The exterior is loud and yellow and has a typeface that makes my inner graphic designer weep, but SunPower is a raw/vegan/organic gift from the heavens, and I believe most fervently that they should be in L.A. proper, closer to me*.
The interior is newly designed, elegantly jazzy with creamy mango walls and slick mahogany furniture. A bluesy wailing drips from the speakers.
The people here are friendly and positive. As in "they know secrets of the universe" kind of friendly and positive. In a good way.
I am not entirely sure how they do this, and it looks much better in real life, but this smells amazing. The left half of this dish is Raw Kelp Noodles: glass noodles made of kelp, not overly elastic or clumped, tossed with a creamy marinara. There are vegetables chopped inside, indecipherable (although I suspect mushrooms, onion and tomato are harmonizing here) but adding texture. Red peppers lie atop with a drizzle of basil ranch. I am impressed. It is incredibly rich and flavorful.
The other half is an all-kale salad. Now, kale is one bossy, opinionated leaf, but this is "massaged" kale, whatever that means, and the raw basil ranch dressing is so persuasive, that the shiny curly kale relaxes and becomes a salad to reckon with. Pine nuts add crunch.
I just had an entirely kelp-and-kale-based meal. That was raw. And it rocked.
This is the Raw Supreme Pizza. It is indeed raw, it's confidently supreme, but it's only pizza in the sense that there is a supportive disc on which toppings repose.
The crust is made of sunflower seeds. And while it looks as if you need the beak of a finch to properly peck it apart, it's actually like a crunchy granola cereal in consistency, and sweet but with a hint of cumin and chili powder. The marinara appears again, almost like a barbecue sauce, spread thinly over the surface.
The SunPower "Sausage" is no closer to sausage than tempeh is to bacon, but it provides a crumbly, seasoned variance in texture. Tomatoes are here, with a flare of marinated red peppers and onions. The basil ranch is drizzled over all, but I'd just as soon have more of the marinara.
That familiar green stripe is more of that kale salad.
Is this for real? Should I be making fun of myself, "eating birdseed" and "rabbit food"? Should this be tasting this good?
They also have pizzas with whole wheat pita crusts if you're terrified of the raw sunflower seed affair.
If anyone from SunPower offers you a Sweet Kale Shake, take it. Everyone else in the room will nod appreciatively.
It tastes like nothing else, and not at all like you'd expect "kale" and "shake" to taste. It is sweet like it says, strong with almond and vanilla extract, banana, and agave. Shavings of coconut, cacao beans and goji berry are strewn for color.
When not getting a smoothie, I like a Lemon/Ginger Blast, a frothy juice made of mouth-squeezing awesome.
There is lots of iffy metered parking along Cahuenga; about every second meter will swallow your money but suddenly remember to tell you FAIL. Some spots open up at night in the alley behind. However, since Cahuenga at night becomes absolutely unreasonable, with every automobile in Studio City trying to get onto the 101 South, and every meter full, and every car occupied by an irritable and not-entirely-wailing Ventura Boulevard driver, getting to SunPower for dinner is a cause for weeping and gnashing of teeth. It's one reason why they should relocate close to me. For my health.
* They aren't really that far from me. Eight minutes north on the 101. It's the principle of the thing.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, American, The Valley )
You are first struck by the long and sophisticated bar, made of wood and black vinyl and brass and envy; heavy wooden beams loom overhead like a sailing ship's cabin. Started in 1953 and here in its current incarnation since 1970, Taylor's makes me wish I was old enough to have been coming here since before Cosmos were invented.
It's dim like Hades inside. Plush carpet and red booths abound, with a tall pepper grinder standing like a chess queen on every table. Paintings adorn the paneled walls. We are seated beneath an oil-on-canvas of a Flemish gentleman with a wry look on his face and an uncanny resemblance to Jeff Bridges.
We down a few well-made Manhattans, marveling at Porterhouses and T-Bones being paraded by on sizzling trays. We are pursuing a healthier lifestyle, but no tofu dish can ever smell like that grand, trumpeting-fanfare scent of red meat on metal.
Taylor's is a steak house but remembers that the color green exists in the world. We order the Fresh Asparagus, great beams of vegetable confidence with knots of burn, nicely rendered with a hollandaise sauce the way you remember it from those yacht trips during childhood*.
We are compelled to try other things. The Molly Dinner Salad is a sneer at modern mixed greens. A big, cruise-ship-threatening wedge of iceberg lettuce rises above the plate, dotted with chopped onion and tomato and nonchalantly crowned with a non-chunky bleu cheese. I do not care how devoid of vitamins it is, I love iceberg lettuce. It is simple, retrofitted perfection.
Bianca goes a little higher end with a quintet of Oysters on the Half Shell. Fresh, simplistic, clean, with a cocktail sauce that is first cousins with ketchup, but who cares? Bink, who could eat oysters daily, is happy.
This is Taylor's, don't forget, and their disclaimer says "Not responsible for well done steaks," so don't request your beef done to the color of grey leather. Coming to Taylor's and having nobody get steak is a little like ordering the "For Our Gringo Friends" cheeseburger at a Mexican restaurant. It might be good, but some sinning has been committed.
Their specialty is the Culotte, the tenderest part of the top sirloin, only two of which are cut from the steer (not the cow--the steer). It arrives brilliantly hissing on metal, criss-crossed with scars, bathing the center of the tongue with strong flavor, with enough fat for punctuation. It is astounding. Argentine beef may be a better source material, but what the Taylor's kitchen does to it is masterful, a meal that (this time) surpasses Carlitos Gardel.
