The Parish (Los Angeles, CA)

The Parish
840 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 10/5/12

the parish

The Parish is downtown’s newest gastropub (dubbed a modern English gastropub), opened a couple of months ago at the intersection of Spring and Main streets. The chef is Casey Lane, who made a name for himself at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. The Tasting Kitchen is a place I’ve wanted to try for some time but never made the cross-town trek; given The Parish’s downtown location, it was only a matter of time until I’d find myself here.

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The constantly-changing menu features an array of intriguing selections including a couple of poutine options (fried oyster, pigs feet, crispy pork shoulder), fried frog legs, and a couple of pot pies (pork head, mushroom). However, I’ve heard early mixed reviews about The Parish, which was partially why it took so long.

POUTINE OF FRIED OYSTERS spicy gribiche

POUTINE OF FRIED OYSTERS spicy gribiche

I found the oysters to be rather large, plump juicy morsels, delicious with a rich but slightly acidic gravy. Like the fries though, I found the batter to be a bit soggy – I don’t know if these sat at the pass for some time, but I wanted more texture. All the flavors were here and on point, though.

POUTINE OF CRISPY PORK SHOULDER paneer & mint

POUTINE OF CRISPY PORK SHOULDER paneer & mint

Similar to the other poutine, I found this one to be on the soggy side too. Neither the fries nor the pork were as crispy as advertised. However, I thought the flavors were tasty, with the pork having a strong smokiness and mint providing some interesting depth.

BEETS, MACHE, & HERBS ancient grain granola, molasses yogurt

BEETS, MACHE, & HERBS ancient grain granola, molasses yogurt

For something on the lighter side, the simple beets dish offered a balance of sweet and tart, with some texture from a housemade granola.

CLAMS salumi picante, sherry & leeks

CLAMS salumi picante, sherry & leeks

Our table had mixed feelings on this dish. I thought the sausage-fennel-leeks flavor provided a pretty good balance, but others thought there were too many things going on here. Crusty, charred bread was an ideal way to soak up the broth.

FRIED CHICKEN brussels sprouts, date vinaigrette

FRIED CHICKEN brussels sprouts, date vinaigrette

I found both the light and dark meat to be pretty moist, something that seems to be a rare accomplishment. I really liked the batter too, being both light and crunchy with a good ratio of batter-to-chicken. Brussels sprouts and the date vinaigrette provided some acidity to counter the richness; the sweetness of the dates worked well with the chicken too.

FISH AND CHIPS

FISH AND CHIPS

I thought this was one of the better versions of fish & chips that I’ve had in some time (though also one of the more expensive at $20). Flaky moist fish was smothered in a light batter – simple and well-executed. A cornichon gelee was an interesting way to bring a tart acidity to the mix.

Three desserts were available; we sampled one of each.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

I thought this was a solid rendition of a sticky toffee pudding with all the familiar flavors. A moist cake was doused in a rich toffee sauce, topped with a light whipped cream.

HUCKLEBERRY TRIFLE

HUCKLEBERRY TRIFLE

This was the lightest of the three desserts featuring an interplay of tart and sweet between the fresh hucklberries, creme fraiche and whipped cream.

GULAB JAMUN

GULAB JAMUN

The table was unanimously disappointed with this one. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a gulab jamun before (so this could be an excellent example of one), but it really wasn’t what I expected. The fried dough was kind of soggy and mushy, sitting in a sweet, fruity syrup. Not sure how this one fit into the English gastropub theme.

While I’m pretty tired of the LA gastropub movement, I think The Parish is one of the better ones. The restaurant presented a couple of very good dishes and a few that were almost there. I really thought the poutines, particularly the fried oyster one, could’ve been excellent if not so soggy.┬áThe cocktails were very good, with my favorite being the Nightshift, a mix of┬ábourbon, Czech Fernet, espresso, pu-erh tea, chocolate syrup and milk; an odd combination of flavors but delicious. If there was one major drawback though, it was that service was frustratingly slow and somewhat error-prone, particularly with our drinks.

