HappiSongs, Steven Arroyo's new Asian small plates and sake spot in the former Rita Flora space on La Brea, you have to admit the designer has the right moves. Copper tile walls, antique bicycles, vintagey-Japanese menus -- it's all very Empire of the Sun-meets-tofu fries with chipotle yuzu aioli.
But lunching with pregnant Evy, neither of us is able to try the extensive sake menu, and the selection of non-alcoholic drinks is strictly basic. The short menu hits the usual suspects -- ahi tuna, Korean shortribs, shrimp tempura, but also sports some more interesting entries. The Chinese chicken salad ($9) is a tasty version sans mandarin oranges, but with an unusual tangle of shredded daikon hiding in the bowl. Singapore noodles with shrimp ($10) aren't quite as successful -- they're a bit gummy and not very interestingly seasoned. Singapore Banana Leaf at Farmer's Market does better noodle dishes. But I wouldn't mind returning, maybe in the evening when it's time to hit the sake, to try fried sea smelt, fennel fish soup, pork belly yakitori and some Chinese broccoli with hoisin sauce. I don't know if Arroyo spent any time copying the ramshackle charm of Sake House Miro just down the street, but he's certainly updated the concept adorably. Let's hope the rest of the menu holds up, and without the service problems that sometimes mar the fun atmosphere at his other restaurants.
HappiSongs Asian Tavern
460 South LaBrea