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First Look

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The "peas and carrots" at Ktchn in Pasadena - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • The "peas and carrots" at Ktchn in Pasadena
Beer, sausages and sunshine. Is there anything in life that goes together better? It's these three components that make up the bulk of the business plan at Picnik, the new restaurant in Pasadena from chef Eduardo Ruiz (also of Corazon y Miel). The restaurant is in partnership with Jack and Karen Huang, the owners of Bar Celona and Sorriso, also in Pasadena. 

The property, which sits at the western end of Old Town Pasadena's retail strip, is actually a number of restaurant spaces surrounding a large outdoor patio space. In order to get the most out of this arrangement, Ruiz and crew have come up with an interesting model: to ask other vendors to set up shop in the space Picnik doesn't need.

So around the courtyard, other options are slowly cropping up. Some will be pop-ups, some more permanent. So far there's a Bulgarini Gelato stand (operating on weekends for now), and Zona Rosa Coffee, which began serving over this past weekend. There are also plans for cocktail pop-ups in the small upstairs bar space, beginning in a couple of weeks. The first will bring the bar team from Corazon y Miel on Monday nights for Punch at Picnik, which will feature exotic punch offerings by the glass and bowl. Punch will officially debut in two weeks.

But perhaps most exciting is Ktchn, a breakfast operation from Felix G. Barron, who has been popping up in the Gorbals space on weekends for a couple of years now.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Kashk bademjan at Kashcool - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • Kashk bademjan at Kashcool
There are few dishes in the universe that could accurately be described as "haunting," but fesenjan, the Persian walnut-and-pomegranate stew, is one such dish. When done right, there's something about it that is almost eerie in its seductive powers. It tastes like some sort of delicious potion that a beautiful witch might consume to keep herself young.

The world (or at least the United States) is riddled with versions that are too sweet, or that hold back on the bitingly bitter walnut edge. So it was gratifying to find a terrific version at Kashcool Kitchen, a Persian restaurant that opened just a few days ago in Woodland Hills. 

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Look

Adam Fleischman's Roadhouse LA: Our Version of Epcot's Texasland?

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Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 11:10 AM
The exterior of Roadhouse LA - COURTESY ROADHOUSE LA
  • Courtesy Roadhouse LA
  • The exterior of Roadhouse LA
Adam Fleischman has a knack for gimmicks. The guy who launched the Umami Burger empire and recently announced that he'll be opening a chocolate-flavored fried chicken joint is no stranger to super concept-y concepts. And so, when he announced that Roadhouse LA, his new venture at The Improv, would be "international BBQ" it was easy to assume that there'd be more concept than substance here.

But if anyone's going to teach us that it's quite possible to have both gimmick and substance, it'll be Fleischman. The first good sign was bringing on chef Robbie Richter, who was the original pitmaster at New York's Fatty Cue. The second good sign is that on first look, the food is pretty damn tasty. 

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Mexican pulled pork sandwich at the Torta Company - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • The Mexican pulled pork sandwich at the Torta Company
As a concept for a fast food chain, it's pretty amazing the torta hasn't already been widely commodified. With all the appeal of a sandwich but much of the allure of a burrito, in many ways the torta is a perfect candidate for the drive-thru, or at least the food court. But tortas have thus far remained mainly the purview of small family shops. 

You can see the world-domination ambitions behind the Torta Company, the new project from Jimmy and Andrew Shaw. The brothers, who since 2002 have grown their Loteria Grill from one to six locations, have opened the first outpost of the Torta Company at Taste, the food court inside the Fig at 7th shopping center downtown. The Torta Company, which is adjacent to the newest Loteria Grill, began serving to the public last week. 

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Look

L.A. Chapter at the Ace Hotel Might Be the Future of Downtown

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Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM
The exterior of L.A. Chapter - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • The exterior of L.A. Chapter
It's been said before, about other restaurants and cafés and stores, but when sitting on the outside patio of the new Ace Hotel's restaurant, L.A. Chapter, there's a real sense of a future downtown L.A. that has yet to fully come to fruition. Located near the corner of Olympic and Broadway, the Ace resides in the old United Artists Theatre, and the restoration of this absolutely stunning piece of architecture gives a glimpse into the treasures that lie behind the boarded-up façades of some of these old downtown buildings, which have gone unused for so many years. 

The Ace's interior is by far its greatest asset, but the collection of brass-topped tables and black-and-white chairs on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant space is a great place to marvel at the grungy grandeur of the surrounding buildings. It looks and feels very much like a Paris café but with an L.A. backdrop. 

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

Lunch

First Look: A Fantastic Lunch at DTLA Cheese

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Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 11:17 AM
Pork loin sandwich at DTLA Cheese - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • Pork loin sandwich at DTLA Cheese
The list of places where you can eat lunch at downtown's Grand Central Market is growing by the day, or so it seems. Apart from the multiple stands that have been serving Chinese, Mexican and Middle Eastern food for years, the new crop of places that signal the market's resurgence continue to open. Horse Thief BBQ and Eggslut are going strong, and Wexler's Deli looks like it will be open any minute. 

The most recent great lunch I've found is at DTLA Cheese, the cheese counter that opened in late December. Owned by Lydia and Marnie Clarke, who also own Cheese Cave in Claremont, DTLA Cheese has plenty of picnic supplies, a varied range of domestic and imported cheeses, and all manner of jarred and pickled things to accompany those cheeses. The counter service is exuberantly helpful, and they're happy to let you sample whatever you'd like. 

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Duck confit mole at La Ventura - B. RODELL
  • B. Rodell
  • Duck confit mole at La Ventura
Jeffrey Saad is a chef with a lot of TV time under his belt. He was the host for three seasons of The United Tastes of America on the Cooking Channel. He was the first runner-up on The Next Food Network Star. He came in second place to Marcus Samuelsson on Chopped All-Stars. His website says of him, "Jeffrey Saad is a rising star ready to ignite the globe with his inspirational cuisine." For now, at least, he is hoping to ignite Studio City with his new Mexican restaurant, La Ventura.

La Ventura, which opened in mid-December, is certainly an attractive spot. The light airy space is punctuated by pops of bright color: a yellow wall here, yellow metal barstools, red flowerpots and a huge metal green light fixture hanging over the center of the room. On one of these oddly gorgeous winter afternoons, the patio, which sits along Ventura Boulevard, was a fantastic spot to eat lunch.  

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bars

Now Open: The Greyhound, a Cocktail and Beer Bar in Highland Park

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Mon, Jan 20, 2014 at 6:00 AM
The dining room at The Greyhound - COURTESY THE GREYHOUND
  • Courtesy The Greyhound
  • The dining room at The Greyhound
If  the  crowds at The Greyhound on opening night were any indication, Highland Park was ready for a neighborhood bar like this. On Thursday night, owners James Bygrave (an original partner in Father's Office), Matt Glassman and Ryan Julio opened the doors to their new "bar and grill" on Figueroa Street, and by 9 p.m. it was standing-room only in the large space that used to house a pupusaria. 

There's absolutely no remnant of that pupusaria now. The room, which encompasses a long bar running down one side, a number of clubby booths taking up the bulk of the space, and a shuffleboard in back, feels like a big-city college bar. It reminded me of drinking spots in Boston, circa 1999. There are big screen TVs playing sports above the bar, and they even have those faux-Tiffany stained glass light fixtures that speak to a certain era of college bar drinking. 

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Look

A First Look at Susan Feniger's Mud Hen Tavern

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Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM
Spicy black bean veggie burger at Mud Hen Tavern - RYAN TANAKA
  • Ryan Tanaka
  • Spicy black bean veggie burger at Mud Hen Tavern

The turnaround between when Susan Feniger closed Street, her street food–inspired restaurant on Highland Avenue, and opened Mud Hen Tavern in its place, was incredibly quick by restaurant standards. In just over a month, the restaurant was transformed from its stylish and colorful former self to a wooden-walled, rustic-feeling, neighborhood pub.

It's quite a change, and one that makes the restaurant feel totally different. The indoor space now is anchored by a bar that takes up the whole length of the back of the room. Most of the seating is outdoors, under an awning, and the flow from indoor to outdoor is fairly seamless.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

First Look

An Early Peek at Walter Manzke's République

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Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 7:00 AM
République - ERIK SUN
  • Erik Sun
  • République

République is still a work in progress. Although the restaurant, a collaboration between restaurateur Bill Chait and chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke, has now been officially open for a couple of weeks, it isn't quite yet fully formed. The bustling glassed-in front area, which serves as a more casual bistro, is in full swing. Still to come is morning cafe and bakery service, as well as a more formal area in back, which should be open early next year.

With that in mind, our official review of the restaurant won't come along until we've had a chance to consider the whole, not just République's early iteration. But, being as curious as the next restaurant obsessive, we decided to take an early peek at what has probably been the most anticipated opening of 2013.

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