Kudos to the clever menu designer
It may take more than one visit to fully crystalize my thoughts on Street, which was still in its first week of service when I had lunch with a friend on Friday. Our first impression was of overall orangeness. The black and orange patio walls, covered by large orange umbrellas, make eating on the patio a tangerine dream, so thank goodness for Auto-color adjust. The menu is divided into dumplings, noodles, salads and main dishes, and it can be bit challenging picturing how the foods of say, Egypt and Thailand will work together in the meal. We ended up with two Asian-inspired dishes and one Middle Eastern one. Shrimp wrapped in rice paper
A dish of puffed millet with Indian spices was brought to the table; "like an Indian rice krispie treat," the waiter said, although the puffed millet was soft and chewy rather than crunchy as I had been anticipating. We started with shrimp and shiso leaf wrapped in rice paper with a pungent wasabi sauce; nice, but not really special, especially at $2 or more per shrimp. I'm not familiar enough with Korean food to know if a beast like the Korean rice salad we ordered exists in Korea, but it's a bit curious: brown rice, edamame sprouts, thin noodles, black cod, tofu and a fried egg all get along happily enough, but a pool of rich, sweet sesame dressing at the bottom makes it hard to go all the way. It's possible that a few too many of the dishes are topped with fried egg, making it hard not to end up with several fried eggs over the course of a meal.Theoretically this is the type of thing I usually feel like at lunchtime: fish, brown rice, vegetables, flavorful sauce, etc., yet it didn't all work quite well enough to make me want to order it again.
Lamb kofta kebabs with Za'atar (below), however, are perfectly spiced, and somehow even more flavorful than the quite good homemade merguez I made last week. Served with a lavash bread spread with smoky eggplant, lebni yogurt and hardboiled eggs with harissa, the Middle Eastern flavors blend nicely and we only wish there were more than two meatballs in a $16 serving. All the exotic flavors I like in my desserts are represented on the dessert menu: rose syrup, pandan leaf and such. We tried Vietnamese espresso jello layered with chocolate ganache and topped with halva; the ganache was rich and smooth, but the jello too stiff and the Intelligentsia coffee it was made with barely made itself known.
Our server was extremely knowledgeable
and helpful and Susan Feniger made the rounds to a few tables of longtime customers.-- everyone looked familiar, with at least two Bon Appetit staffers in the house.
Verdict: I love Feniger's passion for the exciting tastes of world street food, but I'm afraid the excitement is too likely to get lost in the translation to upscale restaurant food and higher-quality ingredients and the pricing those ingredients require. This is just a first look, but I'm not sure it's a good sign that after this lunch I found myself craving Mitsuwa market's deeply-flavored $2 coffee jello and excited to check out something called Kalbi & Kimchi I spotted in a minimall on Santa Monica Blvd. on the way home. Maybe that's the problem with Street: it's on the street, and not in a minimall.