Friday, July 17, 2015

Lamill Coffee Freshens Up Menu, Streamlines Premium Coffee Program

Silver Lakers pack Lamill to work, caffeinate and socialize

When Lamill Coffee Boutique opened seven years ago, EatingLA wondered whether it might be "too spiffy for scruffy Silver Lake?" Well, Silver Lake isn't so scruffy anymore, and since 2008 the area has seen the arrival of various new wave coffee purveyors such as Intelligentsia, Dinosaur, Caffe Vita, Sqirl, Go Get 'Em Tiger, Proof Bakery, Broome St. and many more. But Lamill's fanciful decor stands above the plywood aesthetic of the more minimal spots.
Lamill is one of the few coffee roasters that is actually local (Groundworks and Bar Nine are a few of the others), and over the years the Silver Lake Blvd. cafe has simplified its beverage program to bring it more in line with what the neighborhood prefers. Gone are the pricey and whimsical concoctions like "coffee and a cigarette" with tobacco-infused whipped cream -- more recently the cafe has moved to offering a half dozen freshly-roasted blends and single origin coffees available with three brewing methods: Clover vacuum brewing, hand drip or French press. Fortunately the excellent Hong Kong Milk Tea is still on the menu along with a dozen other tea selections from Lamill's own label.
Boursin omelette with roasted tomatoes
Chef James Trees (Hutchinson, Michael Mina, Whist) has given the menu a freshening up, with house-made pastries and maple espresso brioche donuts, a wide brunch selection and lunch and dinner entrees. When Lamill opened, the neighborhood was aghast a the prices, but now they're in line with the rest of the area. On the menu for breakfast and brunch are the ubiquitous avocado toast smeared with what must be an entire avocado; smoked salmon toast; a terrific, classic Boursin omelette; Eggs Benedict and chicken and waffles.
If you don't tend to think of Lamill as a place for lunch or dinner, think again -- try a croque monsieur, shrimp 'n grits, the Lamill Burger, steak frites or salads. There's also wine and six different craft beer selections. Lamill is open until 10 pm, 11 pm on weekends.

Lamill Coffee Boutique
1636 Silver Lake Blvd.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ostrich Farm: Echo Park's Cozy, Stylish Spot Flies Under the Radar

Ostrich Farm's interior is simple but not austere

Some very good restaurants have opened in the area this year, and Echo Park's Ostrich Farm is one of the best of the lot. It was also a good chance to read up on why it's called Ostrich Farm, since I had heard more about the South Pasadena bird attraction than the Griffith Park one. In this month's Los Feliz Ledger, I gave it the top rating of four forks. Read the review:

Ostrich Farm is the swankiest place to open in Echo Park since since Allumette closed up a year ago. But where Allumette's ambitious, borderline-molecular dishes never quite seemed comfortable in the former Allston Yacht Club space, Ostrich Farm and its light touch with new American cuisine feels like the right spot at the right time.
seared shrimp and asparagus

Ostrich Farm proprietors Jaime Turrey (who ran the Monsieur Egg cart) and Brooke Fruchtman (a former LACMA exec) are first-time restaurant owners, but after five months they seem to have everything running smoothly, with a clientele that includes lots of locals of all ages and the occasional movie star.
The former purple-painted pupuseria is now a bright, white space with big windows looking out on Sunset, a long marble bar and sage leatherette banquettes. The only wall decoration is a block-printed tapestry, which combines with modern gold lamps, vases of baby's breath on each table and rough linen napkins for a stylish rustic look right down to the stubby wine glasses.
flatbread with grilled peaches and burrata

The menu seems simple at first glance, with a few flatbreads, the now-inevitable chicken liver toast, mussels and meatballs among the starters. But layers of flavors are revealed when you bite into the flatbread with grilled peaches, fennel and a generous puddle of burrata, which you'll want to snack on forever with a glass of rose or Sauvignon blanc. Grilled shrimp and asparagus, topped with shards of parmesan, looks basic, but the perfectly-grilled shellfish is a light complement to some of the richer dishes.
pork osso buco with polenta

