Gorge


Photo credit: Gorge

Gorge
8917 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 657-6328
http://gorgela.com/

Unless you’re a mom and pop ethnic hole-in-the-wall located on the outskirts of LA County, it’s damn near impossible for a restaurant to slip under the radar, in a city full of culinary Indiana Joneses looking to be the first to unearth the next dining treasure. But that’s what Gorge has managed to accomplish, despite having a trio with impeccable resumes running things front and back, and being located in West Hollywood. LA Times has barely grazed it, LA Weekly has avoided it like a plague, and you’d be hard-pressed to find reports of it on most food blogs. Recently, someone was asking for info about Gorge on Chowhound (surely due to the lack of information I noted above), and I realized that I did the restaurant no favors by neglecting my very own post, especially when I enjoyed my visits there.

Upon first glance, Gorge appears to be your run-of-the-mill French bistro/brasserie. Old-fashioned French decor here, old-school French dishes there. Take a closer look at the menu, however, and you’d be surprised to find an extremely focused menu – one that does no favors for the ladies looking out for their figures in this part of town by specializing in cured and cased meats. It’s actually very old-school, right down to the all-natural preparations of said cured and cased meats. They mentioned how they wanted to “bring the classics back” into the spotlight. And yet, the concept of Gorge is actually very new, for LA hasn’t seen a French restaurant like this before.

On my first visit, I tried the mackerel tartine and the saucisson sec (charcuterie plate). The mackerel had a wonderfully fishy flavor, a welcome taste for one who likes briny foods, and the curing was strong, but not overpowering and salty. On the other hand, the curing for the cured meats was on the lighter side, presumably due to the all-natural process involved. It’s a labor-intensive and patient process, but the love is certainly evident- each slice of salumi glowed radiantly (probably because it’s fatty), and had a nice variety of salty, herb-y, and garlicky flavors across the board. But the MVP of the charcuterie team had to be the headcheese. Meaty, gelatinous, fatty, herb-y, it’s all there. And it still managed to not be heavy. Also, the pickled romanesco was an inspired choice to match.

On my second visit, I tried the chicken liver parfait and beer sausage. The chicken liver parfait was rather lean – imagine a refined version of the chicken liver pate your Jewish grandma would make. But getting it and the layer of fat that tops it together, and the lean pate transforms into a more creamy bite. The beer sausage was good and had a decent snap to it, and was elevated further by the accompanying fingerling potatoes and what I presume was the French equivalent of sauerkraut. Really a fine job by Chef Elia all-around (this is the same Elia as the one who appeared on Top Chef by the way – twice!)

As amazing as the savory items are, you’d be remiss to not order dessert at Gorge. There is only one type of dessert, the St. Honore (albeit in five varieties). According to Wikipedia, it is a “circle of puff pastry at its base with a ring of pâte à choux piped on the outer edge. After the base is baked small cream puffs are dipped in caramelized sugar and attached side by side on top of the circle of the pâte à choux. This base is traditionally filled with crème chiboust and finished with whipped cream using a special St. Honoré piping tip.” Long description, but puff pastry + creme + cream puff on top = awesomeness. The flavors rotate based on seasonality and Pastry Chef Uyen’s imagination, but the classic vanilla will always be there, and that’s where you should start. Sure, there’s only one dessert, but consider the St. Honore a combination of different French desserts in one Frankenstein package.

Another thing I have to mention is the amazing beverage program here, headed by sommelier Darius. I’m no expert on beer and wine, and Darius was more than helpful at describing the different types offered, and even has a beer AND wine pairing for EVERY dish on the menu- that’s dropping knowledge. He, along with Uyen (the two combine to work front of the house during dinner service), are very hospitable hosts…to few customers unfortunately. You can make a reservation, but it isn’t necessary at all. In fact, the most occupied I’ve seen the place during my visits is 6 people. I can certainly appreciate the me-time, but Gorge deserves better. For now, they seem content at serving return local diners, and ones who’ve heard and read rave acclaim from less mainstream sources (like myself). I just hope that they stick around long enough for word to spread further, because a quality restaurant in LA will not be forever neglected.

Mackerel Tartine
Mackerel Tartine ($18) – pictured is a half-order

Saucisson Sec
Saucisson Sec ($18)

Classic Vanilla St. Honore
Classic Vanilla St. Honore ($10)

2nd visit:

Chicken Liver Parfait
Chicken Liver Parfait ($10)

Beer Sausage
Beer Sausage ($20) – – pictured is a half-order

Caramel Apple St. Honore
Caramel Apple St. Honore ($10)

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
French West Hollywood $$$ A-

GORGE Charcuterie & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Vito’s Pizza

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A good New York slice is damn near impossible to find in Los Angeles, especially on the west side of town (don’t you dare bring up Lamonica’s, fellow Bruins). There have been many imitators who are quick to add “New York” to their names and pizzas, in a town that is suddenly bursting with self-proclaimed pizzanistas and pizza snobs. While I’ve recently found a decent variation of such near my apartment, it was the version I had at Vito’s Pizza in West Hollywood a couple of months ago that restored my faith in knowing that there’s indeed a New York pizza comparable to its founding place.

