Supper Liberation Front – Earth Day Kurmaliance Dinner @ Tacos Punta Cabras

Untitled

Supper Liberation Front – Kurmaliance Dinner @ Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 917-2244
http://www.supperliberationfront.com/

While Supper Liberation Front (SLF) has been around for a few years, I had just found out about the pop-up/underground dining club while dining at Tacos Punta Cabras (TPC) a couple of months ago. SLF is the brainchild of Chefs Josh and Daniel, who also run TPC, and have quite the impressive resumes before starting SLF and opening the restaurant. Usually, the dinners are $65 for 9 courses, cash only and BYOB, held once a month at an undisclosed location. However, the dinner I attended with The Offalo last Monday was an additional charity one at $75, $25 of which was donated to Kurmaliance, an organization that aims to save sea turtles and preserve their ecosystems (on Earth Day too – how appropriate). For this dinner, Josh and Daniel were joined by Chef Brad from Inn of the Seventh Ray restaurant in Topanga. And the dinner was indeed held at TPC, whose cozy beach shack-esque interior proved fitting for the cause and casual atmosphere.

There were 2 seatings for the April 20 dinner, the latter of which we chose to attend at 9:30pm. We were told that the dinners do tend to run longer than the quoted time, and that was indeed the case, as we were seated around 10:15pm, and didn’t leave until close to midnight. However, there was never a dull moment that night, and it was a fun way to introduce myself to the world of pop-up/underground dining. Peter and I took advantage of the BYOB policy, and ran through bottles of beer and ginger beer (we fancy huh) at the dinner. The chefs actually paced the dinner pretty well, bringing out each course themselves for the most part, while describing the course served. The progression of each course, while inconsistent with standard expectations, was interesting in that they tried to alternate the heavy and light courses. Where better to experiment and defy expectations than at an underground dinner, right? Below are photos of each course with brief descriptions, in order:

mcgrath’s sunflower (root, heart, petals) dobin mushi

mcgrath’s sunflower (root, heart, petals) dobin mushi

The bonito-based dobin mushi (which I suspected was too developed in flavor to be completely vegetarian, which proved to be correct) was excellent in conveying an umami richness while being light in flavor. Along with the dashi, there was sunflower served 3 ways: the root, which was diced and served in the broth with English peas and some tempura bits; the heart, tempura-fried (the batter which was actually the one TPC uses for their tacos); and the petals, served with some pea sprouts as a simple salad over the fried hearts. I believe it was my first time eating sunflower, and the root and heart’s texture was similar to that of artichoke/heart of palm – quite interesting.

razor clam, carrot tapioca pearls, duck bacon, daikon, smoked leek milk

razor clam, carrot tapioca pearls, duck bacon, daikon, smoked leek milk

As you can see, no razor clams, sadly. Due to sourcing conflicts (along with the hotaru ika in a later dish), the chefs had to substitute clams (I think they were Manila) last-minute – which really disappointed Brad in particular with respect to this dish. But it definitely worked as a play on the clam chowder. The combination of the duck bacon and the smoked leek milk broth really gave it a nice smoky, creamy flavor, while the clams added a needed brininess. The carrot tapioca pearls, while cool-looking and added a nice coloring when dissolving into the broth, didn’t add too much in terms of flavor.

seared monkfish liver, salted pickled cucumber, maggie’s mustard & seeds, miso-vin jaume

seared monkfish liver, salted pickled cucumber, maggie’s mustard & seeds, miso-vin jaume

I actually thought that by breading and searing the ankimo, the fattiness of the “foie of the sea” was cut down by the added texture. Great dish that went well with the accompanying sauces, and the sunomono of sorts helped cut down the fattiness/searing some more.

jellyfish tom yum ka, young coconut, galangal sorbet, basil seeds

jellyfish tom yum ka, young coconut, galangal sorbet, basil seeds

Fun presentation of being served in a hollowed out coconut shell, the meat of which was incorporated into this dish. This was an ode to the the sea turtles we were helping out, as jellyfish is part of their diet (ha). Definitely succeeded in delivering on the Thai flavors, although the flavors and chilled nature reminded me more of a som tum (green papaya salad). Also, don’t think I got the galangal sorbet here.