Sea bass, rib eye steak, and roast chicken make up most of the entrees along with a braised beef pot pie and pork "osso buco" style. The pork is a bowl of pure comfort, with pillows of braised meat resting on a bed of pudding-like polenta decorated with broccolini, roasted fennel and roasted tomatoes. It's the kind of dish where each forkful is an experiment in combining salty, bitter, smooth and savory to create just the right flavor in your mouth. A soft-shell crab BLT sandwich special gets a little confused with layers of mayonnaise, roasted tomatoes and thick-cut bacon on sourdough bread but it's hard to complain about something so decadently satisfying.
The dessert list is small but more tempting than most -- salted dark chocolate tart sounds appealing, but we tried a cherry galette topped with whipped cream and a marzipan base, the ideal celebration of the current season's fruit. 
Sadly, Ostrich Farm is unable to use its rear patio for seating due to noise concerns
Ostrich Farm (named for the railway that ran to a 1880s Griffith Park tourist attraction), seems to have figured out how to be stylish without being pretentious and creative without being fussy. You could buy 50 pupusas for the price of a meal for two here, but right now, this is what the area wants.

Ostrich Farm, 1525 W. Sunset Blvd., 213-537-0657

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What's New at Chaya Downtown? Fish Straight from Japan and the Return of the Beer Garden

The patio beer garden is a fine spot on warm summer nights
Chaya Downtown is hosting a weeknight beer garden for the fourth year, featuring kushiyaki skewers and other items grilled on the outside patio, beer and pitcher specials and boozy popsicles. But what's new at the 5-year old restaurant is the Kaisen bar, a fresh seafood bar that replaces the sushi bar.
Chef Joji Inoue flies in a variety of fish fresh from Japan twice a week, including the scary-looking but delicious spotted knifejaw, orata, branzino, threeline grunt and opal eye. Oysters, lobster and crab are also sourced from the best regions and flown in several times a week. Fish is available grilled, baked in sea salt or deep-fried.
Stuart Haygarth's whimsical chandelier at Chaya
Sea Robin, grouper, bonnet fish and tilefish are just some of the hard-to-find varieties
Chef Inoue also prepares battera sushi -- the Osaka style layers rice and fish in a box for a compelling presentation. The Kaisen bar menu is served every night at dinner along with other Chaya specialties. The beer garden starts at 4, Monday to Friday; happy hour is every night until 8, one of Downtown's good values.
Chaya Downtown 
525 S. Flower St.

(I was invited to try this restaurant)

Monday, June 15, 2015

La Tostaderia: Fish Tacos and Ceviche Stand Out at Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market's recent addition of ceviche and fish taco stand La Tostaderia joins Wexler's Deli as the latest reason you don't have to spend an hour in line at Eggslut to have a delicious meal at the rapidly-changing food hall. Owner Fernando Villagomez has long run carnitas stand Las Morelianas in the market, and he's now partnering with chef Sandra Felix for a counter that's an ode to fresh, modern Mexican seafood preparations.

fish tacos at la Tostaderia

Both fish and shrimp tacos were excellent, with green salsa verde providing a tart, zingy contrast to freshly-fried nuggets of corvina fish topped with crunchy bits of pork chicharones.

campechana verde ceviche

While the tacos were our favorite at a recent tasting, ceviches were also a cut above most Mexican restaurants in L.A., especially the smooth and tangy Campechana verde with shrimp, squid, scallops and corn nuts and the scallop aguachile. Most dishes are $8-10, but that seems worth it for the fat tacos and solid portions of ceviche. When Golden Road Brewing opens later this year in the market, their beers should make the perfect pairing with La Tostaderia's appealing seafood dishes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Is Nancy's Fancy 'The Gelato That Will Change America'?

That's a lot of pressure to put on a frozen dessert, so let's assess this new and luxurious product that one chef said could convert Americans from ice cream to gelato.
What/who: Nancy's Fancy comes from Nancy Silverton, co-owner of Mozza, founder of La Brea Bakery and Beard award-winning pastry chef. They're made at the L.A. Creamery facility in Chatsworth.To me, gelato only tastes different from ice cream when you're eating it in Italy or at least housemade at a gelato specialty shop. So to my taste, these packaged pints are on the same playing field as other upscale ice creams found around L.A.

