I was a little wary about eating here because street food is what I grew up on. I was afraid they would butcher the dishes that were close to my heart and then I’d leave feeling underwhelmed and more homesick for those dishes more than ever before.
My friend Austin and I arrived when it opened and were greeted by the lovely host who told us we could have the pick of the restaurant. We chose to sit inside because we could feel the sweltering heat about to envelope us from the car to the door and sitting outside would no doubt make our meal a lot less enjoyable.
No sooner had we sat down and gotten our drinks, a small dish of these turmeric-hued Indian flavored rice crispies were placed before us. Their slight saltiness surprised me as I was expecting sweet rather than savory and the heady aroma of cumin hit me head on. It was certainly a seductive introduction to what was to come!
We started with Sashimi ($12), seasonal fish — in this case, albacore, spicy sesame mayonnaise, ponzu sauce, smoked salt, pink peppercorns and daikon radish sprouts.
I was at first put off by the mayo — I hate mayo — but once I mixed it with the ponzu, it diluted the mayo taste and added a different element to it which was rather pleasant. The pink peppercorns were possibly my favorite flavor component to this dish — and if you didn’t know, pink peppercorns are not pepper but berries from the Baies Rose plant.
This is probably why although there is a slight kick to it, they are very subtle and unique, not anything like the black or white peppercorns. This dish worked for me on every level!
A few of the dumpling selections caught our eye and so we decided to go with the Dumpling Sampler ($14) to experience three of the items instead of ordering a la carte.
I didn’t like Spinach Varenyky. These Ukranian dumplings were filled with spinach and a layer of salted cheese, boiled and then fried, served with sour cream, fried onions and lemon marmalade.
They were dense, dry and lacked flavor. It reminded me of a ricotta cheese and spinach mix I put into my lasagnas before I’ve seasoned it, and the acoutrements didn’t help to enhance them any.
The filling was under-seasoned and although the lemon marmalade sounded good on paper, there wasn’t enough of it to help cut the heaviness.
Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings were a different story all together. I loved the Asian vegetables stuffed inside the wrapper, making them moist and flavorful. I however did not taste the sweet potato nor kimchi, but the roasted ginger yam puree was a nice touch if you needed added moisture — which those Ukranian dumplings should have had.
Shrimp stuffed shiitake mushrooms were my favorite of the three. Tempura fried shiitake mushrooms are filled with a delicate shrimp mousse, battered and fried.
I loved the ponzu dipping sauce which helped cut the grease some. Three fried dumplings are too greasy on one platee. What I would’ve liked is to balance the fried with some steamed options to lessen the overkill.
Initially, I had checked out the online menu and had the clams stuck on my mind, only to be told that the website’s menu needed updating and instead, Curried Mussels ($12) were offered. These Goa-style mussels in coconut milk with shallots, curry leaf and Spanish chorizo were perfectly prepared, tender without the least bit of rubbery or chewy texture.
I saw the curry leaf swimming around but didn’t detect its aroma. Nor did the coconut milk stand out in any way. The chorizo was so hard we weren’t able to chew on it, leaving it in the bowl with the remainder of the broth for our server George to take away.
Korean Rice Salad ($15) was essentially bibimbap, but as far as bibimbaps go, this was an epic fail. Apart from the superbly glazed seasonal fish (salmon) which was flaky, moist and absolutely perfect, the rest was a different story.
The brown rice, chopped lettuce, soybean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, nori, daikon radish, tofu, sunflower seeds all had the makings of a good bibimbap. However, where it failed was in the seasonings. Even though it is tossed in a spicy sweet sesame dressing, it was bland and dry that even the runny fried egg mixed in was not able to save it. It was desperately needing a huge dollop of gojuchang, something to give it some oompf. We ate the fish but left the rest untouched.
In order to make up for the last dish, we ordered Black and gold ceviche ($11) marinated seasonal fish with golden chiles, cucumber, red onion, and cilantro topped with extra virgin olive oil and salsa negra, served with an arugula side salad and house made potato chips. This was a pleasant dish, but didn’t wow me.
I wish I had left room at this point to enjoy more than two bites of the Lebanese Za’atar Chicken Wrap ($15) because it was DELICIOUS.
Oven roasted chicken, chopped and dusted with za’atar spice mix, wrapped in toasted lavash, with baba ghanoush, marinated tomatoes, olives, cucumber lebni yogurt, and chopped harissa eggs sounds like a lot, but came together so beautifully.
The fact that I was already stuffed and found this sandwich as stellar as I did goes to show how truly amazing its flavors were.
Unfortunately we were too full to have any dessert, but we are determined to return for a sampling of their dinner menu which has different items from the lunch menu. All in all, a really relaxed meal with awesome service from George. We shall return again — soon!
Susan Feniger’s Street
742 N Highland Street
Los Angeles, CA 90038