403 W 12th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 5/28/14
At first, chocolate and fried chicken sounded like an odd pairing. When I thought about it some more, I was intrigued and really wanted to try it. I imagine chicken & waffles smothered in a syrup elicited the same initial response, but has become a classic pairing. Some have likened this savory chocolate-chicken application to a mole sauce, though this would be very different. Among almost 20 other spices, a cocoa powder is applied to the chicken’s batter for a unique flavor. That’s after brining the chicken in a mixture that, of course, also includes chocolate.
Adam Fleischman, who brought the Umami Burger and 800 Degrees concepts to life, is also behind Choco Chicken. I’m a pretty big fan of both of those restaurants and figured I would be in good hands during this media preview evening. The restaurant is supposed to open to the public any day now in the former Corkbar space a few blocks away from the Staples Center. Owners feel strong about the concept, with expansion already in the works for a Santa Monica location.
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Dining date: 4/27/14
Spanish cuisine has gotten a lot of attention on the global scene in recent years; as diverse as Los Angeles is, we haven’t seen a lot of new Spanish eateries open up. Except for, of course, the megahit Bazaar; opened almost six years ago, it’s still one of the go-to spots for tapas in the city. smoke.oil.salt aims be another premiere Spanish option in LA.
Opened by Adam Fleischman/AdVantage Partners in the old Angeli Caffe location, the food is tapas-style focused on a lot of traditional flavors. Perfecto Rocher is the chef here, who most recently brought his Spanish influences (and resume including stops at El Bulli and Martin Berasategui) to Lazy Ox Canteen. I visited Lazy Ox a couple of years ago when Rocher was cooking and enjoyed it, so was excited to check out his next stop.
212 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Dining date: 4/12/14
Opened in February, Curtis Stone’s Maude was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year. It’s still one of the most popular restaurants in the city, packing tables for its seasonal, monthly tasting menus. The concept is rather unique; each month, the restaurant chooses one ingredient/theme to showcase throughout its entire 9+ course tasting menu (there is no a la carte option). This April dinner was centered around peas ($80).
Reservations are available at 10am on the 1st of the month for the following month (e.g. April reservations were available on March 1). On March 1, we placed hundreds of calls to get a busy signal…and finally secured a table in the early afternoon. Definitely one of the more difficult reservations to obtain in a while.
Night + Market Song
3322 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 5/2/14
Night + Market has been a hit since opening in 2010. Popular for Kris Yenbamroong’s interpretation of Thai street food, it’s been consistently drawing nationwide attention for its bold, oft-spicy flavors and celebrity clientele. Its success has spawned an offshoot in Silver Lake; Yenbamroong realized many of his customers were driving from the Silver Lake area to the original West Hollywood location. With this more easterly location, it’s now within quick reach of downtown residents (like me!). Having enjoyed the original a few times (but hating the drive to WeHo), I was very excited to hear it was coming to Silver Lake.
This location is currently serving an abbreviated menu without any alcohol (the license is in the works). Still, there are plenty of options on the menu to choose from. We dove into some old favorites and some new dishes.
10422 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 4/8/14
Yamakase has been on my radar since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. The restaurant is an invitation-only (request one here) “secret” Japanese spot serving high-end Japanese. The meal may be best described as kaiseki, but it’s not really; it’s moreso a progression of sushi/sashimi and small plates of whatever the chef wants to serve. The courses are definitely Japanese-centric but there are a handful with clear Western influences. As expected, the meal is omakase-only with around 20-25 courses; the price varies somewhere in the low $200s. It’s a BYOB only affair.
The chef here is Kiyoshiro Yamamoto (Yama-san) formerly of Santa Monica’s The Hump which closed amidst a ton of controversy. Yama-san is a one-man show and the ten-seat bar curves around the kitchen giving everyone a full view of the preparation of the meal from start to finish. For the food-enthused, it’s as much a show as a meal. On this evening, Yama-san began by expertly breaking down a huge bluefin tuna loin, proceeded to prepare two Japanese hairy crabs for the steamer, then grated fresh wasabi root and shaved some truffles. It promised to be an exciting meal even before the first bite.
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Dining date: 3/30/14
After having dinner at Studio the previous night during a quick weekend trip, Marche Moderne was our choice for lunch on the way back from LA. Known for its upscale French bistro food in South Coast Plaza (which really takes mall food up a few notches), the restaurant offers a notable three-course daily lunch menu for $25.
Marche Moderne offers all the items one expects from a French bistro from cheese & charcuterie to a large selection steeped in French classics to some modernized, Californian dishes. The prix-fixe for lunch offers a soup or salad, a plated meat or fish main course and a small dessert. Between two people, it’s possible to sample all of the options on the prix-fixe menu…which is what we did.