Flavors considered in reverse order of preference:
1) Butterscotch budino with salted caramel swirl: Mozza is known for its uber-rich butterscotch budino dessert; this version adds a salted caramel swirl. The layer upon layer of deeply caramelized flavor is wonderful but best in small doses; a little too sweet overall. B
2) Frutti di bosco: Berries with Greek yogurt have a bright, deep berry flavor. Almost too intense, but perfect paired with something blander. A-
3) Coconut stracciatella: This gelato surprisingly has no dairy, just luscious coconut cream with finely ground chocolate shavings. It's way creamier than the typical sorbet or soy ice cream, with a fairly strong salty component that I personally found addictive playing off the bittersweet chocolate. A
4) Roasted banana with bourbon & pecan praline: It's easy to tell how good this is going to taste from the name alone. The banana flavor is subtle, but combined with the bourbon undercurrent and crunchy sweet praline bits, it's the winning entry so far. A+

Price: $10.99 a pint. Yep, it's a lot, but it's also the same as Jeni's and in line with places like Salt & Straw and Carmela. If you're a quality over quantity ice cream person, as I am, it could be worth the splurge. There's probably no gelato that will actually get Americans to stop eating cheap, low-quality ice cream, but this could definitely change your bringing-dessert-to-a-friend's-house-game.
I'm looking forward to trying some other flavors in the works like Chunky peanut butter with salted peanuts and Stumptown spiced coffee with cocoa nibs.
Available at: Gelson's Markets

( I was provided this ice cream to try but I would have definitely tried it on my own as well.)

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Carousel Restaurant: When the Original is Still the Best

The interior is brighter and more open than before.

In this month's Los Feliz Ledger, EatingLA paid a return visit to Carousel, which has recently redecorated.

Why to go: After more than 30 years, a recent facelift and a beer and wine license is the perfect reason to revisit Carousel in East Hollywood, which still turns out some of the city's best Middle Eastern cooking.
The look: Carousel retained its 1980s mini-mall ambiance for decades, while the more lavishly decorated
location on Brand Boulevard in Glendale seemed to get all the attention from the Tcholakian family. Now Carousel's original restaurant on Hollywood Blvd near Normandie is more inviting, with an opened-up layout, black and white photos and carved wood accents replacing the hotel-room art and frosted glass dividers. Bright canvas awnings shield the sidewalk tables from the parking lot, and some even bring their doggies to dine al fresco.
Carousel is now serving beer and wine

The food: After trying "modern" Mediterranean dishes elsewhere like kale tabbouli, you might find
yourself dreaming of Carousel's perfectly-balanced fattouch salad or its bracingly tart, herb-flecked cabbage salad that's the perfect foil to the richness of charred lamb kebabs or creamy hummus. The homestyle Lebanese dishes at Carousel define the flavors that others experiment with, but sometimes the original is still the best.
Vegetarian sampler is the perfect way to try everything

Entree kebabs and samplers are a good value for plenty of food, but make sure to explore the more unusual corners of the appetizer menu. Tabbouli comes in regular and a "red" variety with sauteed tomatoes and onions, while hummus gains another dimension with toppings of ground beef or Armenian soujouk sausage. Carousel was where I first tried muhammara, the fruity, lightly- spiced dip made of red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate, and it's hard to find a better version. I had already tried fattoush salad before I ever went to Carousel, growing fond of the combination of crunchy pita slices, cucumbers, tomatoes and purslane. But as soon as I tasted Carousel's bright citrus-sumac vinaigrette, I could tell a new standard had been set for the signature salad.
Beef Kofta

