Sunday, November 7, 2010

A-Frame

Last week, A-Frame, a collaboration between Roy Choi (Kogi, Chego) and David Reiss (Alibi Room, The Brig), opened shop in Culver City. Like its co-founders' previous ventures, the restaurant is decidedly unfussy, employing, instead, a "modern picnic" aesthetic with communal tables and baskets of utensils. A-Frame takes its name from its location's previous incarnation as an IHOP, but the trademark capital A shape is all the modern space shares with its rooty tooty fresh n' fruity predecessor; the revamped space is both industrial and unfinished and reminds one simultaneously of both the interior of a Hawaiian hut and that of a wicker picnic basket.

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To get the night rolling, J and I began with a Mainland ($10), a cocktailian combination of pisco, liliko'i (passion fruit), lime, egg white and cayenne. Decidedly unique, the drink retained just enough of the liliko'i's sweetness to counter the tang of the lime and kick of the cayenne.

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The menu read like a list of my favorite foods and flavors I grew up with in Hawai'i--including tempura, shrimp and Korean BBQ--but classed up with a Roy Choi pedigree. The menu's items are linked by their comfort food origins and their place in the urban picnic wherein utensils are optional.

Upon scanning the menu, my eyes were immediately drawn to the Hawaiian-style Furikake Blazin' J's Kettle Korn with Warm Butter, Chives and Spices ($5). It warmed my heart to learn that Chef Roy and I share a love for "hurricane popcorn," and this Kogi-devotee was thrilled to sample his take on the Hawaiian snack. The hurricane popcorn stayed true to its roots with its signature butter and furikake flavor but gained a delightful heat from the addition of spices. Be sure, however, to eat this one quickly; the popcorn quickly grew soggy and weighted down as we munched (although this didn't stop me from packing up the rest of our bowl to-go).

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We also snacked on Sweet Potato and Yam Spears with Sea Salt and Kimchi Sour Cream ($6). Although the wedges themselves were unremarkable (neither crispy nor soft), I found myself unconcerned after dipping one in the stellar kimchi sour cream. The full-bodied, smooth sour cream paired surprisingly perfectly with the spice of the kimchi, creating a sauce so addicting that I continued dipping my finger into it long after the sweet potato and yam spears were gone.

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For his entree, J ordered the Cracklin' "Beer Can" Chicken with Century Egg and Salsa Roja and Verde (half order, $10). "Cracklin'" aptly describes the satisfyingly crispy skin that covered this juicy chicken. After happily ignoring every waistline-conscious warning I've heard about eating chicken skin, I turned my attention to the tender chicken and the flavorful verde sauce and reveled in the utensils-optional policy.

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The star of the meal, however, was undoubtedly the Korean BBQ Lamb Chops with Citrus Gremolata and Salsa Verde ($18). Despite its healthy char, the lamb chops remained tender, and kalbi flavor added another dimension of deliciosity to the dish--especially when dipped in my old friend the salsa verde. Yes, I know deliciosity is not a word; that is simply how good these were.

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Unable to pass on dessert, we ordered the Chu Don't Know Mang Pound Cake Churros with Cinnamon and Malted Chocolate Milk with Ice Cream ($8). With pound cake as their base, the sugary churros took on a uniquely soft and crumbly texture. Just as street churros benefit from a generous dousing of condensed milk, these churros found their creamy partner-in-crime in the glass of rich malted chocolate milk and ice cream.

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Based on our Sunday night dinner, one would never have guessed that A-Frame opened only two days prior. Service was friendly, smooth and speedy, and the dishes were strong. As we dined, Chef Roy nervously paced around the restaurant, peering a diners and seemingly trying to gauge their reaction but speaking to no one. Chef, if A-Frame's opening weekend is any indication everything will be just fine.

A-Frame
12565 W. Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90066
(310) 398-7700

A-Frame on Urbanspoon
A-Frame in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kalbi Burger

At the 2nd annual Korean BBQ Cook-off, one snaking, weaving line stretched farther than the rest--that of the new burger joint Kalbi Burger. Fittingly, the K-Town restaurant earned the "Crowd Favorite" award at the meaty celebration. Inspired by this and some juicy pictures from Midtown Lunch, I decided to give this latest incarnation of Korean fusion a try.

With its checkered floor and silver tables, Kalbi Burger initially appears to be a quintessential retro throwback diner. The menu of Asian-inspired burgers, hot dogs, fries and salads (we do, after all, live in Los Angeles), however, reveals otherwise.

I opted for the restaurant's namesake dish the Kalbi Burger ($7.95), a blend of ground chuck and kalbi topped with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, American cheese, Korean vinaigrette and a kalbi aioli sauce. I was pleased by the heft of the burger's juicy, meaty patty, multiple slices of cheese and fluffy bun, which all came together to make a satisfying bite. Although I enjoyed this classed-up version of a diner burger, I wished that the kalbi flavor was more slightly more prominent and thought that the flavors begged for the addition of a kimchi topping.

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J ordered the Seoul Burger combo ($7.95)--an Angus chuck patty with lettuce, onions, American cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauteed kimchi-- with garlic fries. Whereas my burger would have benefited from the addition of kimchi, the pickled veggies seemed out-of-place on J's, almost an afterthought.

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Although the fries were average, the service we received was not. As Kalbi Burger's owner made the rounds around the restaurant, he looked J's fry basket and said, "Oh, that's not enough garlic!" and took it back to the kitchen. He quickly returned with properly garlicky fries and a few tasty dipping sauces for us to sample.

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I regularly (i.e. almost weekly) crave both hamburgers and Asian flavors. Kalbi Burger neatly combined the two with satisfying burgers made with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, a reasonable price point and friendly service.

Kalbi Burger
4001 Wilshire Blvd. Unit E
Los Angeles, CA 90010
213-738-7898


Kalbi Burger on Urbanspoon

Kalbi Burger in Los Angeles on Fooddigger