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I always wondered whether a pizza should be crispy or chewy (like how the pizzas at Pizzeria Mozza are more of the former, or how a legit Neapolitan pie is more of the latter – a characteristic which I haven’t been able to fully appreciate just yet), but judging by a slice from Vito’s, it appears that it can and should be both. The crust is thin and crispy, yet the giant slice doesn’t crack or crumble when folded; instead, it’s soft and has a nice chew. I ordered a whole pie, half Margherita and half white pesto. The former is simplicity at its best – just a right ratio of cheese and sauce that’s neither too sweet nor tart. I liked the latter as well, but thought that the dollops of ricotta were too sweet, and craved for more pesto flavor as a result.

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While the New York pizza is often identified as being greasy, cheap fast food, that isn’t the case at Vito’s. The pies aren’t cheap (in the $20’s), but the quality justifies it. Sure, you’re not getting Bufala mozzarella or San Marzano tomatoes, but ingredients are a grade above what you’d expect, and there’s plenty of care that goes into the dough (apparently they use a 500-year-old starter?!?). I’ve heard that the pies can be inconsistent, however, and maybe that’s the story with both halves of my pizza. Eugenia also tried it (since I brought the pizza home) and preferred Joe’s in Santa Monica, which I need to revisit and see for myself after this revelation. But the slices from Vito’s should be able to bring a smile out of the staunchest New York pizza snobs in L.A.

Chris Hei grade: B+

Vito’s Pizza

846 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 652-6859

Vito's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Night + Market (5)

Some VERY bad photos of my VERY good dinner at Night+Market on the last night of DineLA (ordered a combination of DineLA and regular menu items)…

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nam kao tod (DineLA)

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pork toro

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fried pig tail

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hoi nang rom sod | raw oysters on the half shell (DineLA)

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neua yang | grilled short ribs (DineLA)

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nam prik prajam wan | daily mortar-pounded relish (DineLA)

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startled pig (courtesy of Chef Kris + team – thanks again!)

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gai tod mae chan | mae chan fried chicken (DineLA)

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border beef

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crab fried rice

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panang en neua | beef tendon panang (DineLA)

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whole fish sam-rod

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kar moo parlow

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mango and sticky rice

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ice cream sandwich

Again, these photo don’t do the food justice. I highly recommend it for diners yearning for spicy food, Thai food, or just plain good food period.

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night + Market (4)

Went by myself after work not too long ago. Ordered the awesome pig tail of course, plus tried a couple of the daily specials. Night + Market is basically my source for Northern Thai dishes, which I’m not at all familiar with outside of the restaurant. For instance, I was surprised that northern-style larb doesn’t have the acidity that I’m used to from typical larb dishes (quite the opposite really). But it was amazing. The Miang Pla Tu was very good as well – think Thai tuna salad, but with wonderfully fishy mackerel, and a nice balance of heat and acidity. You wrap the mackerel with the betel leaves (has a peppery taste), which is grown in-house. Had a nice extended chat with Chef Kris, who’s always gracious, and the staff makes me feel at home. I’m actually going to Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas this weekend, so hopefully my Northern Thai cuisine knowledge will improve even more.

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Fried Pig Tail ($6)

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Miang Pla Tu ($9) – salad of mackerel, herbs & chile, served w/ fresh betel leaves to wrap

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Larb Lanna ($10) – Chieng-rai style pork larb w/ blood, liver, sawtooth & roasted chile

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Isaan Sour Sausage ($6)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Pizzeria Mozza

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Pizzeria Mozza. Still the bougie pizza hotness in town. Came for a late lunch (because they’re still so popular that OpenTable’s earliest time available was 2pm – unless the restaurant’s holding back) as part of the Lawrence’s greatest hits weekend (along with Kiriko and 168 Garden). 4 people, 7 pizza, 1 appetizer, 1 dessert? No problem. While the beautiful people were sharing one pizza and eating salads, us four (relatively) manly men were literally the centerpiece of the dining room, shoving down one pizza after another in record time (except Daniel, who takes the entire shot clock to finish each bite).

The caprese, while small in portion and fairly standard, was quite lovely. Fresh burrata, vine-ripened tomatoes, pesto – still a potent combo. For the seven pizzas, we ordered: 2x fennel sausage, 2x funghi misti, rapini, egg and bacon, and goat cheese. Not going to go into detail, since it’s not my first rodeo at Mozza, and I’m sure over half of the town has been here, but let’s just say it’s as good as I remembered. Basically, still the best pizza in LA in my opinion. That dough has no equal.

Pizzeria Mozza. Still the best.

