Category: Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park
I've passed by here many dozens of times without taking a second glance, missing out for the last few years on what should have been my local-est coffee joint.
If people are waiting you'll have to shift around to find room. There's a comfy couch, a couple of small tables that you won't get because someone else's purse, smartphone and laptop are on them, several barstools along the window, and tables outside. At least three patrons will be parked in any of these spots when you arrive and when you leave. One of them will have a dog.
The owner, Julie, and one or two women with arm tats and spritely dresses bustling and hurrying in this space, somehow getting everything done. They do coffee, naturally, almost as a rebuttal to the eternally long line of Intelligentsia down on Sunset, and they do it superbly well. The Iced Hazelnut Mocha is a full-flavored wakeup call; the nice little powdery grit at the bottom feels almost intentional, like a childhood glass of cocoa. I prefer this iced version over the ice-blended mochas. They also do a Spanish Latte, which needs no sweetener.
Do this for your morning, and you'll thank Bianca and me. While you're still yawning, order a BBJ: Bagel, Butter, Jam. Simple, but devious. The bagel, its crust bubbled and brown, is heated and a bit crushed, and the butter (the amount of which depends on who makes it) is outside as well as in, resulting in finger-lickness and a lot of ohmygodding.
There's a Scramble on a Bagel, which is harder to eat but blended into warm simplicity: a folded quilt of scrambled egg, tomato, cream cheese, and a smidge of black pepper. It tends to squeeze out the sides, so don't eat this in the car.
There are other playful items, at least two of which are Elvis-themed (the Elvis Bagel has, as might be expected, peanut butter, banana and honey, and the Elvis Smoothie is mocha with PB & B).
I never thought I'd crave tuna salad. The Tuna Roll at Bossa Nova is something i have a hankering for here and again, but this superior sandwich might be my new favorite. The Tuna Melt (on a bagel or a croissant) is a spicy bully, beige with harissa sauce and little dried peppers. Even a caper or three is tucked away, adding bite. White cheese speckled with red blankets it, along with avocado, tomato, and slivers of red onion.
MorningsNights opens up at seven and closes at 8:30 in the evening, every day. Now that's a reliable independent coffee house.
I have a lot of catching-up to do.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
Ah, there's that Papyrus typeface again. I think we're going to be seeing that for a long time, anywhere an eatery gets remotely healthy and modern.
Despite the high turnover rate of businesses along this tiny triangle between Sunset and Griffith Park Blvd., Cru has managed to survive here for a few years after the previous raw restaurant went away. Past the black awning the interior is relaxed modernism, amber teardrop lamps hanging from a brown ceiling. I also like sitting at one of the two small tables outside, listening to the confused traffic and the loud conversations from MorningsNights next door.
Chef Rachel Carr has carefully considered the intricacies of vegan, organic and raw food, and compiled an ever-changing menu of both raw and cooked dishes (considerately separated on the menu so you don't gulp nervously when presented with crunchy things you'd think to bribe a parrot with). Everything here is gluten-free, organic, and vegetarian (except for an occasional use of honey).
This bowl is filled with stuff I thought I'd never willingly place in front of me: kale, celery, zucchini, squash. Yet it's all puréed together with onion and other things into a mossy military olive color, and is warm and fulfilling.
A measure of what looks like vinegar is poured atop, which turns out to be Australian pumpkin seed oil*. It adds an oily nuttiness to what would be understandably vegetal, and it also swirls into neat Kanji characters while eating. This kale soup is savory.
The Gluten-Free Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes are exactly that, a pair of griddle-darkened, heat-retaining moonscapes with a dense, gluey texture. They smell good, and taste better, especially when drizzled with agave syrup, that high-fructose, ruinous rockstar of the sweet world. (You can get honey instead if you like.) Cinnamon is dusted around the edges of the plate for additional noms.
Each is half again the size of the buckwheat pancakes at Flore, so these are good for taking home.
On to the raw experience. I hesitate to call it a pizza any more than tomatoes and garlic on a crisp slice of brioche is a pizza, but the Raw Marinated Vegetable Pizza is pretty tasty. The crust is sunflower flatbread, somewhere between a tortilla chip and a pie crust in texture, and really rather good, not shattery or birdseedy.