Test Kitchen: Rocco DiSpirito (Los Angeles, CA)

Return of Test Kitchen: Rocco DiSpirito
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Dining date: 10/1/12

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It’s been almost two years since Test Kitchen ended its run, something that I thought was one of the most interesting things to happen to the LA dining scene in recent years. Quite frankly, I’ve kinda missed it. A rotating cast of notable chefs spent a few days each in the kitchen, cooking whatever they wanted. The ever-changing menu continually kept things fresh and no two meals were alike. It revolutionized the pop-up restaurant in a way, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been fully duplicated since. However, the Test Kitchen legacy has lived on through its derivative restaurants such as Sotto, Picca, Playa and Short Order.

After years of rumors that Test Kitchen would eventually return, it finally seems to have come to fruition with another stint from 10/16-11/11 at upcoming Bestia restaurant in downtown LA. While I will be out of the country during its entire run, I was able to attend the launch and baton-passing from the former space (now Sotto) to the new space. For this occasion Test Kitchen hosted Rocco DiSpirito to cook his version of comfortable (and healthy) Italian fare. Joining DiSpirito in the kitchen were alumni from NYC’s Union Pacific, a restaurant DiSpirito opened in 1997, including Josh Dechellis, Neal Fraser (Grace), and Quinn Hatfield (Hatfield’s).

DiSpirito was promoting and cooking out of his latest cookbook Now Eat This! Italian: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy–All Under 350 Calories, the title of which is a mouthful, pun intended. He was on hand to chat and sign cookbooks for everyone.

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Crudo of Tuna, Meatballs, Kale Chips, Grilled Pane Carasau with Rosemary & Super Olive Oil

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We started with a quartet of antipasti. Tuna was bathed in a cool citrusy bath, while meatballs were smothered in a rich marinara. Thin bread chips and kale-parmiggiano chips (which I’m guessing were baked, not fried) provided the texture; I found the latter to be rather chewy…pretty much like undercooked kale. “Super olive oil,” a blend of olive oil and white wine, was a lighter and less fruity substitution for real olive oil, kind of defeating the purpose.

Lasagna Bolognese

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The main flavor profiles in the lasagna were the sweet tomato sauce and strong basil. With a little bit of shaved mushrooms and meat, I found it to be a hearty dish without being too rich…I’m guessing exactly what Rocco was going for.

Black Cod Puttanesca, Contorni of Polenta, Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

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Next up was a silky smooth piece of black cod; I’m accustomed to the denser, richer fillets so I think this may have been a different breed. I liked it! Earthy olives and capers grounded out the flavors, while the sweetness of tomatoes brightened everything up. The polenta wasn’t particularly memorable, but the Brussels sprouts were better, getting a lot of flavor from the charred bits at the edges.

Cheesecake, Panna Cotta, Instant Strawberry Italian Ice

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Lastly, we were served a disappointing trio of desserts. The strawberry Italian ice was creamy, fruity and refreshing. However, the cheesecake (middle) was gritty, chalky and lacking in the flavor department. Lastly, the panna cotta was a little denser than I would’ve liked, and the subtle caramel flavor couldn’t hold up to the tart dessert.

Pine Nut Cookies

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To take home, we received a batch of pine nut cookies. These weren’t very good either, but I guess they were only 49 calories..

I thought the black cod was excellent, but I found the rest of the meal to be rather ordinary or mediocre. However, given DiSpirito was going the ‘healthy’ route I thought he actually did a pretty decent job for the most part. If the calorie count was correct, this was one of the few sub-1200 calorie meals I haven’t been able to finish (it was a lot of food!). Having said that, Test Kitchen is all about trying out new things and I’m excited for its return…just sad that I will miss its entire run.

Previous Test Kitchen posts:
Test Kitchen Dinners (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
Closing Night – 12/13/10
Reunion – 9/19/11