lobster, masa, daikon, avocado, onion sprout, pineapple fluid gel

lobster, masa, daikon, avocado, onion sprout, pineapple fluid gel

This dish was definitely influenced by the chefs’ current restaurant, which wouldn’t be out of place as a daily special someday. The heat from that pineapple fluid gel (basically the pineapple habanero salsa from TPC), however, was a bit overpowering for me. I handled it okay, but thought that it kind of overshadowed the rest of the dish. Solid though.

lamb belly fries, siracha ranch, saffron, lime gel, espelette, slaw

lamb belly fries, siracha ranch, saffron, lime gel, espelette, slaw

When I saw the dish description, I was imagining a poutine dish of sorts, perhaps with a lamb belly ragu/gravy (maybe I’ve eaten at Animal/Seoul Sausage too many times). But here, the “fries” were the lamb belly, fried in a batter from which I tasted some cornmeal. The sauce was “sirancha,” a combination of sriracha and ranch, which went well the the contrast of sweet and tart flavors from the slaw, and there were some aromatics in the form of mint which were nice.

beef & firefly squid, sendres 7 flavor vinaigrette, farmers market vegetables

beef & firefly squid, sendres 7 flavor vinaigrette, farmers market vegetables

The final savory course was supposed to be a surf and turf of sorts, with beef and hotaru ika. However, as mentioned previously, the firefly squid was not available last-minute, so the chefs substituted ika somen, or squid noodles. There was a strong cumin flavor in the squid, which was interesting, but I really wanted to see how the creaminess of the firefly squid would’ve worked with the leaner beef. The beef was cooked to a perfect rare and had a nice char, but the flavors (or lack of) didn’t deliver, and the meat proved to be a bit chewy. Not bad, but probably my least favorite dish of the night.

gloria’s strawberries, black tea biscuit, fried platano, eucalyptus frozen yogurt

gloria’s strawberries, black tea biscuit, fried platano, eucalyptus frozen yogurt

The first of 2 desserts was a refreshing one, the effect provided by the cooling eucalyptus frozen yogurt. The fried platano was more of a brulee, and went well with the biscuit and strawberry.

Flavores of Scotch: Butterscotch, Smoked Pete Ice Cream, Vanilla Meringue, Scotch Gelee, coffee cake

flavors of scotch: butterscotch, smoked pete ice cream, vanilla meringue, scotch gelee, coffee cake

The latter of the two desserts was a nice contrast to the previous one. The flavors of scotch were butterscotch and…scotch, and they were playfully presented in various flavor and textural forms. Fun dessert.

My first pop-up/underground dinner proved to be a delicious and very fun experience. Each course was very playful, and provided plenty of experimentation with regards to flavor profiles and ethnic influences (the dinner was fairly Asian-influenced, for the most part). The chefs were warm hosts, eager to present the labors of their hard work, and serving without any pretentiousness. Thanks for inviting me, Peter, and I’m sure I’ll return to another one of SLF’s dinners. In the meantime, the food at TPC will do (a couple of the daily specials from this past weekend used ingredients from the dinner, and were actually influenced by it).

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
(Pop-Up) Santa Monica $$$$ N/A
Advertisements

LudoBites 8.0 @ Lemon Moon

1/26/12

I think most people in L.A. have heard of LudoBites, the hottest culinary ticket in town. Held about twice a year for approximately a month at a time for dinners, reservations for the entire duration of the pop-up usually book up within the first few minutes after being made available (it even crashed OpenTable once). Obviously, I was unsuccessful in my feeble attempts for the last two pop-ups. This time, however, they decided to switch the reservation host from OpenTable to Urbanspoon, and make it a lottery system instead of a free-for-all, first-come, first-served. There is hope!

I had many people submit a reservation request for me, and luckily, Greg was selected (apparently only 5% of the entries were selected). It was a table for four on 1/26/12, so myself, Greg, Eugenia, and Linh-Nam were the foursome (it was Linh-Nam’s birthday too). Han, of course, tried to make a power move for one of the seats that night, but Greg and I had already promised the couple the other two seats. Actually, it was supposed to be Greg, Jen, Eugenia, and Linh-Nam, but Jen had a med school interview that very same day out-of-state. So I came off the bench and scored like Jeremy Lin.

