13488 Maxella Ave
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Dining date: 4/10/13
Paiche opened this past Friday, the newest venture from the Mo-Chica/Picca team of Ricardo Zarate and Stephane Bombet. I’d been to Paiche the week before for the collaborative dinner with Naomi Pomeroy (of Beast in Portland), but this would be my first look at the restaurant in its true form. The restaurant opened up for a Friends & Family night to celebrate the grand opening and get a full night’s service under its belt.
Overall I would say the style of the food is very similar to Picca and Mo-Chica, but the izakaya approach presents a few differences. Portions are tapas-sized, sized to be able to share a lot of different flavors. The menu is, by far, the most vast I’ve seen from the team with over 50 items on the menu. The drink side of the menu is equally as large, with almost 20 cocktail options on the menu and dozens more in terms of wine/beer/spirits.
Son of a Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 4/9/13
Graham Elliot might be best-known for being a judge on MasterChef (alongside Gordon Ramsay and Joseph Bastianich), but he first made a name for himself in the kitchens of Chicago. He’s opened three restaurants in the city with his flagship being the eponymous Graham Elliot, which was awarded two Michelin stars in the latest guide. Elliot was in town to do some MasterChef tapings and decided to cook a two-night pop-up dinner, 5 courses for $100. Much cheaper than a flight to Chi-town. A wine pairing was available for $40 but we decided to go with the $30 cocktail pairing instead.
329 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 4/5/13
I’ve always been surprised that Little Tokyo (or LA really, for that matter) didn’t have any udon specialists. Ramen is big here, of course, but there aren’t any shops dedicated to the thick, white noodle (I have heard there are a couple in Gardena/Torrance though). Whereas ramen is typically served in a richer, fattier broth (pork-bone tonkotsu, soy sauce shoyu, miso, and salt shio are most popular in LA), udon is usually served in a much lighter dashi-based clear broth.
Of course, most of the jack-of-all-trades Japanese restaurants serve their variation of the noodle soup, but it’s typically in very basic form using frozen or dried noodles. In fact, it was in one of these do-all Japanese restaurants where I fell in love with the thick, chewy noodle at a young age. Tempura udon (tempura on the side) was one of my favorite dishes growing up, back when I thought ramen came in packages of dehydrated noodles with an oh-so-addicting salty seasoning packet.
However, just in the past couple of months, two udon specialists have opened up shop in Little Tokyo featuring fresh, handmade noodles and a menu centered on (if not exclusively on) the noodle. Tsurumaru Udon opened in February in the quiet Little Tokyo Galleria Mall, serving a cafeteria-style menu often seen in Japan. You pick a base udon, a size, and customize toppings and are usually eating within 5-10 minutes of entering. It’s cheap, quick and they make a very satisfying bowl. Marugame Monzo, next door to ever-popular ramen joint Daikokuya, replaced Fat Spoon last month with a sit-down affair.
Marugame Monzo’s menu features about a dozen hot ramen and half-dozen cold ramen with even some ‘salad udon’ options. Not really sure what that last one is. They also have a handful of rice bowls (which I’ve heard are quite good), but I was here for the udon.
Naomi Pomeroy (Beast)
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Dining date: 3/26/13
While it seems like downtown’s Mo-Chica is still a relatively new restaurant, chef Ricardo Zarate and Stephane Bombet (Picca, Mo-Chica) are about to unleash their newest concept Paiche in Marina Del Rey. Dubbed a Peruvian izakaya, the team is bringing Zarate’s Peruvian style closer to the water. I haven’t seen a menu of the new place, though a preview (and what appears to be a few old favorites and a bunch of new creations) is here.
In order to celebrate the grand opening (April 2), Paiche teamed up with Food GPS on a couple of one-night collaborative dinner events featuring a number of past Food & Wine Best New Chefs. The first dinner hosted Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland (2009 Best New Chef) on a 5-course, $52 affair. The second night brought in Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro in Boston (2011 Best New Chef) and Viet Pham of Forage in Salt Lake City (2011 Best New Chef) on a 6-courser for $62.
332 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 2/2/13 and 3/16/13
Maccheroni Republic opened at the end of last year, from the old owners of Locanda Veneta in mid-city. The location couldn’t be more different, from the Beverly Hills-adjacent Locanda Veneta to this spot across the street from Grand Central Market in downtown. It’s not exactly the kind of area where you feel comfortable walking around alone at night.
The restaurant has a real neighborhood feel to it, charming with a large patio outside of the main dining room.
The menu seems to be sort of Italian comfort food, with a number of familiar appetizers (minestrone, arancini, bruschetta) and larger plates centered around housemade pastas. Most everything is pretty simple, relying on ingredients and execution of the classic Italian fare. The food tends to be pretty hearty (and carb-heavy) and portions are on the generous side, so even one pasta dish would fill most people up. With everything on the menu hovering around $10 (the most expensive is $14) it’s definitely reasonably priced for downtown LA standards.
1320 Echo Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 2/28/13
Allumette opened earlier this year, in what was a quick re-conceptualization of Echo Park’s Allston Yacht Club. Young chef Miles Thompson, formerly of Son of a Gun, brought his pop-up The Vagrancy Project to AYC last summer. It sounded like a successful run and I’d heard much about it, but never got the chance to attend one of those dinners. However Thompson wasn’t going very far – he became the executive chef of Allumette.
The menu is small plates-based, split into a few dishes each of vegetables, pasta, fish, shellfish, meats and for sharing. The portions are small enough to create a customized tasting menu, but most were substantial enough to share (like we did). I was invited to come have a taste of the new restaurant and was excited to experience some of the young chef’s cooking.