RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK

every tuesday. every week.

FOOD STEEZ

RED O

It's always exciting walking into a new restaurant, anticipating the decor, the food, and the chef’s personality. Red O was one that we were looking forward too, especially due to the fact of the roaring success of the original one.  We were greeted by a the infectious smile of Executive Chef Keith Stich.   Chef Stich has been awarded many accolades and joined the Red O family as Executive Chef in Newport and bringing his skills to the opening of the Santa Monica location. Talking with him you could feel his excitement about the culinary market especially in the steak and seafood sector.

Red O Santa Monica opened by Rick Bayless is the third location, and the location couldn't be more stunning. It sits right across the Santa Monica Pier and beach with wide windows and a very inviting open air cabana.  The vibe of the place is more reminiscent of a beachfront resort, which we were lucky enough to watch the sunset, relaxation is more important than a quick meal.

Chef Stich guided us to the back of house to a surprisingly large kitchen, from there he briefed us on something that he was only hinting at when we spoke on the phone. He was going to make us their pride and joy, the famous Surf ‘n’ Turf Seafood Tablita.  This is by far the most elaborate dish offered at Red O it is comprised of a prime 32 ounce Tomahawk Ribeye Chop and a Jumbo 1 ½ lb. Maine Lobster filleted and served with bowls of pico de gallo, guacamole, vegetable escabeche, red rice, and black beans. The director and myself looked at each other with mouths agape.  Not only was this going to be a beautiful dish to watch being cooked, we were in for a treat bigger than we had anticipated.  As a warning if you are preparing to order this dish a Thanksgiving type fasting before hand is recommended.  

After having the amazing opportunity to film and collaborate with some of the best L.A. based chefs you begin to notice different types of personalities; the quiet culinary genius, the dictator, the loud talker... Chef Stich was refreshingly the “glad to have you f@#$ing here type.  A person you could instantly share a beer with and talk about culinary influences to botched NFL plays.  Watching him cook was a pleasure as he has really refined his technique and established himself as a leading steak and seafood chef.

The Surf ‘n’ Turf is a sight to behold, it is as beautiful as it is massive, and the director and I were strategizing how best to devour every last piece.  The two primary pieces of the dish go so well together, that it is a little hard to imagine steak without lobster or lobster without steak.  The two complemented each other so well, both two very strong savory tastes. The nice touch on top of it all was all of the authentic Mexican sides, which added lighter hints and tastes of sweetness, pacing ourselves so as to prolong the meal.

All in all it was one of the best culinary experiences I have had in L.A. and I would strongly urge everyone to go and try Red O for themselves.  But it might be a good idea to bring someone along. Because as the Beatles said “you'll get by with a little help from your friends.”

Red O is located at: 1541 Ocean Ave #120, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone:(310) 458-1600
http://www.redorestaurant.com/

AESTUS

Walking into Aestus from the busy LA streets is a bit of a aesthetic surprise, it felt as if I stumbled into a Mad Men set piece, which is not entirely improbable. The restaurant accentuates mid century modern style; from the tables, to the brass top bar, and chairs that Ray & Charles Eames would be proud to sit in. 

Eating at Aestus is a full experience, the cocktails are classic as owner and restaurateur Kevin said “their not infused with bullshit,” but are cocktails with a history and a soul. The food focuses on seasonal only ingredients, taking full advantage and trying to accent the subtleties of each taste, allowing you to experience very familiar foods and tastes in a completely new way. 

This is an easy idea to stand behind but a very difficult one to implement. But that is where the chefs and creative minds at Aestus shine, the dish they made for us was a John Dory; inspired by the Thai dish Tom Yum a traditionally spicy & sour soup. The John Dory might have been the centerpiece but the carrots stole the show. In my personal experience I had never found carrots to be all that exciting of an ingredient, but they were prepared in a way that has changed my perception of what they are and what they can be. Sitting down and taking the first bite I tasted hints of lemongrass and ginger, reminding me as cliche as it is of fall. 

Aestus is the type of restaurant that you plan your night around of, taking your time to enjoy the full experience from the aesthetic, to the wait staff, and finally the food, taking time to appreciate the small details that go into what makes Aestus great. It was paired with beautifully prepared carrots with hints of lemongrass and ginger. 

