143 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
I'm thrilled to welcome Sycamore Kitchen to the neighborhood. Having heard that they serve Stumptown coffee, nothing could get me there soon enough yesterday for their opening day. Quinn and Karen Hatfield (the power couple behind the critically acclaimed Hatfield's) have answered my prayers with the debut of their lunchtime patio cafe. And it is just in time for summer! With a casual vibe and industrial space, it's perfectly tucked away on La Brea Ave. amidst some of LA's coolest vintage boutiques and furniture stores.
The outdoor patio is spacious but sparse, with simple metal tables and chairs seated beneath large white umbrellas. Inside, exposed brick walls with high ceilings dripping in aluminum tubing and rafters create that sought-after, designer loft feeling. Glass windows keep the space feeling bright and airy and if you're in one of your characteristically nice-enough-to-talk-to-a-stranger-moods you can sit at a wooden communal table and make friends. Or just gawk at the glass counter filled with tantalizing (and dare I say it, pretty healthy) pastries, like lemon polenta cake, coconut carrot parsnip bread and quinoa muffins.
As for the menu, the fresh, wholesome ingredients are creatively combined with thoughtfully intended seasonal flavors; which is exactly what I expect from chefs of such genius.
The Roasted Chicken Breast Sandwich [$11] was delectable. Sandwiched between two slices of country bread slathered in tangy olive tapenade and sweet meyer lemon confit, the subtle juxtaposition of flavors was magical. With juicy tomato and frissee lettuces, this inconspicuous looking little sandwich will slowly disarm you and quite possibly undress you.
The Chinoix Salad [$12] with shredded chicken, cabbage, apple, almond, puffed rice, and muddled ginger vinaigrette was light and delicious. Any fan of chinese chicken salad will enjoy this leafy delight. The crunch from the puffed rice and the sliced almonds were a lovely substitute to your typical fried wonton and I enjoyed the fresh bite of sliced apples that replaced the more traditional mandarin slices.
Mediterranean Chicken Salad [$12] with dates, toasted hazelnuts, radicchio, kale, blue cheese, and red wine vinaigrette is a superb choice for someone craving a more powerful salad. The blue cheese of course brought an intensely sharp and complex creaminess to the salad, and the saltiness of the blue cheese was paired with the sweetness of halved dates and the warm nuttiness of toasted hazelnuts. All the bases were covered here to make a truly tasty salad.
The Double B-LTA [$11] with crispy bacon and braised pork belly, butter lettuce, balsamic tomatoes, and avocado on country bread was a lusciously decadent darling. The pork belly and the avocado were creamy and practically melted into the fresh baked bread. Thank goodness for the balsamic on the tomatoes because they had the acidity needed to wake everything up. And if that doesn't do the trick, a Stumptown cold brew sure will.
Sycamore Kitchen is open for coffee and lunch all day from 8am-5pm. No alcohol is served for now, but a salted caramel pecan bopka roll should take your mind off of that. Sycamore Kitchen has good things unfolding, with breakfast coming soon, and weekend brunch after that. The menu foreshadows such delicacies as rolled buckwheat crepes with strawberries, ricotta, and honey butter and cinnamon brioche french toast with grated apple slaw and creme fraiche. That's right, when the Hatfield's whip out the creme fraiche, the best thing to do is say "YESH".
143 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Chef Kris Yenbamwroong has really come up with something spectacular at the Talesai Hotel. Since Kris is chef and owner of two completely opposing Thai restaurants at the hotel, walking through these doors is nothing short of a revelation in identity. The restaurants may be side by side, but the ambiance, food and clientele are worlds apart. The choice is yours.
Either choose to be seated at the traditional, more formal Talesai Cafe, or sit at the wooden communal tables at Night + Market for an extra spicy adventure in Thai street food.
So which restaurant calls your name?
If a James Beard Award nomination and a nod from Jonathan Gold mean anything to you, the choice falls off your mouth-watering lips with the unwavering certainty of a moth to a flame: "Two for Night + Market, please". Honestly, I made that call with the same involuntary certitude it takes my heart to beat or my eyes to blink. And don't be surprised if after trying a few of Kris's vibrantly delicious dishes, that heart of yours does skip a beat.
