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A year of bacon, fat-fried everything, food trucks, cocktails, and breweries, 2009 in Los Angeles has been a great gastronomic year. Before we leave this year for the next I want to remember some of my favorites.
Tucked behind Sunset Junction and hidden next to the Silverlake Cheese Store, Café Stella is a neighborhood gem. The dinner menu is French Bistro perfection.
This year Stella began serving breakfast. With a short menu of pancakes, pastries, and egg dishes, the breakfast at Café Stella is simple and classic.
Lemon ricotta pancakes are fluffy and light, with the lemon subtly folded between the silky granules of cheese ($10). Add a light rain of maple syrup and you are in breakfast heaven.
The baked eggs with spinach and goat cheese are meltingly soft and delicate ($10).
When it comes to the spud for breakfast, few restaurants get it right ($4). At Café Stella the crispy breakfast potatoes are just that – crispy, and wonderfully so. Oven roasted and lightly seasoned with a dash of fresh parsley, they have a crunchy skin that gives way to mealy snowiness.
Breakfast at Café Stella is quaint and complete.
Already a dedicated and loyal Susan Fenniger fan, I was elated for the opening of Street, her first solo venture. A veritable round-the-world tour of street fare, the menu is stimulating yet approachable. From tea cakes and dumplings to salads, noodles, stews and curries, the small plates offer diners a chance to explore the world of savory, sweet, spicy, and tart. It is a gastronomic adventure to be sure.
Street offers both indoor and outdoor seating, but I highly suggest the outdoor. Giant street-scene murals painted along each of the four walls enclose you with only the open air above. A stone fire pit in the middle of the patio keeps guests warm. Intimate, isolated from its surroundings and employing a sleek Modernist design, it is a convivial place for a meal.
Instead of bread and butter, diners are greeted with cumin-scented millet puffs. These bite-sized puffs have the texture of rice crispy treats but the taste of a spice market. They are pleasing and surprising to the tongue.
Paani Puri – small crisp orbs filled with spiced potato, sprouts and chutneys – is an ideal start to a globe-trotting meal. The flavors of the Paani Puri become more pronounced when dipped in the accompanying yogurt cilantro water. Each orb is crunchy, light, and delightful.
The Korean Rice Salad is sadly no longer on the current menu. It was a cacophonous mix of firm rice, wilted greens, fresh carrots, kimchi, seaweed and tofu, crowned with a soft cooked egg. The contrast of fresh, crisp, bitter and spicy flavors was incredibly enjoyable – a nice play on the idea of what a salad should be.
The Ukrainian dumplings are filled with spinach and a light layer of salted, boiled and pan-fried cheese topped with a heaping spoonful of sour cream and lemon marmalade. An explosion of taste and texture, each dumpling is certainly more than a mouthful and packed with bite. The dough is chewy and the filling salty. Be sparing with the marmalade as it can overpower the other flavors.
The Lamb Kafta with white beans and grilled artichoke is gentle and mellow. It certainly does not stand out compared to the other menu offerings, but is still a hearty and pleasing entrée.
Street’s Kaya Toast has become the toast of the town. All of Los Angeles has been raving about this Singaporean delight. A sticky coconut jam is spread thick between two pieces of lightly toasted and buttered pieces of bread, which are then topped with an over-easy egg drizzled with dark soy sauce and a touch of grey salt. The egg is a quiet background flavor, offering relief from the rich and gooey coconut jam.
The name ‘Street’ lends itself well to the menu, a celebration of street food of the globe. Street offers a memorable dining experience that will surely continue well past 2010.
I look forward to the gastronomic pleasures 2010 is sure to bring. Happy New Year!
* for restaurant suggestions you can always email me email@example.com