Aestus is located at 507 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (424) 268-4433
http://www.aestusrestaurant.com/

PLAN CHECK

Plan Check sits in the middle of South Fairfax surrounded by skateshops, urban fashion, and Jewish deli’s, one might think it is a little out of place because it is. The team at Plan Check with Chef Ernesto offer a unique dining experience. The food is very familiar; with an emphasis on burgers and chicken sandwiches, but it isn't your typical LA fare. Chef Ernesto was able to elevate the simplicity of these very well known dishes in a refreshingly original way, something that wasn't all that surprising since he created Umami Burger.

When he brought us into the kitchen one of the first things he pointed out was an odd red square that frankly looked like a fruit roll-up, nudging me to try it, I was quite excited to learn that it was actually dehydrated ketchup, what Chef Ernesto coined as Ketchup Leather, which rehydrates as soon as you put the patty on top without soaking the toasted bun. A lot of people believe that the better the burger the fewer ingredients but sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind and dress it up a little. In addition to the ketchup leather, there are mixed pickles, schmaltz onions, and a house made american dashi cheese, bacon, and a fried egg....yeah take a minute to process that, we did.
 
Second on the list was the  Southern Fry, chicken sandwiches are on the rise and could become the next burger which would be a welcome change in my opinion. When you think of one, what comes to mind? And I hope it's not Chick-fil-A because it really should be this, Plan Checks second most popular menu item. Just as familiar and unique as the PCB the Southern Fry is a combination of sharp pickles, a spicy house made green pimento cheese, grilled duck ham, and of course the fried jidori chicken. It's the type of sandwich I would expect to find at a small town bbq in the heart of Mississippi, it just had that homey nostalgia but cooked with the type of craftsmanship that you don't find all that often. 

 LA is a tough place to stand out, the sandwich game here is fantastic. But the Plan Check burger is a definite contender and an easy pick if you want to try out a new burger spot. They currently have three locations in Sawtelle, Fairfax, and Downtown so there is no excuse. I promise you will not be disappointed. 

Plan Check is located at 351 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles 90036
Phone: (323) 591-0094

JITLADA

There are few things that you willingly pay for that test your will to the core. Jitlada offered that experience for us on a blistering hot summer day in Los Angeles.  “How hot is too hot?” Chef and Co-Owner Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee laughed at the question, his response “not possible.” This couldn’t be a clearer sign of what was soon to come. 
 
Chef Tui is extremely prideful and enthusiastic about where he grew up in Southern Thailand, he and his sister “Jazz” who is also co-owner grew up near the ancient province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, close to the Malaysian border. Both moved to the US in the 80’s and started in the restaurant business, taking over Jitlada in 2006.
They kept the original menu relatively the same, but Chef Tui wanted to elevate the cooking from the start and added an additional 40 menu items close to his heart from Southern Thailand, a region know for spicy food and sweating tourists.
 
Chef Tui pushes the limits when it comes to spicy food. He has an ideology that he lives by as a restaurateur and chef, which contradicts 99% of the industry.  As long as 1 person out of a 100 enjoyed his food, he would succeed.  Jitlada is a Hollywood institution and it became one because of Chef Tui’s belief in word of mouth.
 
Taking us to the back of the kitchen he had laid out a good 5 different peppers to be used as a chile puree.  At this point I knew I had to mentally prepare myself, and I couldn’t be more excited. The dish he was making was a deep-fried whole sea bass; this is the type of dish you wouldn’t be able to find at the usual Hollywood Thai fare, it was made authentically with fresh turmeric and fried garlic and of course the chili puree.
 
Being both foodies and filmmakers we had a tough choice: eat or take pictures.  Our filmmaking sensibilities prevailed and we set the dish up to take pictures. Within 5 minutes by some amount of black magic Chef Tui whipped up an additional 6 dishes, both the director and myself nodded at each other it looked like we had a feast on our hands.  He brought out the dry pork curry, the southern curry, steamed mussels, flambé prawns, the chicken satay, and the crying tiger beef.
 