These small plates are really meant to accompany a drink, and they are perfectly portioned just to last you through your beer. As Gold said on KCRW, "That is their purpose". So get ready to select a small army of dishes to carry you through the night.
The Nam Kao Tod ($9) is a crispy rice salad with spicy fermented pork, and loads of ginger, onion cilantro, chopped peanuts, scallions, lime juice, fish sauce and dried chili peppers. Some people's faces get that shadowed look of concern at the mention of fermented pork, but it's essentially just sausage so everybody can just keep calm. The rice turned out to be intensely spicy, and I may have counted more slices of Thai ginger in the bowl than grains of rice. But the flavors were like a palette-popping rebellion in my mouth, and the sporadic slugs of Singha beer that quelled the ambush were a god-send.
The Fried Pig Tail ($6) is an absolute must. The outside is crispy and the inside is full of soft, fatty pork so rich that I'm afraid Francois Hollande might start taxing it. Most of us have tried pork belly, so I should mention that the pig tail is similarly decadent. The difference is slightly crunchy cartilage here n' there which ultimately adds texture and the giggle inducing, teehee type reminder that you're noshing on a curly little pig's tail.
The Som Tum Papaya Salad ($7) with green papaya, tomatoes, and lemon juice was light and refreshing. The green papaya had a texture similar to that of cucumber but less watery. The lemon juice kept the salad light and zesty and was a pleasant accompaniment to the more pungent flavors of the other dishes.
The Sai Uah, Chiengrai herb sausage ($6) is made in-house and comes with noom salsa and cucumber. The sausage was spicy hot and gritty and would go very nicely with a side of sweet sticky rice or coconut rice to calm the heat level. For those of you who would rather not play with fire, the restaurant welcomes any request to tame the heat on any dish. The herbaceous pork was phenomenal, and I am biting at the bit to try the minced chicken sausage with fish sauce and the issan sour sausage that is served a little pink on the inside.
The Pu Pad Pong Karee, Curried Crab ($16) is a super lump crab with curry powder and onions. The juxtaposition between the sweetness of the crab and the sharpness of the curried onions makes this dish taste more playful than some of the spicier picks of the evening. It combined two of my most favorite things: delicate, sweet crab and pungent, astringent onions. I was relieved that the curry powder didn't overwhelm the sweetness of the crab or onions. Chef Kris achieved a balance of flavors that was pure poetry with his curry powder. Made from a medley of different spices, his yellow curry was delicate and harmonious enough to be a song in your heart.
The Pad Kee Mao, Drunken Noodles with Short Ribs ($11) were wide, flat noodles with chile, basil, garlic and chunks of short rib. The noodles were ribbon thin and held together beautifully. The soft chewiness of the noodle held the garlic and yet maintained a gentle simplicity of taste while the short rib was as succulent, tender and toothsome as I had expected.
The Ice Cream Sandwich ($4.50) is another striking example of the joys of straight forward flavors. A scoop of coconut ice cream is sandwiched between two thick slabs of warm, grilled, challah-like egg bread. The contrast of the creamy cold coconut paired with the warmth of the bread was fantastic. And underneath it all was a bed of sticky rice made sweet by a coat of condensed milk.
After a wild night packed with chili and ginger and pure hotness, this ice cream sandwich was like the cool feel of bed sheets on a hot summer night.
Night + Market is a trip to Thailand where the street vendor's carts are all safe to eat, i.e., a dream come true. The food and the chef alike have been showered in accolades, and yet the hype and admiration haven't turned the restaurant into a trendy, elbow-rubber's paradise. Why not? Because it doesn't need to be a hotspot when the kitchen can handle the heat.
All you foodies out there with eclectic palettes who want to stay abreast of what is going on in the world of food have found a new, mouth watering blog to sink your teeth into. Justine Freeman wants to talk about the healthy quinoa salad and tuna stuffed peppers she eats regularly at Pizza Mozza but then she cannot wait to divulge every greasy detail about the sensational short rib and mac n cheese sandwich she devoured at the Grilled Cheese Truck. Here, It's all about FOOD.