Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Having done my share of ethnic and street food dining over the years, I was definitely curious as to what the food was going to be like at Street Restaurant. Inspired and created by Susan Feniger of Two Hot Tamales fame and also part-owner of LA's Ciudad and Border Grill, the focus of this new endeavor was geared towards a menu that was globally street-food and snack-food inspired.
While I was intrigued by the idea of Street restaurant, I'm sure it wasn't meant to replace the true street food experience. When it comes to street food, there's just something about being so close to the preparation of your food that you can practically lend a helping hand. Second, there's a certain camaraderie with other people, as you wait on the sidewalk in anticipation of your food being served. Third, I just love the get your hands dirty aspect of eating from a paper plate or tray. Finally, I really enjoy how simply the food is prepared. These street chefs cook their food without any fuss or muss and of course, you can't beat the price.
I think what Street restaurant does well is give its customers an introduction to ethnic street food and snacks, but in such a way where they can sit comfortably at table and chair with china and silverware in a funky and cool setting. Plus, they don't need to globe trot the world or even all over Los Angeles to taste the world's flavors. A good portion of it can be seen on the menu. So given all that, what did I think about the food? To start, I enjoyed the appetizer which were Millet Seed Puffs with Marshmallow, Fennel, Curry, Coriander,Cumin and Black Currant. I enjoyed the light crunchiness of this dish and it was a welcome change from the standard bread and butter.
For my beverage of choice, I went with the Cantaloupe and Beet Agua Fresca, which was beautifully presented. The intense red of the beet was layered over the intense orange of the cantaloupe juice. Pretty to look at, but also very refreshing.
Soon our dishes started arriving with the first to our table being the Paani Puri, which were small bites of spiced potato, chutneys and sprouted beans enclosed in crispy puffs of dough, topped with yogurt. For an added dimension, you pour cilantro water into the puff. I've had a similar dish called the Danipuri at a restaurant called Rasraj, so I knew the intent was to eat the Paani Puri in one bite. Was it a good bite? It was good enough. Having done my share of eating Indian food, I would have liked there to be more of a kick in flavor as well as a cilantro water that was less watered down, but overall, it was a promising start to our meal.
Along with the Paani Puri came the Spinach Varenyky, which were small Ukranian dumplings filled with spinach and a light layer of salted cheese, boiled than pan-fried sour cream, fried onions and lemon marmalade. Being a spinach lover, I was already pre-disposed to loving this dumpling with my first bite, but unfortunately, it didn't do much for me. I did enjoy the spinach itself, but the other flavors seemed too muted for my taste.
The next dish that arrived was one of my favorites and what's interesting is that it could easily be replicated at home. Simply, the Kaya Toast was sheer perfection and it's comprised of toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam and served with a soft boiled egg drizzled in dark soy sauce and white pepper. Be sure to dip the bread into the broken yolk for both sweet and savory flavors.
Following the Kaya Toast, came the Japanese Shizo Shrimp, which were deep fried marinated shrimps that were rolled with shizo and nori seaweed and came with a dipping sauce of ponzu, grated radish and wasabi as well as the Moldavian Meatballs, ground beef and kasha meatballs simmered in a sweet and sour tomato sauce with dill sour cream. While neither were show stoppers, they were solid dishes with the shrimp being light and crispy and the meatballs cooked in a sauce that I wouldn't mind pouring on top of noodles and enjoying in that manner.
My second favorite dish of the meal was the Malaysian Black Pepper Clams, which had clams simmered in oyster sauce with cracked black pepper, palm sugar, soy and lime. That broth was heavenly. Forget the clams. I was happy just dipping the bread into the bowl, soaking up the broth and biting into the bread. We even asked for more bread because we didn't want the broth to go to waste. It was that good.
More Indian flavors came our way with the arrival of the Saag Paneer, Kokum Dal and Rice Plate, a South Indian spinach dish stewed with homemade paneer cheese, tomato and spices, served with dried plum dal and yogurt rice as well as the Indian Semolina Cakes, which were crispy pan fried cakes of utma semolina with toasted cashews, peas, tomato and spices, topped with tomato chutney. The Saag Paneer dish wasn't that memorable, but I did enjoy the semolina cakes, although I would have liked them to be a bit more airy and not as heavy in texture.
Our last savory dish before dessert was the Massamum Chicken Curry, a Southern Thai curry dish with chicken, red yam and mushrooms simmered in coconut milk and spices. I just had a little taste of the curry, but having been spoiled by eating at Jitlada, a Southern Thai restaurant, I would have liked a little more complexity and a lot more heat in the curry sauce itself. To be fair though, I only had a couple of spoonfuls so if the heat was more of a slow burn, I wouldn't have noticed from such a limited sampling.
There's always room for dessert and my party went for the Turkish Doughnuts, small spiced pastries, fried and simmered in cardamom rose syrup served with sour cream and rose hip jam and a Toffee and Cookie Plate which included peanut and butter jelly cookies and bittersweet chocolate toffee. I liked the doughnuts, although from the look of them, they seem like they were over-fried? As for the Toffee and Cookie Plate, nothing really exciting, but it served its purpose of giving us something sweet to end the meal with.
Overall, although the food was hit and miss for me, I like the idea of Street, in that it could introduce new foods to customers who aren't usually that adventurous and hopefully, it will encourage them to also seek out more authentic flavors elsewhere. As for me, Street isn't in my near future, but at least my time there was a nice little jaunt around the world and all from one table.
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742 N. Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038