This was the perfect introduction to Southern Thai cuisine every single dish was spicy.  Beads of sweat started to drip down our brows, and to satisfy the beast we had to continue eating never taking a breath. At one point a perceptive waitress brought over a fan and placed it directly in front of us. She was our saving grace.
 
If you’re an adventurous eater and aren’t afraid of a little heat Jitlada is a must. I promise you will not be disappointed, just ask Chef Tui to surprise you.

Jitlada is located at 5233 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: (323) 667-9809

CROFT ALLEY

It’s a little confusing finding Croft Alley, but when you do it you will not be disappointed. The restaurant is physically located in Croft Alley and it feels more like you’ve stumbled into a small side street somewhere in Cinque Terre, and not off of the always-busy Melrose Ave.  Restaurateur Michael Della Femina and partner Chef Phoung Tran have created something uniquely intimate in a city where just that is increasingly harder to find. 

I have to say Chef Phoung is a sucker for fresh produce and one of the first things you notice walking up are planters growing a myriad assortment of produce, that he clips fresh for each order. Moving inside you quickly realize that the space is tight, but that is exactly why it is so appealing.  From the wooden tables and chairs to the wrap around kitchen everything feels vintage and authentic, and they even have a small private courtyard that they use for seating as well 

After a quick tour, Chef Phoung got down to business. He started us off with his own take of a Tuna Melt, which is more in line with Japanese aesthetics. His inspiration behind it came from “all of us eating a bad tuna melt in town.” He uses green chili’s, shallots, fontina cheese, and a little bit of tartar, but most importantly it’s the bread. DAMN that bread for being so good! As a testament to how amazing the bread was ponder this. Before opening the restaurant, Chef Phoung held 20 meetings with vendors across LA just for bread, 20 meetings! If that’s not an indicator to how unique it was then I don’t know what is. 

To follow up Chef Phoung made his now famous house made chlorophyll yogurt, with fresh berries. He first started noticing juice chlorophyll being added in cold press juices. He wanted to include it not only because it gives the yogurt a unique twist but also because a shot of chlorophyll gives you a burst of natural energy and has amazing antioxidants. I’ve never quite tasted yogurt as fresh as this.

 If you’re looking for a new restaurant with a unique atmosphere and take on food, add this to your list. Hey you might even see a celebrity. We did.

Croft Alley is located at 8428 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069

TATSU

There is a certain kind of beauty when you combine traditional recipes and contemporary ideals. Tatsu Ramen was able to achieve this under owner Ryu Isobe, who started the restaurant when he discovered a lack of bold ramen in Los Angeles. 

 Tatsu offers a new approach to the dining experience, one that I have to say was largely enjoyable. It’s a mixture between a sit down restaurant and a fast food joint where there is a level of efficiency that was modeled after newer restaurants found in Tokyo.  Walking into the restaurant you find that there is neither waiters nor a counter to order food, but instead you place it at one of a handful of tablets by the entrance.  The interface is clean and simple offering customers a wide variety of menu items with the choice to mix and match ingredients. From there they have a wait staff that will bring you the food you ordered.

 One of the center pieces of the restaurant and something that Ryu and the Tatsu family is extremely proud of - a small little glass room located towards the middle of the dining room.  This is where they actually make the noodles, a reminder that fresh ingredients are an integral part to the food they cook. Watching one of the chefs create the noodles from start to finish was mesmerizing.  It’s a very visceral experience to have even a small interaction with the preparation of your food and a technique that isn’t used often enough, adding a little bit of entertainment to the wait.

 Then it comes down to the food. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a big fan of Asian cuisine particularly curries and soups, so I had high expectations for Tatsu. And I was pleasantly surprised when they met them.  We sat down to try three of their signature dishes: the Soul Ramen, the Bold Ramen, and the Hippie Ramen. Each uniquely different with bold flavors, but at its core they all had a savory broth which is the cornerstone to a great bowl of Ramen. The Soul Ramen dish was made with a homemade Tonkotsu broth consisting of black garlic oil and a sweet umami sauce.  The Bold Ramen also has the Tonkotsu broth but mixes in a variety of bold flavors and a seasoned soft-boiled egg.  The Hippie Ramen uses a vegan broth and hints of onion, soy sauce, and ginger.  Each dish comes with the choice of meat, which is a great addition but the broth and noodles are so good that they are not overtly necessary.

Tatsu offers a unique and daring take on ramen, without the hassle of venturing into Chinatown or little Tokyo.  And with two locations in Sawtelle and West Hollywood it’s an easy stop to try some of the best Ramen around.

Tatsu is located at 7111 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Phone:(323) 747-1388

KNUCKLE & CLAW

 Let's break it down: Ordered 48 hours ago – Caught in Maine – Driven to Boston – Flown to LAX – 8 hours later – sustainable lobster on a roll. You cannot beat fresher Maine Lobster in LA than at Knuckle and Claw. They’ve perfected lobster logistics so much, even Amazon couldn’t beat them.  It’s a bold statement but it's true.

Knuckle & Claw has been around for six months and has received a wide and loyal following. The restaurant was founded by Nikki Booth and Chloe Dahl, both whom are insanely dedicated to lobster.  They started out as Chloe's Lobster Booth, hopping around LA farmers markets, but are now settled on Sunset Blvd on the edge of Silver Lake and Echo Park. At a glance the restaurant has an aesthetic of Martha’s Vineyard, which is where Dahl is originally from. It's clean and contemporary, with pleasing blues and whites. The interior space is not much more than a counter but the layout is extremely open which allows for an amazing up-close view of the chefs preparing the rolls.

And the rolls, oh the rolls. It's hard to imagine tasting something that fresh without being geographically located on the East Coast. The Food Steez Team had the pleasure of tasting the Maine Lobster Roll and Knuckle Sandwich - both staples and for good reason. One of the first elements to stand out was the bread. They receive their rolls fresh every morning from one of the best bread purveyors in LA, Rockenwagner Bakery. Not wanting to overpower the bread and lobster, they lightly butter the outside of the roll and place a pinch of mayo between the bun before adding the lobster.

All in all the rolls are fairly simple without a lot of elements, but that’s not a negative comment. The whole concept behind the restaurant is having the freshest ingredients around, and allowing them to really stand on their own. If you're In LA and you want to reminisce about the East Coast, this is where you come.

Knuckle & Claw is located at 3112 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Phone:(323) 407-6142

TERRINE

There is nothing quite like the feeling of walking into a restaurant and feeling as if you’ve escaped LA.  Walking into Terrine on Beverly Blvd was just that.  It feels more like walking into a secluded restaurant somewhere up the coast of California, which in effect, is what the owners Francois Renaud, Stephane Bombet, and Kris Morningstar wanted.

Having an amazing patio isn’t necessarily a unique restaurant experience here in LA, between Silverlake and Venice we’re quite spoiled. But having the food to back it up is and that’s where Celebrity Chef/Owner Kris Morningstar comes in.

Kris had a quiet confidence, having been a seasoned chef for quite awhile. He’s won GQ’s Magazine Dish of the Year,  Gayot’s Rising Star Chef award, and is a recurring judge on the show Knife Fight. He decided to make us the Terrine Burger, and I have to say we were in good hands.

The burger scene in LA is huge; there is a ton of competition. Apparently the first cheeseburger was invented here, at a now defunct restaurant called the Rite Spot.  The Terrine burger is $25, which is fairly steep, but it’s worth every single penny.  The burger grew in popularity starting off as a hidden gem on the secret menu then moved to the lunch menu, then the dinner menu, and is now a staple of Terrine.

As an American, I’ve had a lot of burgers from BBQ’s in Texas to famous chains and fancy restaurants. This has to be arguably one of the best burgers I have ever had, hands down.  Let’s break it down:

The bun was toasted and had a spread of a creamy sage aioli, and the patty had a good amount of truffle butter mixed into the center. On top he used a lesser known Italian cheese called Sottocenere, which is a semi-firm cheese, with hints of black truffle.  Kris then placed lettuce and caramelized shallots on top to add a bit of a crunch. But here is the kicker, on top of it all was foie gras, something completely unexpected, but entirely appreciated. It was savory and sweet, and we tried to relish every single moment, licking up every crumb on the plate.

            If you’re a burger fanatic add this place to your list now, the price is steep but it is worth it, I promise. And if you’re not a fan of burgers they have an incredible selection of French and American cuisine.

Terrine is located at 8265 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90048

Phone: (323) 746-5130

MAINLAND POKE

What do you think of when you hear “a better fast food movement?"

McDonald's… Hell No.  Chipotle… Getting Closer.  Chef Kayson Chong of Mainland Poke thinks a traditional Hawaiian dish called Poke is the way to go, and I am inclined to believe him.

Located on 3rd St. in Beverly Grove, Mainland Poke sits on a block a few doors down from Joan’s on Third, but it couldn’t be more different.  The exterior is instantly noticeable, clean and contemporary. The design feels more in line with Yogurtland than a traditional Poke restaurant. But that aesthetic was intentional. Chef Chong is a big believer in healthy fast food and wanted to streamline the process.

Walking into the restaurant everything is laid out in front of you, each bowl is created on the spot, much like Subway but a lot prettier.  You have the option to choose one of the Chef’s favorites (you gotta trust the guy) or build your own bowl. We did both.  There are a few different varieties of meat: albacore, salmon, octopus, ahi tuna, and tofu.  With a slew of bases and toppings there are a lot of amazing combinations.

Chef Chong makes a great bowl. He started us off with the So Cali (one of the Chef Favorites). As a base; the bowl had brown rice with salmon, avocado, sweet onions, jalapeños, and a sriracha aioli.  One element that immediately struck me was that Chef Chong doesn’t use any spices in his preparations, which really allows you to taste how fresh the meat and toppings are. There is nothing for them to hide behind.

After we devoured the So Cali bowl, Chef Chong made a treat for us - if it had a name it would have been the Super Bowl. We went a little crazy and added practically everything and it was fantastic.  All the ingredients work well together so there are no bad combinations. We topped it with the famous spicy Shoyu sauce and our knees buckled.

If you’re a fan of sushi make this your next stop. Poke is trending right now and for good reason. It’s simple, healthy, fast, and amazing.

Mainland Poke is located at 8318 1/2 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Phone: (310) 234-8800

BESTIA

The Team at Food Steez had the chance to get a front row seat at Bestia, where Husband / Wife team Chef Ori and Chef Genevieve did not disappoint. From its inception Bestia has been big on family, which is something you can immediately see when you walk in the door into its very contemporary space. The kitchen is open air and is always bustling with laughter adding a sense of community. The food is simple but as Chef Ori says “simple is definitely not easier,” the meals are stripped down of unnecessary elements allowing each ingredient to step into the spotlight, something that is both unique and refreshing.

To start things off Chef Ori prepared a house made charcuterie plate. Bestia is very proud to make all their seasoned meats in house, where they can observe and fine tune the whole process. The charcuterie plate was not unlike what dreams are made of and the entire Food Steez team needed a moment to reset. After a few “Oh My God this is so good,”  Chef Ori started the mussel dish. One element that immediately stood out was how amazing the broth was, it elevated the mussels to a whole different playing field, with a hint of earthiness and a good amount of kick added.  I would have gladly taken it as a soup even though it was nearing 100 degrees outside.

Finishing the mussels Chef Genevieve as if on cue took us back into the kitchen to her pastry section - showing us how she makes one of her favorites, the Butterscotch Coconut Tart with Fresh Coconut Sorbetto. It was exciting watching her make this dessert from scratch, as she is so enthusiastic about each little ingredient and why it is utterly irreplaceable, we had trouble looking away. The coconut paired with butterscotch is a perfect combination. It truly was one of the better desserts that I’ve ever had the chance to taste.

Chef Ori and Chef Genevieve make an amazing team and couple. They have created an amazing atmosphere and experience allowing the patron to experience seemingly disparate styles; new and old, contemporary and intimate.  If you are fortunate enough to get a reservation this is absolutely a must try.

Bestia is located at 2121 E 7th Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90021

For reservations call (213) 514-5724

music by:  Caius

music by:  Guggenz

music by:  Guggenz

music by:  Guggenz

music by:  Flamingosis

music by:  Caius

music by:  Masego x Medasin

music by:  Flamingosis

music by:  Medasin

2016

all rights reserved