Dining date: 6/8/14
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.
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.
826 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining dates: 7/12/13, 5/2/14, 5/3/14
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.
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.
Faith & Flower
705 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 4/3/14
Faith & Flower is one of the bigger downtown restaurant openings lately, brought to us by a powerful partnership between Coastal Luxury Management (Pebble Beach Food & Wine, Los Angeles Food & Wine) and Stephane Bombet (Picca). It’s the first LA restaurant opening for the high-profile CLM team and Bombet’s first since his partnership with Ricardo Zarate.
The restaurant space, formerly Towne Food & Drink, is large and quite nice. Located near LA Live, it has a luxurious-feeling interior, though still feels comfortable for someone having a casual meal out. The restaurant partners brought in chef Michael Hung to execute the menu, who comes with a San Francisco-based fine dining pedigree (Jardinere, La Folie). The food is more approachable than his background may suggest; it could be classified as modern American and I found a lot of Asian flair throughout his food. Between our party of three, we sampled our way through a good portion of the menu, picking out a number of vegetarian-friendly items for our vegetarian friend.
712 S Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Dining date: 3/28/14
Located in between popular daytime options Bread Lounge and Stumptown Coffee and just around the corner from always-popular Bestia, Fifty Seven is the latest restaurant opening in the red hot Arts District. The restaurant, which opened this past week, is to me one of the more intriguing recent concepts. The format has been compared to the old Test Kitchen and its revolving door of chefs creating their own menus. Whereas Test Kitchen stints typically lasted just a few days, Fifty Seven will welcome a new chef every few months to come in and create an entirely new menu. To me, the success of Fifty Seven will ultimately be dependent upon the quality and excitement of the chefs they are able to bring in.
David Nayfield is the chef in residence and the first chef to craft their own menu. Nayfield has a strong pedigree, most recently coming from the highly acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. He brings his progressive American cuisine in the form of a $48 three-course menu with a handful of additional a la carte snacks available. Three different options were available for each course; between the two of us, we were able to sample two-thirds of the options and added on two snacks for good measure.
334 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 3/7/14
I’ve only visited Cheviot Hills’ Sushi Zo a couple of times, but both times I’ve concluded that it was a top-tier sushi place in Los Angeles. So, I was very excited to hear chef Keizo Seki was opening up a downtown location in the Medallion Apartments at 4th & Main. While downtown (particularly Little Tokyo) has a few good sushi spots, I wouldn’t say there is anything really special. There are, of course, some good deals (Sushi Gen) but no destination sushiyas where I feel it’s worthwhile for someone to drive in from outside of greater downtown. Zo is really the first high caliber omakase-only, sushi-dedicated restaurant to open in downtown LA (Q Sushi opened up nearby shortly thereafter and is also cut from the same cloth).
While Zo opened in September, my first visit was just earlier this month – way overdue. The omakase menu runs in the mid-$100 range for around 25-30 courses (it varies depending on what is available).