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.
Truffle Dinner Series
SAAM at The Bazaar
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 2/23/13
It’s been a while since I’ve been to The Bazaar, Jose Andres’ ever popular molecular gastronomy/tapas restaurant. After more than two years, a truffle tasting menu is what brought me back to the restaurant’s private dining area, the SAAM Room; the restaurant held one series in the fall and another in the month of February. $250 paid for 16 courses with black truffles and The Bazaar’s unique flair for creativity in their dishes. Considering the price tag of the special ingredient, I thought this was a relatively reasonable splurge.
My past two experiences at SAAM Room left me thinking the entertainment factor took front seat to flavor development, especially compared to Las Vegas’ é by Jose Andres (which I think has the much better overall experience). However, this meal would exceed expectations set from the past meals.
A lone white saucer awaited us at the table as we sat down. We were too curious to not take a peek inside, which yielded a glimpse (and instant aroma) of the not-to-secret ingredient of the night (we ate through almost the entire thing be the end of the night). I’d have to admit I was pretty excited at this point.
1031 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Dining date: 12/24/12
San Tung is consistently one of San Francisco’s most popular Chinese restaurants, known for its long waits almost as much as its food. Located in the Sunset district of the city, the first-come first-served restaurant always seems to have a crowd waiting outside, especially on the weekends. Its 3,000+ Yelp reviews (currently a 4-star rating) place it in the top 10 of most-reviewed S.F. restaurants and I feel like I always hear it mentioned when people talk about “must-try” dishes in the city.
What’s the must-try dish? San Tung is known for noodles and dumplings, but their real signature is their “dry fried” items. Shrimp, calamari, flounder, beef and chicken are fried by the batch here, then glazed in a sweet-savory sauce. The most popular, by far, is the chicken wings.
We came early on a Monday for lunch and got one of the last tables available.
this is not a pop-up: Evan Funke
4854 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Dining date: 2/6/13
this is not a pop-up, housed in Hollywood’s Square One Dining space, follows a similar concept to the now-defunct Test Kitchen, housing chefs for a short period of time to cook whatever they want. It’s a concept that I really liked then, and enjoy just as much now as it keeps things new and interesting. Evan Funke, of Rustic Canyon fame (and developed one of LA’s most notable burgers) stepped into the restaurant for one night to preview his menu for upcoming Bucato.
Bucato, developed in the old Beacon restaurant in the Helms Bakery complex (with Father’s Office and Lukshon), has faced a number of delays (first rumored to open in December). While working on the opening of his Italian restaurant and “pasta laboratorio,” Funke started up a food truck serving only one thing – porchetta sandwiches. I recently tried it and, while not exactly a traditional porchetta, it was delicious.
It convinced us to try more of Funke’s food, bringing us to his pop-up menu of eight courses priced at $65.
State Bird Provisions
1529 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
Dining date: 12/28/12
This was one of the restaurants I really wanted to try while I was in San Francisco (probably #1 on my list). Opened on the last day of 2011, it was named to numerous lists for best new restaurants of the year, including being the number one best new restaurant in America according to Bon Appetit. Stories of hours-long lines (yes, multiple hours) and consistently strong reviews fueled the buzz throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, reservations are still very difficult to come by, probably one of the most difficult in the city. I checked their website multiple times per day for a couple of weeks, and the best I could do was a party of 2 at 5:30 (looking for any availability over a week span). The day before, some cancellations yielded a 10:30 table for 4; very late, but it allowed our whole family to dine together.
One of the distinctive features of the restaurant is its use of a dim sum-like cart. It’s loaded up with a variety of dishes and pushed through the dining room, letting diners get a glimpse of the dishes before choosing. And, if you don’t see what you want, anything can be ordered off the menu to be directly delivered to your table. It’s a fun concept that really works with a small plates restaurant, one I would expect to see duplicated…and not just in Chinese restaurants.