The toppings are cool like a ceviche. Peppers and onions are sautéed and layered with shiitake mushrooms, over a spicy, zesty, squash-colored paste which turns out to be a pepper jack cheese made from cashews. I think it's the foundation of this dish.
Looming over this is a leafy salad wetted by a thick, creamy dressing that is reminiscent of pesto, cilantro, and which I'm told has ground-up pumpkin seeds.
During the day I like the honey-sweetened Ginger Limeade, clean and not too saccharine, with serious chunks of ginger prepared to shoot up your straw and set fire to your mouth.
Cru is slightly on the expensive side for lunch, but not for Silver Lake; an entree with soup or a special drink will often run past fifteen dollars. Parking is metered until you get up into the hills, and the parking enforcement cars are energetic around these parts.
* I can lie and say that I deduced it with my uncanny senses of taste and smell, but actually I asked what it was.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park )
This is the first review where my notes were taken at home, and the first review where we're busting out the larger photos. Because you need to see this pizza.
Because of its casual, kewl-dude-in-a-woodie logo, you do not suspect Cruzer of offering the first all-vegan pizza. Learning about it, and finally trying this "why hasn't anyone done this before?" fare, made us shriek and dance like we'd received a basket of puppies.
We start with having the Quarrygirl.com Pizza delivered. Olive oil, garlic and softly dense strips of portobello and button mushrooms make us forget that there's no red sauce on this pie. The sausage is that rare vegan entity that tastes closer to the real thing than it looks, instead of the other way around; it's zippy and spicy as real sausage, and I could totally go through a bag of it like a road trip jerky snack.
A thick paste of Daiya cheese is melted over everything, white and grainy with little yellowed oven marks. It feels more like ricotta or goat cheese in texture and tang, and once you make that mental transition, it's all good. Daiya will save us all. Beneath all of it is a just-plain-good dough, bready and bubbled and just this side of sweet.
The Vegan BBQ Chicken Pizza also has no red stuff, but the ruddy bbq sauce is like a sweet & sour glaze, rich with molasses and I daresay hickory; it complements the already-sweet tinge of the dough. You could serve this to friends and tell them it's BBQ Pork, even, and they'd nod with approval. The texture, the grain, the flavor, is all there, firm and cooked. It's not meat, I'm told, and I laugh it off. The daiya cheese is more settled and cooperative on this pizza.
Bianca, upon her first bite: Are you kidding me.
Cruzer has a Vegan Meat Pizza, which I am nervous about trying. I am of course a slave to meat pizzas when given the option, but I can't yet imagine how sausage, pepperoni, meatball, Canadian bacon, ham and salami could all be rendered convincingly and separately as vegan. I will just need to keep placing orders.
And: a vegan Chicken Cheese Steak? A vegan Chicken Parmigiana? I must know.
The pizzas are available in a whole wheat crust as well.
The Los Feliz location uses only 100% animal-free vegan ingredients, the first ever pizza joint in Los Angeles to do so, so much applause for them. They are also incredibly nice on the phone.
They're open until ten most days, eleven on Fridays and Saturdays.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Pizza )
A leisurely southerly west coast span of time
4354 Melrose Ave. (just east of the 101)
Phone: 323-666-6075 | map
It's fairly difficult to find Chilean cuisine even in this hypermulticultural mecca, so I'm pleasantly surprised to find this place within a couple miles of me, something I've driven by hundreds of times.
This restaurant and deli have been sitting quietly at the corner of Heliotrope and Melrose before anyone started trying to make the area hip.
The interior is homelike and often nearly deserted. Some lazy watching of the current football match may be in progress. The music can be soft-voiced Spanish crooners, but can also be, um... Go Country 105. Despite the photos and artifacts of Chile, one is (sometimes wincingly) inundated with Toby Keith, Alan Jackson and Big & Rich.
