12 culinary experiences worth revisiting in 2018

In 2017, Angelenos found comfort from the stressful events of the year by enjoying a multitude of dining experiences by some of the most innovative people and talented chefs in America. I dined at hundreds of restaurants and attended a slew of events last year. Some were so-so, others fabulous. Here is my list of memorable experiences that I would happily relive in 2018.

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Napa Valley Grille – Photo Jill Weinlein

Breakfast and brunch

I fondly remember the brunch fare by executive chef Kenny Spost at Napa Valley Grille. He makes a crunchy cornflake-crusted French toast with macerated strawberries on top. It went well with a flute of the sparkling Kenwood Yulupa Cuvee Brut. 1100 Glendon Ave., #100, (310)824-3322.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Newly opened The Ponte serves a baked egg on top of a layer of polenta with a tangy puttanesca sauce. The best way to eat this is with two pieces of grilled ciabatta bread, allowing the egg and sauce to seep into the air pockets and crevices. 8265 Beverly Blvd., (323)746-5130.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

I was wow’d by chefs Chris Phelps and Zak Walters’ oatmeal griddle cakes at Breakfast by Salts Cure. The banana nut cakes were served with toasted walnuts, and the blueberry cakes had a sprinkling of flaxseed crumble. The chocolate chip griddle cakes made with 60.5 percent TCHO Dark Couverture offer another sweet treat. 7494 Santa Monica Blvd., (323)848-4879.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

I still think about the homemade English muffins at Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach. They are large, warm and ready for spreading with cultured butter sprinkled with sea salt crystals and rosemary. 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., (310)545-5252.

Lunch

The beef roll at Pine & Crane is made with a deep-fried scallion pancake that is topped with seasoned beef shank, long slices of cucumber and cilantro. It’s rolled into a burrito and sliced into four bite-size pieces. Dipping each slice into the sweet hoisin sauce with a touch of ginger offers a pleasing flavor profile. 1521 Griffith Park Blvd., (323)668-1128.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

The nut butter sandwich with chips and milk at PBJ.LA offers a whimsical and healthy take on an American classic. Sandwiches are assembled on slices of vegan bread and placed into a press to cut off the crust and crimp the circular ends. The Old School is made with organic peanut butter and strawberry jam, and is without processed sugar. The Italian sandwich is made with pine nut butter with sage and a basil cherry tomato jam. It’s layered with arugula, extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. It can also be ordered with a slice of Buffalo mozzarella or vegan-smoked provolone on top. Purple Okinawan sweet potato chips sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt offer a crisp treat. Milk is sold in small, clear plastic cartons and includes flavors such as vanilla lavender almond milk, Peruvian cacao almond milk made with a hint of coconut sugar, and cafe au lait almond milk. PBJ.LA is located at Grand Central Market. 317 S. Broadway, (213)628-3410.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Popular since the 19th century, fried chicken continues to have a following as chefs enhance the basic recipe. At Howlin’ Ray’s, the Nashville-style chicken requires lots of napkins. It’s prepared on a six-flavor scale starting with “Country” (no heat) to “Howlin!” (tongue and lip tingling with droplets of perspiration dripping down). 727 N. Broadway, (213)935-8399.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Dine at downtown’s Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken for pressure-cooked and crispy chicken. Orders come in two, four or eight pieces served in a box. They also serve chicken fingers with dipping sauces that include blue cheese sauce, Sriracha mayo, Sriracha Buffalo, honey mustard, ranch or barbecue sauce to enhance the flavor of the fried chicken. Best of all, you can order a stuffed, glazed or sprinkled doughnut for dessert. 516 W. Sixth St., (213)622-7876.

At The Grove, visit Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill for the New Jersey-style fried chicken. The owners and brothers Bruce and Erik Bromberg’s secret recipe includes rolling their chicken into dry matzo meal and frying it. The method locks in the chicken juice, keeping the meat moist. The dish is served with the brothers’ slightly spicy wasabi and honey dipping sauce. The innovative sushi is delicious too. 189 The Grove Drive, (323)352-9300.

Dinner

It’s comforting having the chef prepare and serve each dish right before your eyes. Upstairs at Petite Taqueria, executive chef John Carlos Kuramoto creates a unique dining experience at his stand-alone omakase bar for just 10 guests per seating. His exploratory 10-course tasting menu is a beautiful fusion of Mexican and Japanese dishes. Guests watch chef Kuramoto prepare a progression of plates, starting with the lightest fare and finishing with the heartiest dish before dessert. It’s a real treat. 755 N. La Cienaga Blvd., (310)855-7223.

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Omakase Experience – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Dessert

For those seeking unique ice cream flavors like ube (purple yam), black sesame, matcha (green tea) and charcoal, head over to Koreatown. Somi Somi serves colorful, Korean-style “Ah-Boong” in a taiyaki golden fish-shaped pancake cone. A smear of red azuki bean paste, custard or Nutella is spread inside. The flavors rotate weekly and can be topped with fresh berries, crushed graham crackers, sprinkles or Fruity Pebbles cereal. It’s served with a berry-flavored macaron to be used as an edible spoon. 621 S. Western Ave, #208-A.IMG_6032

In downtown LA, the ice cream shop Little Damage swirls organic soft serve ice cream into a cup or hand-rolled activated charcoal cone. Flavors rotate and may include black charcoal ice cream, vegan Cuban flan, Mexican hot chocolate, and Unicorn Tears, which tastes like vanilla birthday cake. 700 S. Spring St., (213)628-3443.

This article was featured in the Jan. 3, 2018 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – http://beverlypress.com/2018/01/12-culinary-experiences-worth-revisiting-in-2018/

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