It seems that a new organic, fair-trade, cold-brewed coffee purveyor pops up everyday, and I thoroughly enjoy the potent brews arising from these coffee houses.
Creme brulee cappuccino arrives with a hard crust of caramelized sugar on top, just like the popular dessert. Crack through the brulee and sip a bit of heaven. (photo by Jill Weinlein)
One of my favorites is LAMILL Coffee. My daughter and I enjoyed a lunch at this trendy Silver Lake coffee boutique earlier this month. While the coffee scene continues to explode in California, LAMILL Coffee is one of the only coffee roasting companies in Southern California that serves premium locally roasted coffee and tea at its own restaurant.
We walked in and found a diverse crowd of people sitting at the counter writing their latest manuscript or sitting in the dining area on cracked leather club chairs, enjoying a French Press with lunch after perhaps a yoga class. Moms periodically walked in pushing strollers to quickly get an excellent cup of Valrhona mocha and an orange-glazed cherry scone before strolling a sleepy child around the reservoir.
The restaurant’s interior is hip and fresh with vintage chairs resting on a concrete floor and ceiling to floor windows looking out to Silver Lake Blvd. A big brass chandelier hangs from the ceiling in the main dining room and one wall offers a whimsical black and white mural.
I learned from our server that the owner, Craig Min, loved the aroma and taste of coffee as a child. In 1991, Min’s father started a wholesale coffee business in nearby Alhambra, where Min learned everything about roasting and brewing coffee. He developed a rapport with the coffee farmers at eco-friendly cooperatives in locations where the world’s best coffee beans are grown. This “bean belt” between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer offers an ideal climate for beans to be cultivated, harvested and processed.
In 1998, the young entrepreneur was ready to take over the company. Min called the company LAMILL Coffee and also worked to expand his tea contacts and start a tea line. With the help of his skilled Master Roaster John Martin at the Alhambra headquarters, he learned how to carefully manipulate temperature, gas pressure, time and airflow to enhance the subtleties from the beans to produce the best cup of coffee.
Soon Min approached many of the high-end chefs in local restaurants and developed a partnership with Michael Mina, Michael Cimarusti, Tony Esnault and The Patina Group, to exclusively sell his coffee and tea. Providence, Church & State and Patina downtown at the Walt Disney Hall all serve LAMILL coffee and tea.
In 2008, Min opened the LAMILL Coffee boutique in Silver Lake. He commissioned chef Michael Cimarusti to design an inventive food menu to include breakfast, lunch and dinner fare to pair with Min’s hot and cold beverages. Since then, it has become a go-to destination for locals and visitors for a leisurely weekend brunch, an early weeknight supper, or a daily afternoon pick-me-up. The boutique also serves pilsner, IPA lager, blonde ale, stout and hefeweizen beer and French and California wines, along with their signature coffee and tea.
Recently Min hired chef James Trees as a consultant to revamp the menu at LAMILL Coffee boutique. Trees worked side by side with Michael Mina years ago, and serves LAMILL espresso at his restaurant Hutchinson Cocktail and Grill in West Hollywood.
The LAMILL boutique serves a variety of baked goods, including jalapeño-cheddar biscuits, masala-citrus cinnamon rolls and apple spice muffins, as well as equally delicious vegan and gluten free pastries.
My daughter ordered a tall glass of cold brew coffee. I asked her, “why cold brew?” As a college student, she learned that cold brew offers a higher level of caffeine and lower acidity than hot coffee, coming in handy for late-night studying. Cold brewing also allows the beans to soak for hours to achieve the true nuance and essence of the flavor profile because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with hot water. At LAMILL, the beans soak for 18 hours, leaching flavor from the beans to produce a much different chemical profile from conventional brewing methods.
I, on the other hand, was not sure what to order, so the waiter recommended a hot crème brulee coffee. “It’s similar to a crème brulee dessert,” he said. It arrived with a thin, yet hard burnt sugar shell on top. I had to crack it open with a spoon to sip the rich cappuccino, made with caramel and bruleed sugar. It wasn’t too sweet and I enjoyed every sip.
Since coffee and breakfast go hand-in-hand, LAMILL serves a breakfast menu all day long. House made granola, breakfast sandwiches, asparagus and poached eggs and even fried chicken with scallion-sage waffles are just some of the delicious signature dishes offered.
We opted for lunch fare when I noticed avocado toast on the menu. It arrived beautifully presented on a thick piece of bread topped with a generous layer of avocado, pickled red onions and a gremolata with crushed chili-almonds. I opted to add a beautifully cooked poached egg on top that burst with bright yellow as my fork pierced the deliciously runny yolk.
LAMILL’s menu also features a savory smoked salmon toast and a sweeter toast layered with house-made ricotta, macerated strawberries, toasted hazelnuts, basil and lemon.
We also tried the kale salad that highlighted the pleasing flavors of the tender baby kale leaves and braised Brussels sprouts. Crunchy farro and Marcona almonds gave this dish texture, while dried cranberries added a hint of sweetness. Sliced pink grapefruit added zing, as did the pickled onions. The salad was dressed perfectly with a light lemon vinaigrette. The shaved vegetable salad, another tasty entrée-sized dish, can include grilled chicken or a seared flat iron steak for an additional cost.
While enjoying our lunch, my daughter and I remarked, where else in Los Angeles can you sip an outstanding cup of coffee with food of this quality in a casual environment? This is not your neighborhood Starbucks. It’s much more refined, farm to table fare, with no plastic packaging.
Other lunch or dinner fare includes shrimp and yellow dent grits with a habanero-bacon jam, and a grilled Croque Monsieur with black forest ham and melted Gruyere cheese served with a small herb salad. A gentleman sitting at a nearby table enjoyed the LAMILL burger stacked with roasted tomatoes, romaine slaw, and melted Hook’s cheddar cheese on a brioche bun served with a heaping portion of French fries. He looked perfectly content taking bites while reading a book.
Not wanting to leave, we ordered a pot of Japanese pineapple papaya green tea. At LAMILL they know how to correctly brew tea with filtered water with a TDS – Total Dissolved Solids –between 10-30 PPM (parts per million), at the right temperature at about 185 degrees for about three to five minutes before removing the leaves. This process gives the cleanest taste of the tea blend. The tea here is fresh and doesn’t sit on the shelves for long.
We splurged and nibbled on hot brioche doughnut holes, which enhanced the sweetness and earthiness of the tea.
I urge you to support our local businesses and experience boutique dining at one of the finest coffee houses in Los Angeles, LAMILL Coffee. You may even see me sitting back, drinking a Black Velvet house blend, while writing my next restaurant review. $$ Open on Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. 636 Silver Lake Blvd. (323)663-4441.
This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News July 2015.