For a limited time, former Alma chef de cuisine Derrick de Jesus is running his MSG pop-up at Brick House Kitchen in Venice on Monday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. This latest version departs from the tasting menu series the chef ran at City Sip in Echo Park, but it continues his plans to scope out the best neighborhood for a restaurant sometime in the future.
"We're pushing two to three ideas within the group, so MSG is one version of another restaurant. I'm trying to figure out what's the best fit for this concept. As opposed to making the concept fit the neighborhood, we're trying to do it the other way around," says de Jesus.
His own experiences in Los Angeles spans various neighborhoods: Having grown up in Alhambra; learned French culinary techniques; then worked at the Ritz Carlton (now Langham) in Pasadena, Koi in West Hollywood, and in various stints with Ari Taymor.
"My food will hopefully reflect that now; with French training and an Asian pantry in approaching American food," he says.
Currently on the à la carte menu (price ranges from $6 to $15): House bread and Koji cultured butter; a Korean-style pickle plate; crispy potatoes with seaweeds and bonito; Bincho grilled clams and miso; shio-style ramen; and bennecake flour cookies and cream. The menu will change with what's available at the market, but the basics like a shio-style ramen are set.
De Jesus is working on a beverage program that involves teas and house-made sodas. At the time of interview, there was a ginger beer and preserved Meyer lemon soda in the works.
"Essentially, all my friends who cook have Sundays and Mondays off. We'd get together and just cook. Talk about each other's kitchens and this is the type of food we'd have," says de Jesus. "On my day off, I don't want heavy food, because I want to enjoy my day. If I eat a bowl of tonkatsu ramen, I'm out an hour. Shio style for me is lighter. With shio (salt), you get the purest flavor of your ingredient, as opposed to covering it up with soy or miso." As de Jesus describes, it's less his version of ramen than his heirloom chicken noodle soup that happens to be ramen.
As for why the pop-up is called MSG, de Jesus says, "It's short for message, but as an inside joke it is MSG (monosodium glutamate). I don't add it to my food, but I want people to think about it first. Why is MSG bad? Because your mom told you it's bad or some doctor told you it gives you headaches."
De Jesus takes reservations from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at firstname.lastname@example.org. He plans to host the pop-up at Brick House Kitchen through the summer.
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