Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quick Bite: Plan Check Downtown Revs Up on Wilshire

Clockwise: Plan Check's crab dip, Chef's favorite burger, fried chicken, cinnamon banana donut
What: Plan Check's new Wilshire Blvd. location in a recently-opened apartment building just west of the 110 is the third location in the budding mini-empire with Ernesto Uchimura as executive chef. Who would have thought that what's basically another gastropub, of which we already have so many, would do so well? But Uchimura picks busy locations, puts fun Asian twists on the dishes and cocktails and stocks the bars with a good selection of craft beers and Japanese whiskeys. Voila, a recipe for success in the elevated bar food game.
Where: 1111 Wilshire Blvd. -- not quite actually Downtown, but a short hop away
The space: Bigger than the Sawtelle location but smaller than the cavernous Fairfax one, this Plan Check has a long bar, some inside tables and a unique indoor-outdoor table with windows that close it off right down the middle once nights get chillier.
The food:  Uchimura was part of the team that invented the Umami burger, so some of the decadent burgers come with cheese crisps in the Umami way. I like the original Plan Check burger, but the Downtown location adds the Korean bbq burger with pork belly blended into the beef. Fried chicken, available in a sandwich or a main dish, is boneless and finger-friendly with an exceedingly crunchy coating and very moist chicken. If your arteries can take it, don't miss the baked crab dip, which marries mayonnaise-intensive Japanese dynamite sauce with large chunks of crab, topped with nori and spooned on toast.
The menu may be adorned with trendy touches like Uchimura's signature ketchup leather, pig candy and pimento cheese, but make no mistake, this is salty, rich drinking food that shares the DNA of places like Beer Belly and A-Frame. While everything I've had is well-calibrated, it's easy to overdo it on the overall richness of the menu. Fortunately, a salmon kale salad and tuna salad have been added at the new location. But a few more vegetables or lighter dishes might be nice.
The drinks: My favorite is the Little Osaka sour with bourbon, lemon and plum wine, but the Ginger Grant, with Pisco, sake, Aperol, blood orange and ginger is also refreshing and won't knock you out.

(this is written on the basis of a soft opening/press preview)

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