Black Hogg (Los Angeles, CA)

Black Hogg
2852 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 5/4/12

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Black Hogg opened in March and has quickly become a popular destination in Silver Lake. Early reviews I’ve read note long waits for the no-reservation tables and bold, flavorful cooking. The food is very much gastropub-like, composed of mostly small plates meant for sharing and a few more substantial large plates. It’s hard to be a gastropub without alcohol though, and Black Hogg is still pursuing its alcohol license. In the meantime, it’s BYOB with no corkage (nice!).

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The chef of Black Hogg is Eric Park, who has The Spotted Pig and Eleven Madison Park on his resume – I’m pretty sure Black Hogg’s cuisine more closely resembles the former. The menu offers a number of intriguing options; since there were just two of us dining this evening, we didn’t want to go too crazy. We probably still over-ordered, ordering three of the smaller plates and three of the more substantial plates.

Popcorn Bacon, Maple Crema

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This has to be one of their most notable dishes so far. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen this before, but these were bite-sized chunks of bacon that were deep fried – think popcorn chicken, not corn popcorn. I think the pork was braised before frying since it was so tender; hard to go wrong with something like this and it was definitely tasty albeit very rich. A maple crema was a nice sweet accompaniment.

Uni Toast, Scallion Vinagrette

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I thought the toast was a bit dense here, but I liked the cool uni with the sesame oil vinaigrette and the cool bite of scallions.

Pork Belly Tacos, Fuji Apple Slaw, Jalepeño Relish

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This might’ve been the most successful complete dish of the evening for me. Chunks of pork belly (again) were topped by a crisp, sweet apple slaw and a spicy jalapeño relish. I found each ingredient to be very well balanced, between the richness of the pork, cool acidity of the slaw and the spiciness of the jalapeno. Quite nice.

Longaniza Sausage Hash, Fried Egg

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I found this dish to have a good balance too. Spicy sausage, green peppers, onions, and both red and purple potatoes were accompanied by a fried egg and warm tortillas. I liked how all the flavors came together; simple and satisfying.

Fat Tire Ale Battered Cod and Ruffled Chips

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The cod was fairly typical in preparation – moist and flaky, though I thought the batter could’ve been a little crispier. Ruffled chips were a fun accompaniment – some were delightfully crispy while some (especially those that stuck to other pieces) were on the oily, soggy side.

Buttery Lamb Burger, Habanero Onions, Onetik Bleu, Fries

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We ordered this burger medium-rare, and I think I’m being a little generous by saying it came out medium-well. Still, it was fairly juicy with a little bit of gaminess working in tandem with the funky bleu cheese. Not bad.

Black Hogg was one of the better gastropub-type meals I’ve had recently, which isn’t to say it didn’t have its faults. I found the ‘untypical’ pub dishes to be more interesting than typical ones such as the fish & chips and burger. Highlights for me were definitely the popcorn bacon and pork belly tacos; because the food is so heavy, coming in larger parties is probably recommended. It’s definitely grub that would go well with alcohol, so I’m curious what they’ll bring to the mix once they get their alcohol license.

Sunny Spot (Venice, CA)

Sunny Spot
822 Washington Blvd
Venice, CA 90292
Dining date: 4/15/12

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Sunny Spot, to me, is an unexpected concept from Korean chef Roy Choi, a Venice “roadside cookshop” serving full-flavored Caribbean grub. Choi (whom I just met for the first time last week) is most famous for bringing the Kogi truck to the streets, as well as “modern picnic” A-Frame and rice bowl-based Chego. I’m a fan of Roy Choi’s food so this place has been on my radar since opening late last year.

I haven’t had a lot of Caribbean food at all, so I was intrigued to find something new. The menu is fairly lengthy, offering around 8 starters, 9 entrees, and 6 side dishes from around the region. Everything is served family style. Like other Choi ventures, it’s not short of personality with dish names such as ‘what a jerk wings,’ ‘cash money fried calamari,’ and ‘muh-f*k*n mofongo.’ Would the food have as much personality as the descriptions?

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YUCCA FRIES with banana Thai basil ketchup

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The yucca fries were cut thick (just the way I like them!) with a consistency very much like French fries. The dipping sauce is what separated the dish, having a sweet (banana) and aromatic (Thai basil) flavor.

MUH-F*K*N MOFONGO plantains, bacon, garlic, black pepper

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I remember hearing about mofongo on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and the word stuck with me ever since. This was my first time having the dish, a creamy and sweet mixture with just a touch of bacon flavor.

CASH MONEY FRIED CALAMARI marinated in coconut milk, tossed with chilis and mint passion fruit sauce

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I found this to be a fairly typical fried calamari, but I did like the sweet passion fruit sauce accompaniment.

BROILED HAMACHI COLLAR garlic-thyme butter, lime, banana chili glaze

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The hamachi collar came next with a nice char; a banana-chili glaze brought the recurring sweet-spicy flavor combination, balanced by a little bit of citrus.

TWO FISTED BURGER tomato jam, arugula, cheddar, herb mayo

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The burger came a medium/medium-well temperature (medium rare was requested) so I think it could’ve been juicier. Tomato jam was a difference-maker for me, providing a sort of savory sweetness that balanced well with the arugula.

JAMAICAN ROASTED LAMB with lettuce wedges and pickled mango

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This was probably my favorite dish of the night with hearty lamb chunks bathed in a slightly spicy sauce. Deep, rich flavors. Cool lettuce and pickled mango helped to offset that richness with their cool bite.

YELLOW SALTY RICE

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We opted for this side of rice, cooked well with a bit of spice.

WE BE YAMMIN’ sweet potato tart, walnut crust, toasted marshmallow ice cream

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HOUSEMADE CARAMELS Maldon sea salt, toasted cashews

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Once we were done with the savories, we ordered two desserts to finish. The sweet potato tart was both interesting and tasty with a sweet, creamy filling and crunchy tart. The toasted marshmallow ice cream was addicting to say the least. I really enjoyed the housemade caramels, which I think I’ve tried before at a bake sale. The chewy caramel was well-balanced with just the right amount of salt and crunchy cashews. Excellent!

Sunny Spot presented a solid meal full of bold flavors centered around the spicy and sweet. It was also something different; a change of pace from much of what I typically eat. Being so inexperienced with Caribbean food, I wonder how close this is to the real thing….though I know Roy Choi isn’t known for doing the traditional.