The Royce (Pasadena, CA)

The Royce
The Langham Huntington
1401 S Oak Knoll Ave
Pasadena, CA 91106
Dining date: 7/10/14

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The Langham Pasadena’s main restaurant has gone through a number of changes since I first dined on Craig Strong’s food at The Dining Room. Since then, Michael Voltaggio and David Feau have taken the helm for relatively short-lived chef-driven concepts (Voltaggio left to start ink. and Feau’s The Royce struggled to grasp its regular clientele). Early last year, The Royce was reborn as a steakhouse, a more conservative concept perhaps more reflecting the tastes of its primary customer base.

The Royce boasts USDA Prime cuts, as well as some international wagyu selections, all grilled over a wood fire. A largely seafood-based selection of appetizers and some seasonal side dishes round out the menu. I felt no urgency to try the new steakhouse concept, but being a steak lover I figured a visit was in order at some point. That point was just this past week.

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Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. (Monterey Park, CA)

Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.
122 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Dining date: 4/11/14

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Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. garnered plenty of attention when it first opened (almost a year ago) for its fried chicken and Japanese-accented side dishes. Long waits for its no-reservation tables kept me away at first; like most restaurants, the initial buzz died down and a table became much more manageable. Monterey Park seemed like as good a place as any to open up an Asian-slanted fried chicken shop.

While a la carte is available, most order ‘chicken dinner sets’ at a not unreasonable $12.50 per person. It turns out to be about 2-3 pieces per person, a side to share and a bowl of chicken rice. Hungrier eaters can supplement with additional ~$2 for wing/drumstick, $3.50 for a thigh and $6.25 for a breast. Our party of 6 ordered a large chicken set with some supplemental side dishes.

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Kali Dining (Los Angeles, CA)

Kali Dining
Various Locations
Dining date: 6/8/14

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Kali Dining is one of the more well-known of the underground dinners in Los Angeles having been around for a couple of years now. Kevin Meehan is the chef behind the concept, who spent time in the kitchens of L’Orangerie and Bastide and most recently served as Executive Chef of downtown’s Cafe Pinot.

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With Kali Dining, Meehan takes his fine dining background and brings it to a much more casual atmosphere. Dinners have popped up in a number of locations around the city, primarily in downtown and on the Westside. My recent visit was to a dinner at a downtown artist’s loft; it was a gorgeous place for a pop-up dinner, where a communal table sat 20 strangers. All of the Kali Dining dinners are BYOB, ~5 courses, with a recommended minimum donation of $65pp.

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POT (Los Angeles, CA)

POT
The Line Hotel
3515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Dining date: 4/30/14

So far, Roy Choi’s restaurants have represented a number of cuisines/concepts from Korean-Mexican fusion to Caribbean to Asian rice bowl-centric Chego, but POT is his first deep dive into Korean cuisine. POT is one of a few concepts Choi is in charge of at the new Line Hotel in Koreatown, which also includes the bar (in collaboration with Matthew Biancaniello), cafe and room service.

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The name of the restaurant is sure to get a rise out of many, but it’s a play on words for the restaurant’s focal dish – Korean hot pots. Approximately eight are offered at any point in time – some vegetarian, some with seafood, some with offals. Something for everyone, really, as long as the hot & spicy pots are your thing. Dozens of other Korean items complete the menu with a lot of variety.

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Guerrilla Tacos (Los Angeles, CA)

Guerrilla Tacos
826 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining dates: 7/12/13, 5/2/14, 5/3/14

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Guerrilla Tacos began almost two years ago and has consistently generated positive attention for its unique approach to tacos. There are so many taquerias in Los Angeles it’s difficult to stand out, but Guerrilla Tacos has done it with its upscale, modern approach to the casual taco. Chef Wes Avila went to culinary school and is classically trained; leveraging many of those principles, he’s really upped the game for the casual taco. Avila uses tortillas as a vehicle to showcase top-notch seasonal ingredients and meats in a wide variety of ways.

The menu changes constantly; I’ve seen few taquerias with such a varied menu. One day may have octopus, Proscuitto di Parma, and fresh squash tacos; the next may have lamb shank and oxtail. Diver scallops, sashimi-grade fish and live sea urchin are commonplace on the menu. Sure the tacos are more expensive than most in LA, but the quality of ingredients are clearly a differentiating factor. A meal can still be had for under $15, maybe $20 for bigger appetites.

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Choco Chicken (Los Angeles, CA)

Choco Chicken
403 W 12th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 5/28/14

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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.

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