Ponder this as you dive into the thick roll they bring you, with either a pat of butter or a spoon of pebre, a mean little green sauce similar to Argentinian chimichurri, cilantro-heavy with a nice nasal onion sting.
Chile hugs Argentina on its right hip, so it's no surprise that some culinary similarities exist. If Rincon Chileno's ability with meat pies is representative of Chile, then Argentina has serious competition. I try a spinach empanada; the shell is ultra-crispy, glowing yellow and brown, layered rather than flaky. Once past the villainous heat level, there is spinach, chopped fine and melding beautifully with long strings of white cheese. It is superb, easily the best spinach empanada I've ever tasted.
The Churrasco de Pollo is a powerpacked little sandwich. Strips of chicken are grilled perfectly, browned and stiffened outside, tender inside, cooled by fresh tomato and avocado crushed almost into guacamole. This comes on french bread, amasado (a dense, scored roll not entirely unlike ciabatta), or hallulla (pronounced ayu-ya, hard-baked and pitted like a biscuit).
The sandwich comes with super-crispy french fries, with which you can't insult me. They benefit both from ketchup (the waitstaff sees I am a gringo and places a bottle on the table) and occasional dips into the pebre.
Move past the lunchtime sandwiches to see Rincon Chileno's kitchen shine. The Filete de Pescado a la Meunniere is a baked fillet of whitefish swimming in a mild lemon garlic sauce, achingly tender. You can get it fried for the nicely rendered crunch, but this gentle slab of fish rings of perfection.
It has a small tin of warmed garlic dipping sauce that has more citrusy bite, but it is almost unneeded because of the succulence of the fish. A steaming mound of white rice helps to soak up the flavorful juices, and three small slices of astoundingly red tomatoes sit aside, dusted with parsley. I still apply pebre here and there.
There is peril. If you aren't careful--note the consumption of bread, empanada, french fries and sandwich here--the resulting carb coma will have you in its starchy manacles and unable to function for the remainder of the day except for yawns and hand waves and weak little whines. Your slide into sleepiness is exacerbated by the fact that it may take a while for them to deliver the bill.
Rincon Chileno is open 10 to 10 daily. Plenty of street parking with meters that blink and say FAIL is nearby. There's also a Rincon Chileno on Hawthorne in Lawndale, but I'm unsure of its relation.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Seafood, Mid-City/Koreatown, Chilean )
I admit to prejudgment upon walking into Masa. My thoughts: "Oh, no. This decor. Saffron walls and flowers and oak chairs and peeling-paint rustic furniture and wine list and loud tablecloths. This means it's another gentrified bistro wishing it was French, 'rated' by 'Zagat' and 'blithely' 'ignoring' its own 'neighborhood' until nicer people move in."
I am wholly, utterly, shamefully wrong.
The people are wonderful. Masa is aware of its history and its locale, even the businesses that existed in this spot back to the '20s. It knows and loves Echo Park without a sense of exclusion.
The seating is casual, as if a restaurant quietly grew around a bakery counter and coffee bar. They make their own dough here, use organic local produce, and import what they need to make the Chicago-centric part of their menu. You may be seated near Echo Park local personage Miss Judy.
The Parmesana Panini is bigger than expected, layered under neutral but harmonious butter-slicked bread. If this was by itself with some pasta, it would already be a paragon of Chicken Parmesania. The chicken is superbly done, thoughtfully seasoned, lush and just crunchy enough. The marinara is a deep Sicilian red, and shouts of tomato freshness.
The salad is tangy, and of greater interest than I can think to write about it. The dressing is low-key, suggestive of shallots, lemon and a trace of balsamic vinegar.
There are Spinach & Mushroom Crêpes, to which you can add rosemary chicken or grilled veggie chicken. The thin, elastic sheets of crêpe taste of peppercorns, hiding the spinach, sliced mushrooms and swiss cheese; the effect is almost stroganoffian in robustness.
They make thin crust "bistro" pizzas here, without making claims to being authentically New York, which is fine with me. It is a successful rendition.
