A Fork in the Road

A couple of nights ago I met up with Chris at Susan Feniger's Street. We have been trying to use up our Blackboard Eats coupons before they expire. Ryan and I went about a year ago and ordered a few menu items and several glasses of wine. This, however, was Chris’ maiden voyage. We met at 8:30 with reservations but decided to ditch them for the bar. He was already at the bar; that’s usually my seating preference anyway.

It was bustling. Large parties, couples, friends, special dates, casual meet ups, all sorts of diners filled the small-ish dining room and adjacent patio. The color scheme consists primarily of orange and black. There are graffiti inspired street murals by Huntley Muir covering a good deal of the non-slated wood wall space, both inside and out. The overall effect of this aesthetic is somewhere between Blade Runner and being physically inserted into a Keith Haring piece. Both might be neat, but both are 1982 and neither, in my humble opinion, create the ambiance of “cozy” for dining.

So let us travel down this road now, shall we?

Right out of the gate we were served an Amuse-Bouche.  A savory version of a Rice Crispy Treat: Millet Seed Puffs, with Marshmallow, Fennel, Curry, Coriander, Cumin and Black Currant -- I liked all of the flavors but found the texture to be more on the moist rather than crispy side.

We began our order with the famed Kaya Toast which is Street’s tour de force. Originally a breakfast dish from Singapore, this is toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam served with a soft poached egg drizzled in dark soy and white pepper ($11). This undoubtedly lives up to the buzz.  While Kaya Toast is very simple, once in your mouth it becomes incredibly complex both in texture and taste. It’s surprising, imaginative in every way and absolutely illuminates the palate.

Next up we visit Turkey and Syria with the Lamb Kafta Meatballs over warm Syrian cheese wrapped in grape leaf and drizzled with date and carob molasses and served with za’atar spiced flatbread ($10). I thought the meatballs were succulent and robust.  I could have eaten a pile of them. But what I was confused about was the dish as a whole. The flatbread was crisp like a cracker. Was I supposed to spread the cheese over it and then eat a bite of meatball? I attempted to put some meatball on the cracker with the cheese but to no avail. Meatball falls off. I wish the bread was giving and accepted the meatball so I could have that perfect bite. That aside, all elements on the plate were appetizing on their own.

With the meatballs we ordered the Sauteed Black Kale with Refried White Beans served with toasted olive bread and white anchovy butter ($7). Again, everything on the plate was good. I prefer my kale and kale-like greens cooked down a little more, but that’s a preference thing (after all, I did grow up in the South). I am also a fan of any version of white beans that can be created. I also love butter and am over the top for anchovy butter. But I still found myself at a dead end when assembling everything for the perfect bite. Where does the anchovy butter go? I still smeared it over the smear of refried white beans over the kale over the bread.

Our bartender/server had told us that, very recently, Cat Cora was in the house shooting a part of the show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Apparently, Iron Chef Cora’s favorite thing to eat is Feniger’s Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings: Asian vegetables, sweet potato and kimchi filled dumplings with roasted ginger yam and sesame dipping sauce ($9). So off we went to Korea. I will say that while I was underwhelmed with the actual dumpling, I really enjoyed the ginger yam puree combined with the sesame oil and the tang of the soy. It did make the dish but it didn’t make it in the echelon of best things I have ever eaten. 

Now let us jet off to Thailand for the Thai Rice Noodles: flat wide rice noodles with Chinese broccoli, seasoned pork, tomato, mint, thai basil and chiles ($15). I was downright disappointed with the actual noodles. They were flaccid with no chew to them. The pork was seasoned and cooked to perfection. I didn’t find anything that would define this dish as special and it would have a tough time standing up to most of our wonderful Thai restaurants within a couple miles of Street. I also felt the $15 price tag was a tad high.

Our last dish was in Japan with the Tatsutage Fried Chicken marinated with soy, mirin, and sake crispy fried in rice batter and topped with spicy kewpie mayonnaise sauce ($15). Chris and I have always adored this dish at Ita Cho and we were excited to try this version. The chicken was over fried and very oily. While the meat of the chicken was cooked nicely, the marinade was nowhere to be tasted. The kewpie mayonnaise was a nice touch, a little creamy, a little citrusy and little heat. The pickled vegetables seemed like an afterthought. They were under pickled and seemed lost on this plate. 
Chris and I have been bandying about the idea of a “Greatest Hits From Around the World” restaurant for years – mostly jokingly. A single chef attempting to master so many different cuisines seems like machine gun fire. Something will hit the mark but impossible to land them all.  Street’s concept actually suffers in a City like Los Angeles; a city replete with street food from all corners of the world – delicious, authentic, and affordable.

All in all I'd say this evening led us down a street with very uneven pavement.

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