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Mozza caprese ($13)

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Funghi misti, fontina, taleggio & thyme ($17 x2)

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Rapini, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, olives & chiles ($16)

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Egg, bacon, Yukon gold potato & Bermuda onions ($17)

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Fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallions ($17 x2)

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Coach farm goat cheese, leeks, scallions, garlic & bacon ($17)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon

Night + Market (3)

Went back to Night+Market again with Ben and Danno a few weeks ago. Won’t say much since there are two posts already, but we tried a couple of new dishes, along with some favorites since it was Danno’s first time there (PIG TAIL FTW). I have to say, Chef Kris has really stepped it up during these last two dinners, and I find myself wanting to return more and more often. He even came out and chatted with us for a minute. Congrats on making the short list of James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year, and thanks again for the wonderful food! And thanks for the pad thai (it was unexpected).

And by the way, I’m bumping the grade up.

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fried pig tail ($6)

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pork toro ($7) – grilled fatty hog collar, with “jaew” northeastern chile dip

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pad thai

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kao kluk gapi / shrimp paste-seasoned rice ($13) – w/ candied pork, shredded egg omelette, red onion, green mango, cilantro, bird eye chile

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moo sadoong / “startled pig” ($8) – grilled pork, basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, bird eye chile

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pad kee mao / drunken noodle with short ribs ($11) – flat noodles, chile, basil, garlic

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pu pad pong karee / curried crab ($16) – jumbo lump crab, curry powder & onions

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gang ho / “dry” pork stew ($10) – fatty delicious pork belly and shoulder cuts, slowly simmered with palm sugar, fermented bamboo shoots, pickled garlic and ginger, tossed with glass noodles

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ice cream sandwich ($4.50)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night + Market (2)

Despite my great dinner at Night+Market last year, I haven’t found myself back at the restaurant yet…until last Friday. To be honest, it wasn’t our first choice for dinner. Or the second. Here’s what happened: I was asking Ben if he minded driving to the Fairfax/Melrose area for dinner, using Animal as a geographical reference. But he suggested that we go to Animal outright, even though we’d promise Paul that we would go with him when he visits L.A. in early March.

So I called the restaurant around 9pm while driving in that direction, and they said that the next available seating would be at…midnight. No go. Since we were driving east on Wilshire, we passed by Red Medicine. Curious, we parked and asked how long was the wait. 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad, but we had just played three hours of basketball and were really hungry. Only then did I think of Night+Market. I called ahead to let them know we were coming, and they were more than gracious in holding a table for us (which was good, because that ended up being the last available one).

The two of us ordered some of our favorites from the last dinner: pig tails, pork toro, pork hock, and shrimp paste-seasoned rice. All four were as delicious as we remembered it, and even more so with the pig tails, which were probably among the best things I’ve eaten in this new year. I was asking the servers if there was anything new on the regular menu that was worth trying, but it appeared that we’ve already tried most of those. So they suggested actually ordering off the DineLA menu, since all of the dishes on the menu are new stuff that Chef Kris Yembamroong came up with.

There were three courses on the DineLA menu, with two to three options for each. We chose the beef jerky, the dancing prawns (the easy choice for the second course according to the servers), and the black chicken green curry. The beef jerky was served with a hard-boiled egg sliced up, cabbage, cucumber, and nam prik ta dang (Thai chili paste that reminds me a little of X.O. sauce, but sweeter). Pretty good. But then the prawns came. They were served raw and cut similar to butterfly-style, but with the head intact. It was really good! Just fresh and full of that ocean flavor, and the acidity of the sauce was excellent. The heat definitely creeps up on you though, and we started to sweat and gulp water (and luckily the servers recognized that pretty quickly). The green curry, however, tasted a little bland, especially following the prawns. It was a solid green curry, but the flavors tasted a bit muted. And as expected, the meat of the black chicken was a bit tough.

This was another excellent dinner at Night+Market. Side notes: service was great again this time around. Everyone was attentive, courteous, and knowledgeable. We even got a scoop of the coconut ice cream on the house because Ben was sweating so much. Thanks again! Food came out at a quick pace, which was good because we were starving. And they were playing Mission:Impossible on the projector! On my way out, I saw Chef Kris standing near the exit. We chatted for a minute, and I told him that I really like what he’s doing with the menu, to which he said “then don’t be a stranger!” I definitely won’t be, Chef Kris.

Fried Pig Tail

Fried Pig Tail ($6)

Pork Toro

Pork Toro ($7)

Kar Moo Parlow

Kar Moo Parlow – Whole Braised Pork Hock ($19)

Kao Kluk Gapi

Kao Kluk Gapi – Shrimp Paste-Seasoned Rice ($13)

DineLA menu ($34):

Nam Prik Ta Daeng, Red Eye Relish

Nam Prik Ta Daeng – Red Eye Relish: beef jerky / veggies / egg

Goong Ten, Dancing Prawns

Goong Ten – Dancing Prawns: head on / chile jam / lime juice / shallots

Kiew Wan Gai Dam, Black-Boned Chicken Curry

Kiew Wan Gai Dam – Black-Boned Chicken Curry: black-boned chicken / mortar-pounded green curry paste / pickled rhizomes

Chris Hei grade: B+

Night + Market
9041 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9724

Night+Market on Urbanspoon