You may get a baked potato with this, but Cottage Fries, as unique to potatoes as au gratin or scalloped, are the only thing that can stand up to this as an accomplice. Cut into thick chips but soft, with a little french-fry raspiness, they are made perfect with a dab of leftover hollandaise.
Bianca (the non-steak-eating half of our duo) keeps with the seafood scheme, ordering the special for that evening, Jumbo Scallops. They are robust rather than subtle, pillow-tender with a just-past-correct bit of blackened snap; they are served with a creamy ber blanc sauce, some of which I also steal for my cottage fries.
The sides are what they need to be, the have-meat-now-need-potatoes accompaniments: baked potato properly fluffy, peas and carrots filling out the right corners of the food groups.
We haven't much room, but there is a nice key lime pie, thick with crust and singing with tartness. We down it, too.
There is a private room in back for parties, and we expect to take advantage of that. Taylor's has its own lot, uneasily valeted.
* I never had a yacht trip during childhood. I'm merely assuming that this is what we Caucasians must have done back in the '50s, '60s and '70s when steak houses and gin martinis still held sway. Before we lost the Smooth.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), American, Mid-City/Koreatown )
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 )
If, after you've exited the Los Angeles City Attorney's office on Hollywood Boulevard, acquired some smoking paraphernalia from No Limit Tobacco & Pipes, gotten a Thai massage, and decided upon a shoulder piece from Atomic Tattoo, you happen to be hungry, Truly Vegan is most happily positioned.
Seven tables of--I'm tired of always saying chlorophyll, so I'll say they're Dartmouth Green--line the walls. The pale golden floor might be bamboo, but is patterned to look like distressed wood planks. They may not be gushingly friendly here, but they are attentive, and despite its not being on the menu they kindly made me a sweet and creamy iced coffee when I asked.
I like my vegan food solid and hearty, and the Loafing About works for me. A lentil loaf is heavily seasoned and grilled, with onions and red peppers chopped finely enough so that they lend only their presence rather than a stubborn crunch. The texture is dense like hash browns yet almost pillowy. The loaf comes dry, and with it is a squeeze bottle of some really good homemade ketchup, and some white sesame blend with lime, almost like spicy, sassy milk.
Steamed broccoli and cauliflower are there to bolster the generally unused corner of my four food groups. I pour the sesame sauce on them, too. Fluffy brown rice is there too, not vital, but well-made.
The Lad Na is more liquid than expected for standard Thai, wide rice noodles falling nearly apart from their total immersion in black bean soy gravy. The gravy itself is a gelatinous, soupy lake that holds its heat like a muzzled dragon; draped over the broccoli and tofu, it renders them too hot to enjoy until they're well-blown upon.
You can add soy fish, chicken or seitan on this, more for the textural analog than for similarity of flavor. The Lad Na is even better the next day.
There's breakfast for lunch, too. It's good, occasionally, to move away from the astoundingly good but psychotically flavored specialties of some places. Several combinations of pancakes abound here, and the Breakfast of Champions puts them all together. Wheat free, gluten free pancakes are comfortable and surprisingly good, with maple syrup and melty vegan margarine atop. Two big, convincing patties of soy chicken are sliced like katsu and fried into something puffy, sweet and almost pastrylike.
The effect isn't exactly Roscoe's, but it's grainy and comforting, missing nothing except that feeling of creamy uselessness one gets after pancake breakfasts. A glass of cool vegan milk, subtle with that sides-of-the-tongue tinge of almond, goes well with this.
Parking is usually found along Hollywood, probably by the Toyota dealer.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Vegetarian/Vegan, American, Thai )
You have to hunt for it, nestled among hilly avenues where the 101 and the 110 meet. Dip under the awning; a darkened counter, slowly turning ceiling fans, and the hum of refrigeration units greet you.
It's not like my family, but it is familial, and these men are serious about what they do. Sandwiches are rapidly assembled and rung up; your drinks are (pointing to the left) over there, dispensed or bottled. There may be a brief sense of "am I doing this right? Where am I supposed to stand? Is it supposed to be this dark?" before you get into the rhythm of it.
So. You know how some places quaintly offer "meat lovers" items? This Eastside specialty chases them down, takes their lunch money, and leaves them with a painful wedgie.
Vegetarians look away! Carnage ahead!
... Okay. Proceeding.
This predatorial paradise is the D.A. Special. Layers of roast beef. Pastrami. And one Italian sausage. And a meatball. Each of these is high quality content and makes a superb sandwich on its own, but combined they become certifiable and knuckle-crackingly dangerous.
All that "is he gonna live, Doctor?" red stuff you see is a sauce of cooked peppers and flattened tomatoes that binds everything together and adds sweetness. Strong, soulful sheets of melted mozzarella lie underneath, maxing out my alliteration allowance for the day. The roast beef is dark and supple, the pastrami pink and fatty, both moist and covering the pale, snappy link of Italian sausage like a winter blanket.
Can it actually be picked up and eaten? Not yet. Eventually. Go at it with a fork for a while. In any case, the soft, toasty Italian bread will become worn and sodden and unable to perform its duties as a meat delivery device. Once you get through half, the strata of meat looks like an intense cross-section of something out of a textbook, and you will probably give up and wrap it to go.
A little more recognizable is the Combination Cold Cuts sandwich. A nice three-quarter-inch layer of ham, turkey, salami and mortadella is stacked with mozzarella, tomato and shredded lettuce. The soft Italian roll is not so overpowered here. A very light basting of mayo and mustard can be savored.
Their potato salad is very slightly sour, and I'm not wild about it, but the macaroni salad is well-mixed, and properly cool and creamy.
Eastside is open until four during the week and two on Saturday. On Sundays they take a break. Street parking can be found easily.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, East Side/Downtown, Deli, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )