Archive for the 'Echo Park' Category

Valerie Echo Park – Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Valerie Echo Park - Los Angeles

The birthday girl usually gets what she wants, but Sunday brunch at Cortez just wasn’t meant to be last week. As we approached the usually bustling scene, we were greeted with dimmed lights, chair-topped tables, and a short but effective note stating that the owners had high-tailed it out of town in celebration of the restaurant’s first anniversary. Congrats to them, too bad for us.

Needless to say, alternative plans had to be made on the spot.

Valerie Echo Park - Los Angeles

We briefly considered getting down at Guisados or popping into Xoia, but the birthday girl desired sweet nothings and savory somethings from Valerie, so that’s just what we had.

Valerie Echo Park - Los Angeles

Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman Jr. opened this Echo Park outlet earlier this summer following the launch of their lunch counter inside Downtown’s Grand Central Market.

The food and drink served here is a “less precious” take on traditional afternoon tea. Y’all know how I feel about afternoon tea…

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Brunch at Cortez – Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Cortez - Los Angeles (Echo Park)

You won’t find decadent French toast or overstuffed omelettes on the brunch menu at Echo Park’s Cortez, but what you will find, inspired Mediterranean fare, is quite possibly even better.

Cortez - Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Marta Teegan, the owner of nearby green grocer Cookbook, opened Cortez after years of hearing from neighbors and customers that she really ought to have a restaurant. In the spirit of Cookbook, Cortez serves locally grown organic produce, sustainable seafood, and pasture-raised meats. The room is as simple and comfortable as they come.

Cortez - Los Angeles (Echo Park)

My brunch-mate Kat and I sipped cava mimosas ($11) to start, a bubbly, zippy reward for enduring the horrendous traffic to get there.

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Allumette – Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Allumette - Echo Park

Chef Miles Thompson, who launched The Vagrancy Project last summer, has found a permanent home in Echo Park in the building formerly occupied by Allston Yacht Club. During his twice-a-week pop-up in this very space, the former executive sous chef at Son of a Gun dazzled diners with creative and beautifully plated fare like John Dory with boba, miso, and shiitake and chorizo with grapefruit and Robiola on toast.

While the culinary residency was short lived, it managed to catch the attention of Allston Yacht Club’s owners Bill DiDonna and Charles Kelly. Allumette is a joint venture between the two seasoned restauranteurs and the young chef. Consider this pop-up completely permanent.

Allumette - Echo Park

Allumette’s forward-thinking menu is comprised of two dozen small and thoughtful plates that fall under the categories of “Vegetable,” “Pasta,” “Fish,” “Shellfish,” “Meat,” “For Two,” and “Dessert.” Diners are encouraged to either indulge in the Chef’s tasting menu or select 4 to 6 dishes to create their own tasting experience.

I, along with my dining companions Darin, Pat, and Christina, decided to go the family-style route in order to taste as much of the menu as possible. In certain instances where a dish was literally a bite or two, we doubled, tripled, or quadrupled our order as needed.

Allumette - Echo Park

Before diving into the food, we sampled a few cocktails crafted by Serena Herrick. I selected the “Smoking Gun” ($11), a super-strong brew comprised of Vida mezcal, Cynar, and Calisaya. Since The Astronomer wasn’t around to tow me home safely, I kept my sips to a minimum.

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Xoia Vietnamese Eats – Los Angeles (Echo Park)

Xoia - Echo Park

If The Astronomer and I were to combine our culinary heritages, we might come up with dishes like toasted ravioli filled with lemongrass pork and collard greens braised in fish sauce. Sounds intriguing and even a little tempting, wouldn’t you say? This sort of whimsical marrying of cuisines is exactly what the husband and wife team of Jose Sarinana and Thien Ho are doing at Xoia Vietnamese Eats in Echo Park.

Xoia - Echo Park

Opened last summer, Xoia serves a mostly Vietnamese menu with a handful of inspired dishes that bring together elements from both Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine. The cultures collide most successfully under the “Taco” section of the menu. I really enjoyed the anise and cinnamon spiced phở tacos that I sampled at the restaurant’s soft opening and couldn’t wait to try another mash-up during my subsequent lunchtime visit.

Xoia - Echo Park

My easygoing dining mate Nastassia was game for just about anything, so I ordered the mì quảng-inspired tacos ($5.75). The three tacos were served on warm corn tortillas with fresh cilantro, diced red onions, and a side of house-made red salsa. The tender pork was richly spiced with paprika and shallots; I added a squiggle of Sriracha for good measure.

The tacos’ flavors were brighter and more robust than a bowl of mì quảng. Concentrating the spices and upping the oomph allowed the protein to work terrifically as a taco filling. Next time, I’m going to sample the chicken curry tacos.

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