Photo

Linh-Nam and Eugenia

Photo

Photo

This time, LudoBites was held at Lemon Moon, located on the corner of Olympic and Bundy. From what I’ve seen from previous locations on various blogs, I believe that this was the biggest venue that has hosted the pop-up. As a result, it was quite roomy, and not too loud (although we probably did have the worst table at the back corner of the restaurant – no biggie). I was thoroughly enjoying the (suspected) ’90s hip-hop station on Pandora that was blasting away. Another plus was that Lemon Moon is about a mile from my apartment, so no need to worry about driving far during rush hour.

When our server, who throughout the night was very friendly and knowledgeable (though he always ended each conversation or description of a dish with “rock on!” – a bit TTH, but funny), came by, I told him we wanted one of everything (duh). Unfortunately, the hairy crab dish was out already. But even without that, we ordered more than enough, and I was very full at the end of the meal. Looking at the menu, it seems like Chef Ludo incorporated more Japanese ingredients for this run, as well as increase the focus on seafood. But anyways, here’s what we had:

Brioche Seaweed Yuzu Butter

Brioche Seaweed Yuzu Butter ($5)

Nicely toasted brioche, and butter was tasty. Simple, but effective bread service.

Chicken Tandoori Crackling

Chicken Tandoori Crackling ($5)

We actually ordered two of these, since each order has two cracklings. Basically a chicken liver toast, but instead of toast, a fried chicken skin is used. Really nice touch! Couldn’t really taste the tandoori spices in the liver though.

Sweet Shrimp, Miso Cream, Beans, Smoked Salmon

Sweet Shrimp, Miso Cream, Beans, Smoked Salmon ($16)

The sweet shrimp was very fresh (although there was some shells and a tentacle on the plate). I thought the miso cream was a bit too salty, but the combination of everything together was nice.

Day Boat Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffles

Day Boat Scallop, Leek, Potato, Black Truffles ($29)

I think this was a take on the vichyssoise, which is a French soup made with pureed leeks and potatoes. So what Chef Ludo did here was deconstruct it in solid form, then fancied it up with some fresh scallops and black truffles. Playful dish.

Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel

Raw Beef, Radish, Beets, Eel ($19)

This was like a steak tartare. Our server said this was made with American wagyu – very nice. Didn’t really notice the eel, which was mixed in with the beef, but the radish and beets complemented the tartare well.

Foie Gras, Tamarin, Turnips, Daikon

Foie Gras, Tamarin, Turnips, Daikon ($22)

Now we’re talking! All the previous dishes were nice and creative, but didn’t necessarily blow my mind. But this was downright delicious. Imagine a non-spicy tom yum, with big, fatty pieces of foie swimming in it. We were instructed to let the foie cook in the soup for two minutes, but we couldn’t resist after a minute and a half.

Photo

Me killing the soup.

Uni Creme Brûlée, Coffee

Uni Creme Brulee, Coffee ($19)

They had served each dish in order of appearance on the menu, so when this was skipped, we began to worry about whether it had sold out of not. I had read so much about how delicious this dish was, and I was dead set on trying it. Luckily, it came, and eclipsed all of my expectations. The fuckin’ amazing uni-infused custard reminded me of the foie egg custard I had at Raku. The ikura and the burnt sugar provided excellent salty and sweet contrasts, and complemented the creamy smoothness of the creme brulee. My absolute favorite of the night.

Uni Creme Brûlée #2

Uni Creme Brulee #2

Of course, we ordered another one. And destroyed it in mere seconds.

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds

Monkfish Liver, Cucumber, Cornichons, Mustard Seeds ($20)

Sweet shrimp, uni, and now ankimo. Like I said before, Chef Ludo is serious about his Japanese ingredients during this run. It was exciting to see what he did with such delicacies, using his modern French techniques and wacky creative mind. This was one such wacky creation, and everything worked well together.

John Dory, Squash, Spelt, Fennel & Lemon

John Dory, Squash, Spelt, Fennel & Lemon ($22)

Rather boring-looking compared to some of the dishes we previously had, but it was well-executed. Fish was cooked nicely, and the spelt was a pleasant surprise. Kind of a uncooked risotto preparation.

Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots

Duck, Orange, Olives, Carrots ($25)

I really wanted to like this dish. Duck à l’orange? Has to be good, right? Well, like all the protein that evening, the duck was cooked perfectly. But I don’t know about this olive tapenade. Didn’t really go well with the rest of the dish in my opinion. Also, I wished the skin was more crispy.

