and possibly last, time.  I had met owner Jun Isogai and chef David Bartnes at the Plate by Plate benefit back in August, and was already in discussions to set up a tasting menu for a small group of friends when the announcement of their closure dropped.  But rather than dwell on the whys and wherefores of the demise of the restaurant, I hope to inspire you with this post to give b.o.s. a try before the end of the month.

When b.o.s. first opened, the menu had an omakase-style tasting menu option, but one is no longer listed.  However, a tasting menu can still be arranged with the restaurant with advance notice.  For our dinner, we had a budget of $300 for five people, and our goal was to sample the wide range of dishes available at b.o.s.  Jun and I narrowed the tasting menu down to 9 dishes from their a la carte menu that highlighted the breadth of nose-to-tail dining, including one large-format dish.  I also asked if chef David could create a dish just for our dinner, whatever inspired him at the moment.

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14 September 2014 by The Offalo
Categories: Brain, Fusion, Heart, Intestine, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marrow, Mexican, Offal, Oxtail, Sweetbread, Tacos, Tendon, Thai, Tongue, Tripe, Turkish | Leave a comment

The Misfit’s $5 Bar Fly Lunches in Santa Monica

Crispy Chicken Sandwich at The Misfit

If someone asks you what Santa Monica is known for, as far as food goes, there are a few ways to go.   If you’re a gourmand, you’re likely to mention destination restaurants like Tar and Roses, Rustic Canyon, or Melisse.  If you’re a New England expat, though, perhaps the newly opened Dunkin Donuts is on your mind.  But “gourmet burgers” and “cheap eats” are probably not your first or second thoughts, and certainly not together.

However, even if you don’t realize it, Santa Monica is kind of known for gourmet burgers.  Within the city borders lie The Counter, Father’s Office, Hole in the Wall, Pono, Stout, Umami, to name a few.  But they are definitely not cheap eats!  In fact, it is unlikely you can lunch at any of these establishments for under $10, considering the burgers themselves start at $9 (or higher) and just go up from there!

There is one place in town quietly peddling a gourmet burger that holds its own against the above high-end specialists, and it can be had for only $5!

The Misfit, a restaurant and bar in the space previously occupied by Anisette Brasserie, at the base of the historic Clock Tower Building off the Third Street Promenade, has a “Bar Fly Lunch” special Monday through Friday, where one dish a day is available for $5.  The menu lists only three rules you must follow to take advantage of this deal: 1. only at the bar, 2. no holding seats, 3. done at 4 PM (doors open at noon).

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06 September 2014 by The Offalo
Categories: American, Fried Chicken, Gastropub, Hamburger, Salads | Leave a comment

Sushi Tsujita Dinner Omakase

Chutoro (Medium Fatty Tuna) Sashimi at Sushi Tsujita

Sushi Tsujita
2006 Sawtelle Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Sushi has never been more ubiquitous in Los Angeles.  A quick Yelp search, limiting the query just to sushi bars in the “Sawtelle” neighborhood (defined generously as the area bounded by Wilshire/National to the north and south, and Sepulveda/Centinela to the east and west), produces 26 results!  It is in this crowded field that Sushi Tsujita debuts.

Reservations at the 10-seat bar are already difficult to come by, so buzz is certainly on the side of the two-week old restaurant.  With the success of the two noodle shops just down the block, can Tsujita pull off a hat trick with their entry into high-end sushi?

From the moment you arrive, Sushi Tsujita gives you something to talk about, even before stepping into the restaurant proper.  The chandelier in the “enclosed patio” (as the website calls it) imbues the space with a hip, lounge-y vibe.  Indeed, I witnessed members of a large reservation of 10, mingling there with pre-dinner drinks while waiting for their entire party to arrive, and it was very much a party!

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25 August 2014 by The Offalo
Categories: Japanese, Sushi | 2 comments

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