Kebbeh, or steak tartare, is one of the most popular traditional dishes, but if you prefer beef to be cooked, try Beef Kofta, fried torpedos of ground beef and pine nuts that start the meal off just right. You'll want to assemble various deliciously garlicky concoctions using pita bread and meats as a base, so make sure appetizers include several spreads like smooth eggplant mutabbal or moussaka and creamy lebneh (yogurt cheese).
Save room for baklava and Armenian coffee after dinner, and or try something different like the fragrant rosewater and Lebanese cheese desserts.
To drink: Lebanese and Armenian beer and wine work well with herb and onion-laden dishes, or try
housemade lemonade, bright green tarragon soda pop or traditional yogurt tun drink.
Must-tries: Muhammara dip, fattoush salad, eggplant moussaka, chicken lula kebab, lamb kebab
Good to know: Middle Eastern restaurants easily kids, vegetarians and gluten-free diners. Carousel's catering also feeds many of the Eastside's parties and celebrations. The menu at the Glendale location may be slightly larger, but Hollywood location is convenient with its parking lot, and it's easier to carry on a conversation without the live entertainment featured in Glendale some nights.
Carousel, 5112 Hollywood Blvd., 323-660-8060

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Go Get 'Em Tiger: Hyperion Gets a Coffee Energy Infusion

Reko Ethopian filtered coffee gets the day started alertly

The stretch of Silver Lake between Sunset Junction and Broome St. on Rowena is lacking some good coffee action. Say Cheese is serviceable but other than that, might as well just get a free sample at Trader Joe's. So it was exciting to see Go Get 'Em Tiger, the serious coffee outpost from Larchmont from Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski (this year's U.S. champion barista), open a coffee pop-up.
Coffees available include the unusual turmeric/ginger/almond/macadamia cappucino
Located in the former Lucky Duck space, where Hyperion meets Griffith Park Blvd., it's only for four months or so while they ready their new location next to Bar Covell on Hollywood Blvd., but we'll take it, and hope that maybe another quality caffeine outpost will take over that location. It's a pretty basic operation -- a few pastries, a few bags of coffee available and a focus on espresso, cappucino and filtered coffee. The almond/macadamia milk infused cappucino ($5) is plenty rich despite the absence of milk products, with a hint of nuttiness. Filtered coffee ($4) is smooth and bright, with enough for two cups in each carafe. It kept me focused and alert all day, and as I once told FoodGPS, I felt like a better person after drinking it. Which seems well worth $4. Also, the L.A. Family School dads are pretty stylin, so there's that.

Go Get 'Em Tiger
2630 Hyperion Ave.
Open 7 am to 2 pm or so, until August or so

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Atwater Villlage Festival: New Breweries and Cider This Year

The Atwater Village Festival is back Sunday, April 26, for its third year, sponsored by craft beer destination Link 'n Hops. L.A. breweries Angel City and Golden Road, along with Valencia's Wolf Creek, will be joined by Boulevard Brewing, Belching Beaver (famous for their peanut butter milk stout), Bravery Brewing and more. This year's festival will also feature the event's first cider booth from Sonoma Cider Company.
Wine tasting, gourmet sausages, food trucks and music are also on tap.
Want to win tickets to the festival? Send an email to with your idea for the perfect beer float pairing with a brewery featured at the festival. Tell us which beer you would pair with which ice cream flavor in an email with your full name as it appears on your driver's license and we'll pick the best combo to win two free tickets.

The festival runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets, available on the website, are $35.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Lacha Somtum: the Thai Restaurant You Should be Going To

What if one of the best Thai restaurants in Los Angeles opened in Hollywood, but hardly anyone realized it?

Lacha Somtum has been quietly rolling along for about a year now, while trendier Thai restaurants in Silver Lake and Chinatown get all the attention.
The restaurant attracted a small flurry of write-ups, mostly for its specialty in more than a dozen types of somtum, the tangy, spicy Northern Thai papaya salad. But the Thai Town restaurant, which is typically deserted around 7 p.m. (presumably it gets busier later on), is far more than just a papaya salad gimmick spot with plenty of other dishes that put twists on traditional Isaan cuisine.
Papaya salad with black crab, Thai eggplant

But first, the papaya salad: Green papayas aren’t sweet like their orange relatives. Shredded with tart lime juice dressing, the salads are a refreshing – although still spicy — counterpart to hot soups and curries. The usual preparation combines crushed peanuts, fresh chilies, long beans and dried shrimp or fresh crab. Here you can add salted egg, crispy pork, clear noodles, Thai eggplant or ground catfish to the fiery mix. Some don’t even have papaya at all, but instead offer corn, mango or fruit salad instead of the shredded fruit.
Kon Kaen-style duck larb

