Archive for the 'Palms' Category

Chego – Los Angeles (Palms)

Chego - Los Angeles (Palms)

Back in mid-February, I was invited to speak on a panel about food trucks at UCLA. I wasn’t sure if I’d have much to contribute to the dialogue, but couldn’t refuse once I heard the line up. Joining in the discussion were Chef Roy Choi (founder of Kogi), Erik Cho and Brooke Howell (founders of Frysmith), and Natasha Case and Freya Estreller (founders of Cool Haus). Moderating the talk was none other than wordsmith extraordinaire, Jonathan Gold. I had to say yes.

As anticipated, the evening’s conversation was more about the business of trucking than the business of blogging, so I sat back and listened while my fellow panelists discussed their experiences. The highlight of it all was Chef Choi’s anecdotes about the genesis of Kogi and his passion for Los Angeles. I walked away from the talk craving his brand of bold Korean food with a distinctly L.A. soul. And thus, the “Roy Choi Restaurant Tour” was born.

Chego - Los Angeles (Palms)

After the tremendous success of Kogi, Chef followed it up with a rice bowl venture called Chego, which roughly translates to “the best.” The concept was inspired in part by the rice-bowl-hawking tenants who previously occupied the restaurant’s space, as well as the Chinese oven that they left behind. When Chef saw the metal box in the kitchen, he knew it would be perfect for cooking all manner of proteins slow and low.

Chego - Los Angeles (Palms)

The Astronomer and I dined here on a Saturday night along with our friends Nastassia and Reed. The line for grub stretched into the parking lot when we arrived, but it didn’t take too long to get through. We perused the menu upon making our way to the front and were pleased to find that everything from “Beginning” to “Middle” to “End” was priced under $10.

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Scoops Westside – Los Angeles (Palms)

Scoops Westside - Palms

My friend Matt opened Scoops Westside late last year in the Palms neighborhood of West Los Angeles. He has adored Tai Kim’s ice creams since his undergraduate days at USC, and wanted to bring this exceptional product to Westside residents. If this branch proves to be a success, Matt hopes to spread the Scoops brand across town.

The Astronomer and I swung by the shop after brunching nearby at Friache. We aren’t very familiar with the area and drove pass the store several times before finally figuring it out. For those similarly lost, look for a big sign advertising “Overland Plaza.” Otherwise, it’s quite easy to miss.

Scoops Westside - Palms

Early reports filed by bloggers and Yelpers whined about the shop’s plain Jane walls and lack of ambiance, but that wasn’t the case when I visited. The space was painted a splashy shade of lime, while the walls were adorned with vintage illustrations by David Venezky. The vibe was cool, but not too cool for school, if you know what I mean.

Scoops Westside - Palms

In the center of the room was a mesmerizing plastic spoon mobile made by the same artist who designed the one at the original Scoops on Heliotrope.

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Rio Brazil Cafe – Los Angeles (Palms)

RIO BRAZIL CAFE COLLAGE

Every food lover should have a friend like Bill Esparza. There are many reasons to adore the author of Street Gourmet LA, but it’s his intense passion for sharing hidden food finds and his tremendous knowledge of Latin cuisines that I find endlessly appealing. Were it not for Bill’s generous nature, I probably would have gone through life without ever experiencing the awesomeness of sea urchin tostadas in Ensenada and dulce de leche piped churros in Tijuana. Exploring foreign countries and cuisines can be an intimidating experience, but with a trusty expert like Bill by my side, I feel empowered to try anything and everything that comes my way.

My latest culinary adventure with Bill was at Rio Brazil Cafe, a gem of a restaurant located outside Culver City. He invited Fiona of Gourmet Pigs, Liz of Food, She Thought, and yours truly to join him for an informal tasting highlighting Carioca cuisine—the regional specialties of Rio de Janeiro. If it weren’t for this lovely dinner invitation, I probably would have waited until the 2014 World Cup to try Brazilian fare.  What a shame that would have been.

LUCIENE PECK

Luciene Peck, a native of Rio de Janeiro, is the proud owner of the fifteenth-month-old Rio Brazil Cafe. The restaurant was formerly named Brazilian Exotic Foods, but changed its name recently to reflect the regional carioca food being served.