Jidori Half Chicken, Parmesan, Celery Root Soubise, Walnuts

Jidori Half Chicken, Parmesan, Celery Root Soubise, Walnuts ($26)

This was probably the night’s real surprise. The brick-pressed chicken was among the most well-prepared chicken I’ve ever had. The meat was oh so juicy and tender. There was a parmesan hash-looking thing on the side (which our server had no idea what it was there for), but tasted like French onion soup once you tasted it with everything on the plate.

Goat Cheese Profiteroles, Pistachio, Crispy Leaves

Goat Cheese Profiteroles, Pistachio, Crispy Leaves ($15)

Not crazy about cheese courses, as most of you know. This was just decent. Can’t really picture myself liking savory cream puffs.

Apple Tart Tatin, Salted Caramel, Orange Creamsicle

Apple Tart Tatin, Salted Caramel, Orange Creamsicle ($13)

Dessert time! KevinEats had a chocolate napoleon with the orange creamsicle on opening night, and I REALLY wanted to try that after seeing it there (I’m a huge napoleon fan – the dessert that is). The tart tatin was solid, but I’m sure the napoleon was better :(

Lemon Meringue, Poppy Seed Crumble, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lemon Meringue, Poppy Seed Crumble, Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($13)

This was another pleasant surprise. I wasn’t really excited about this deconstructed lemon meringue pie. Just seemed kind of boring. But it was really good, probably the best version of lemon meringue pie I’ve ever had.

Photo

I’m really glad I finally made it out to a LudoBites dinner after so long. This dinner was creative, fun, and most importantly, delicious. It kind of reminded me of my dinner at .ink, except where I thought Chef Ludo excelled at more than Chef Voltaggio was that his wacky creations were worked off more concrete concepts or particular ingredient, and therefore, most of the ideas had a more completed feel to it.

Again, as expected with such risk-taking, not everything necessarily worked. But I do think that everything was at the very least solid, and some of the dishes (uni creme brulee, foie gras soup, chicken) were just amazing. I really hope Chef Ludo continues to push the envelope for French cuisine, and for the culinary evolution in L.A. as a whole. You bet I’ll be fighting for a table again for the next LudoBites.

Chris Hei grade: A-

LudoBites 8.0 @ Lemon Moon
12200 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 442-9191

LudoBites 8 at Lemon Moon on Urbanspoon

Ramen Bull @ Breadbar

7/25/11Another one of my long past-due posts (this dinner was on 7/25/11), Ramen Bull was a pop-up at the Breadbar location on Third St (which seems to be a popular place to have pop-ups) that lasted until the beginning of this month. The interesting thing about the ramen served at Ramen Bull was that the broth and meat for each ramen was all beef-based. Another interesting thing was that different noodles were used for each ramen variety. I had my doubt though, about whether a beef-based broth would be able to match the richness and flavor that the normal pork-based ramen broth possessed.

Photo

Photo

Photo

Hibiscus Tea SodaHibiscus Tea Soda

Pineapple SodaPineapple Soda

Beef TongueBeef Tongue

Corned BeefCorned Beef

Beef Tongue RamenBeef Tongue Ramen

Corned Beef RamenCorned Beef Ramen

Short Rib RamenShort Rib Ramen

Spicy RamenSpicy Ramen

Ox Tail RamenOx Tail Ramen

PhotoSince it’s very hard for me to recollect the details of each specific ramen, I’ll just provide an overview of what I do remember. I honestly couldn’t tell the differences of noodles used for each variation, but the noodles were cooked well. The proteins were also solid. The marinated egg, meanwhile, was really good. Full of flavor and cooked to a perfect soft-boil – a pleasant surprise. All the varieties were good, but if I had to choose, I would choose the Spicy Ramen as my favorite, which was a surprise since it had the most basic protein of all of the ramen (ground beef). While each ramen was able to develop a nice beef flavor in the broth, the traditional pork-based broth is still on a whole different level in terms of flavor. Just imagine this variation as a good Japanese-style beef noodle soup. Nice try though, Ramen Bull.

Chris Hei grade: B

Ramen Bull
Breadbar
8718 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 205-0124