Besides papaya salad, one of the other mainstays of the Laos-adjacent Isaan region is larb, a salad based on ground meat mixed with chilies, lemongrass and lime juice. Crispy fried larb -- ground pork patties stuffed with cilantro, chilies, rice powder and lime juice -- are a terrific way to start a meal. For something a little less fried, the tangy duck larb is a must and is rounded out by roasted rice powder to create a flavor bomb of staggering proportions that ranks with the year’s best dishes.

nam kha tood - crispy rice salad

Crispy rice salad isn’t easy to find on typical menus, so by all means try Nam Kha Tood, where puffed crispy rice throws a wildly flavored party with ginger, chile, peanuts, ground pork and green onion. Silver Lake’s Night + Market’s version might be a bit better balanced, but this version draws no complaints.
Northern Thai isn’t really about noodles, so while the special crab pad thai is solid — if a little too sweet — take this chance to explore other areas of Thai food, like the hot pots bursting with giant prawns and tiny squid in a lemongrass-perfumed broth.
mussel pancakes

If you’re eating with several people, try yet another deep-fried indulgence: mussel pancakes — a mild and crispy mountain of battered mollusks baked into an egg base, topped with bean sprouts. Eat it right away for maximum enjoyment.
crispy fried pork larb patties
All the familiar Thai dishes are on the menu here, but really, the reason to eat here is the Northern Thai salads and hotpots. Most of the dishes are just exotic enough to be exciting, without some of the more unusual ingredients found in some of the city’s uber-authentic Thai restaurants. If you try the Tom Yum Chicken Ovary, please report back, as I've yet to sample it. Spice levels are geared for Thais, so when in doubt, ask for mild.
Open for lunch until midnight, the restaurant is usually practically empty earlier in the evening, making it a good choice for groups or a spontaneous meal. Delivery is available but many of the deep-fried dishes will work much better eaten on site.

Lacha Somtum
5171 Hollywood Blvd.
(323) 486-7380

Lacha Somtum was reviewed in April's Los Feliz Ledger

Monday, March 02, 2015

Brouwerij West Is About to Brew Up a New San Pedro Scene

Known for its flavorful Belgian-style beers and wildly artistic labels, Brouwerij West is about to take a huge jump into the public eye when it opens a brewery and tasting room in San Pedro this summer. The four year-old microbrewer, which until now has been contracting space at other breweries, has leased a World War II-era wooden warehouse across from the harbor and next to Crafted L.A. that's sure to become a very in-demand area in the next few years when a few more restaurants and stores move in.

While the brewery and tasting room are expected to open in July, the cafe and bottling line/retail store will open a bit later. Due to seismic issues, it's been scaled down a bit from the original full restaurant from Waterloo & City's Brendan Collins that was originally envisioned. Brewmaster Brian Mercer has ordered a Meura 2001 Micro brewing system with a mash filter that saves time and water. Speaking of conservation, the brewery will be completely solar-powered, making it one of the greenest breweries anywhere.

Architects Oonagh Ryan & Associates are designing the space which will remain very industrial. Mercer promises that the increased capacity will allow "a lot of one-offs, specialty beers, wild beers and fresh fruit beers." Of course Brouwerij will continue its program of commissioning an array of international artists to do graphically-diverse labels that avoid the usual craft beer tropes of monks and abbeys. Unfortunately the stock of my favorite Dog Ate My Homework blackberry saison has been depleted, but we got to taste their terrific black cat-adorned Saison Extra as well as the Tripel and Mor Mor Quad.

Look for some very cool Mark Mothersbaugh-designed bottles to debut after the brewery is up and running -- but no IPA. Mercer thinks there's plenty of bitter brews out there already.
With cruise ships stopping at the pier right across the street and a large nearby outdoor event space where Cirque de Soleil was recently based, as well as an oceanographic institute, there's plenty of potential customers for Brouwerij West -- so look out for this summer's opening before it becomes a mob scene.