If I'm still on a chicken parmesan kick, I get the Lucretia (baked chicken parmesan, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and bay leaves). Otherwise I like the Douglas: homemade sweet Italian sausage, studded with fennel and falling apart, shreds of green pepper, purple rings of onion, mozzarella melted just so, and more of that impressive marinara, sweet and tomato-strong. I normally do not write sentences that long, by the way, but that's how fast I go through their pizzas: with barely a pause. They are Masa's own interpretation, and fabulous. The crust is thin as a pair of half dollars.
Masa's Chicago Pizzas, however, do make this claim of familiarity; Co-owner Ron was born and raised in Chicago. With a lot of love and the eighty-year-old revolving oven, it takes forty minutes to bake each pie.
Although fully aware that a Chicago pizza out here in California means needlessly puffy, tasteless dough and extra poundage to work off, I normally do not care for Chicago deep dish pizza. If Masa's pies are any indication of what a good pizza might be like in Chicago, I now understand the controversy.
I like the Traditional, with mushrooms and sausage. The homemade sweet Italian sausage appears again, but in sheets instead of crumbled spheres, hence why it looks a little alarming in the photo, but please trust me when I say it's delicious. Garlic is present, and the cheese melts like an underground glacier under the red, red sauce. It is complex, and amazing. The crust is like nothing I've ever tasted, prominent with cornmeal, with a trace of biscuity sweetness. I forget to shake parmesan cheese over my pizza, and I always shake parmesan over things.
Perhaps there is a way to pick this up, but I understand why they call it a pizza pie. I prefer a fork.
Parking for Masa is going to be metered, whether along the street (with fairly forgiving signage if they're not filming something) or in one of the blue-signed public lots.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, French, Bakery/Patisserie, Healthy/Organic, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Pizza )
The perpetually uncertain and blithely decorated Town & Country closed for remodeling, which in Los Angeles means it's never going to achieve the escape velocity necessary to reopen, until something else takes its place. Forage is here now, with better ideas and a higher caliber kitchen staff (think Jason Kim from Lucques and Amanda Bacon of Lucques and Canelé). The decor is clean white and wood.
Do you grow edible things? Lots of people do, evidently, and the concept of Forage is to take advantage of excess crops, helping to share the vitaminal wealth. One can bring in homegrown fruits and vegetables and barter them for credit (call in advance, or check the website for the Forage gatherings). They may figure out what to do with them, create a dish, and name it after you for as long as it's available.
A stable pillar of the menu is their Jidori Chicken, carefully rotisseried and shining with its own juices. The meat has just enough firmness, and while I generally prefer my chicken crisped more by the heat, the browning of the skin is tasty. If you can get some roasted fresh from the kitchen (I always seem to get the last two pieces under the heat lamp), so much the better.
Their everyday Market Green Salad is even better. Not a spiky tumbleweed or bitter red leaf in sight, the lettuces are softened like butter under the subtle lemon bite of yellow oil. Tiny coins of radish add snap.
A Pastrami Sandwich might be available, layered under a twisty torpedo of heavy, abrasive bread of great quality. The pastrami is even-handed, not overly fatty or salty, and mellowed by braised cabbage and thick sheets of Swiss cheese. A mustard aioli runs through it.
As with the Jidori Chicken, the side dish is fully as interesting as the main choice. The Black Bean soup embodies the concept of "soup" as much as any I've tried, rich with vegetables and not at all runny as many black bean soups are. Thin rings of scallion rest atop a swirl of cream.
The Awesome Avocado sandwich looks desaturated and pale, but the avocado is so fresh and solid that it becomes the strongest element. Tomatoes, cool wisps of green cabbage, fennel pickles and a Mexican pationa (I am still trying to figure out what that means) all create comfort without overriding the avocado, and still somehow maintaining sandwichal stability.
I'm told the Nirman Ranch Pork Belly Sandwich, on a baguette with the same toppings and a green garlic aioli, is rave-worthy, so I shan't say no.
To drink there's Blue Bottle coffee, or their Agua Fresca, which may be a homemade lemonade or a tangelo orange which reminds one eerily of a well-mixed glass of Tang.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Bakery/Patisserie, Healthy/Organic, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American )