BATIDAS COLLAGE

Bill brought two artisanal cachaças (Weber Haus and Isaura) with him to dinner because the restaurant is BYOB. Ms. Peck whipped up two fabulous batidas (fruity cachaça shakes) using Bill’s liquor. The first one, batida de coco (left), was made of coconut milk, coconut cream, condensed milk, and cachaça. The second one, batida de maracuja (right), was made of passion fruit, condensed milk, and cachaça. Both were cool, refreshing, and damn potent.

Ms. Peck charges $3 to make cocktails using one’s own cachaça, but it’s free if raw ingredients are brought in as well (i.e. fruits, milk, etc.).

ACARAJE CON VATAPA

Our Brazilian feast began with a special delivery from Sabor da Bahia, a local Bahian catering company. The proprietress dropped off a box of warm acaraje, a traditional street food made of black eyed peas fried in dendê (palm) oil. The fritters were served with vatapa (shrimp paste), a tomato salad, and pimenta (malagueta pepper sauce).

To eat, we halved the fritters with a knife and filled them with the condiments on hand; I went heavy on the vetapa and light on the pimenta. The result was an amalgam of both cool and hot flavors coupled with a superb crispness courtesy of the fritter’s exterior. Think of these as Brazilian falafel.

COXINHA DE GALINHA

Following the acaraje, Ms. Peck served an array of little fried bites. The tear drop-shaped ones, coxinha de galinha, were filled with savory shredded chicken. According to Bill, the shape of the coxinha de galinha was meant to resemble little chicken legs. The half moon-shaped ones, risolis, were filled with cheese, meat, and chicken. A little drizzle of pimenta and we were in for a treat.

BOBO DE CAMARAO

The first course to arrive was the bobo de camarao, a saucy little number comprised of tender shrimps bathed in a thick yuca cream sauce. The wonderfully hearty dish tasted terrific spooned over a heap of glossy white rice.

ABOBORA CON CARNE SECA

A bowl of abobora com carne seca (butternut squash with homemade beef jerky) was served alongside the bobo de camarao. The spicing was subtle, allowing the sweetness of the squash to shine.

RICE AND BEANS

No Brazilian feast is complete without arroz (white rice) and feijao (black beans). Rio Brazil cafe uses Biju black beans, which are smaller than the ones used in Mexican cuisine. The feijao looked rather ordinary but tasted quite extraordinary due to hours spent simmering with pork and aromatics like bay leaves, onions, and garlic.

MOQUECA DE PEIXE

Next, we were served moqueca de peixe, a fish stew made of cod, peppers, tomatoes, dendê oil, and coconut milk. This dish is originally from Bahia, but the version we sampled was prepared Rio-style with less dendê oil. As with the bobo de camarao, we ate the moqueca de peixe over a bed of rice. Brazilian cooks oftentimes season and spice dishes intensely knowing that the flavors will be mellowed out with rice. This tradition reminds me of Vietnamese kho dishes.

FEIJOADA COMPLETA COLLAGE

Our final savory course of the evening was feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. Due to the complexity and labor-intensive nature of this dish, Rio Brazil Cafe only serves feijoada twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Feijoada is a black bean stew that’s cooked for days with carne seca (beef jerky) and porky parts like trotters, tails, and ribs. Seasoned with onions, garlic, bay leaves, and rock salt, the feijoada was bursting with savory goodness and comforting in a stick-to-your-bones kind of way. Bill says that Ms. Peck’s version shames all others in Los Angeles.

The stew was served with garlicky and bitter couve (collard greens) for contrast, farofa (manioc meal) for  texture, and of course, plenty of white rice.

CAIPIRINHA

Before diving into desserts, we relaxed over glasses of caipirinhas made from muddled lime and sugar and cachaça. This was my favorite drink of the night.

COCONUT CREAM WITH BERRIES

We closed out the evening with three desserts. The coconut cream with blueberries, raspberries, and boysenberries was light, with an appealing tartness from the plethora of berries.

FLAN & MANGO MOUSSE COLLAGE

The Brazilian-style flan (pudim de leite) was dense, eggy, and very sweet, while the mango mousse (mousse de manga) was airy and mild. The desserts provided the perfect ending to a stellar Brazilian feast.

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a dining renegade like Bill in their lives, so my hope is that this write-up serves as a weak replacement. I encourage everyone to go forth and eat without limits, preferably at Rio Brazil Cafe.

Rio Brazil Cafe
3300 Overland Avenue, Suite 103
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Phone: 310-558-3338

Sabor da Bahia Catering
[email protected]
Phone: 310-841-2729

Rio Brazil Cafe on Urbanspoon

Rio Brazil Cafe in Los Angeles

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