Our mission: Find a place for dinner with fellow blogger Layne of Manifeasto, three kids with varying degrees of adventurous-ness, and our two men. Region: somewhere east of Silver Lake.
I remembered the L.A. Times review of Hot Stuff Cafe in San Gabriel from a few months back, where steaks and grilled salmon mix with a few Burmese specialties (the owners were previously affiliated with the Burmese Romantic Steak House) and some fruity drinks, all in a bright, casual atmosphere with decent prices. "What kind of restaurant is this?" asked one of the kids. Well, that's a good question -- it's fusion cooking, but not in the Pan-Asian sense, but more in the Sawtelle Grill style where spaghetti with uni might be a special, and steak comes with a choice of rice, fries or spaghetti. At dinner, there weren't very many Burmese dishes in evidence -- apparently they're more likely to be found on the lunch specials.
One of the few more exotic dishes was a chicken cabbage salad we had to start, liberally annointed with hot sauce (at left). I liked it because it gave me an idea for an easy, healthy lunch idea: julienne nappa cabbage, add shedded chicken, mix dressing with Sriracha, feel virtuous all day.
The main courses aspire to fine cooking, with touches like espresso sauce on the duck breast, but they're kind like of the Famima version of sushi -- nice try, but it's not exactly Jar. My shortribs were pretty good, maybe not quite as flavorful as in the best places, but about half the price.
Matt's beef curry stew was mild but tasty, and Sam seemed to enjoy his steak frites. I think Layne's kids' had a different steak which wasn't as good, but their salmon and seabass (below) seemed competent, but not mind-blowing. One of the kids got an impressively tall apple drink; another got a green, strangely shampooey-tasting one. Sam polished off a tiramisu served in a cute cappucino cup, but I was too full to try the tea-flavored creme brulee.
For people in the San Gabriel Valley who get to eat Chinese food all the time, it's probably a nice change of pace to have a steak or grilled salmon once in a while. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd make the trek when I'd usually rather have Chinese or Vietnamese food, but it served the purpose for that evening, with beer and wine to boot. And there's a kids menu, too.
Hot Stuff Cafe
315 S. San Gabriel Blvd.