What. The. Fuck. On paper alone the concepts that I was reading off on ‘Estrano’s’ latest pop-up menu had my head spinning. Was this actually real? How? Why? But most importantly, where and when?
The answers to such pressing questions I found in a nondescript alleyway on the outskirts of Los Angeles’ Chinatown waiting in line alongside folks chattering away about what they were about to order, all while a tumultuous soundtrack of Pig Destroyer, Wormrot, Los Master Plus, and Barbara Streisand marauded the airspace. The perfect setting for the aforementioned menu that ‘Estrano’ had ready for the people. I was worked up. So was my appetite.
Helmed by Diego Argoti, a chef with an impressive pedigree working in the lauded kitchens of Los Angeles’ elite Bavel, Bestia, and Chi Spacca, ‘Estrano’ — which aptly translates from Spanish to ‘strange’ — is a pop-up concept that’s here to wreck every expectation you have of what any regular dining experience is. The atmosphere alone that it generates is a precursor to the deliciously chaotic event your meal will be.
Touted as “street pasta” on Estrano’s Instagram profile, this moniker is an understatement to the frenetic adventure diners can experience through site, smell, taste, and feel. The energy is that of an F5 tornado filled with the sharpest kitchen knives. Fun stuff, really. And you feel it in the food itself, where expertly handmade pasta and thoughtfully crafted flavor profiles borne from the depths of an endless well of freaky meet and wake you up like wet towel to bare flesh.
Oh and at a $12 price point per dish, it’s easy to forget you’re eating white table cloth quality and execution.
Hats off to Chef Argoti, who’s put together an unforgettable experience with ‘Estrano’ and flips a stout middle finger at all culinary boundaries and norms.
When it comes to fish & chips, Los Angeles is most likely the last city you’d expect to serve up a plate that’s noteworthy enough to tell everyone you know about. But at Fishpop, in the Koreatown neighborhood of LA, Chef Joon is firing up gourmet versions in different and bold flavors that are memorable and scintiliating.
Joon’s culinary pedigree is made up of training under lauded chef Joe Sasto, where he learned the fine art of pasta making. The unlikely connection to fish & chips could have one wondering initially the exact correlation, but once you realize that technical kitchen prowess is key to making a perfect serving of fish & chips, it all starts to make sense as to why Fishpop’s brand of the dish is top notch in the city.
Whether you’re crunching into a sweet & sour homage to Panda Express’ Orange Chicken in crispy fish form, or if you’re like me, and diving face first into the perfect and memorable spicy version, Fishpop guarantees a fierce craving for their food. It’s chef’d up fish & chips, really, all done with the respect and care that even the most humble cut of deep-fried seafood deserves.
The video above illustrates the fine details that go into Fishpop’s mastery of fish & chips, which is more than enough to convince any discerning diner that this is the best version that LA has to offer.
As a vegan, I know about all the new products, restaurants and Netflix documentaries. I have vegan friends and share some of the same vegan views. At times, in this vegan bubble of mine, I even begin to believe everyone’s becoming vegan. A simple conversation with a relative quickly dispels that notion. The reality is that within the United States, vegans only make up an estimated 3% of the entire population. That’s like comparing an edamame, to an, I don’t know, elephant.
A recent study reveals the silver lining, as veganism has increased around 300% in the last 15 years. That’s an incredible explosion within a short space of time. You can credit the internet with this “mushroom” cloud of a diet shift. Whereas the initial conversation siloed around animal rights, over the years it’s expanded to include climate change and personal health and wellness. More specifically, two important factors for any new way of approaching things; advances in technology and just plain ol’ hands-on human ingenuity.
One person forging her own brand of human ingenuity is Executive Chef Mimi Williams of Counterpart Vegan in Echo Park, California. Using 100% market fresh ingredients and plant-based processes, she creates familiar staples that are nearly indistinguishable from their original meat-based iterations. This is in stark contrast to many vegan spots that feature alternative protein-heavy menus, which are great advances as well, yet different.
Raised in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, Williams was one of only a handful of Black families in the community. She shared a household with her parents and six brothers of Sicilian/Creole descent. Although she didn’t resemble most of her neighbors, Williams had a strong family support system. One could say she grew up with a traditional family in a non-traditional setting.
While her mother seemingly loved cooking and wanted Williams to learn, she recalls initially being resistant, feeling forced into doing a thing based on her gender expectations. Learning how to cook felt more like work than fun. Noticing that, her father encouraged her to cook things that interested her. That encouragement was the magic needed to open the floodgates of the world of food.
Williams’ was pushed to explore alternative diets during a period in which her father experienced health complications. With his doctor citing less meat consumption as a course of action, her family subsequently became early adopters of a mostly plant-based diet. By this time, Williams had become the de facto cook for her family, with her siblings frequently requesting her food.
At first, it took awhile to adjust to a mostly plant-based lifestyle, but after witnessing her father’s health improve firsthand, she was convinced the diet change was the right decision. These experiences helped Williams develop a perspective on food many Black people don’t have. She discovered veganism some years later during pregnancy after realizing she could no longer consume meat.
Honing her craft at restaurants across America, Williams’ still carries the same spirit of fearlessness and creativity her father encouraged as the current Executive Chef of Counterpart Vegan. Joining the team in 2019, she set about revitalizing Counterpart’s array of offerings. She credits a period of stagnant creativity as the stimuli behind her latest eight course tasting menu.
Consisting of familiar foods inspired by her upbringing, the flavors feel authentic. Some of the offerings include heirloom tomato carpaccio with a tasty and tangy vegan feta, pappardelle made from beets, seasoned squash ravioli and an unforgettable tiramisu as the finale. Williams’ new menu is a fine dining experience vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy. She says she wants people to walk away feeling a sense of hope, and that when they share, “I didn’t know you could do that with this type of food,” that’s how she knows she’s on the right track.
If you’re looking for some momentary respite from quarantine, while supporting small businesses during the pause of outdoor dining, Chef Mimi will be offering a condensed version of the tasting menu as take-out for two. The dinner package will include a salad, appetizer, pasta, dessert, and likely, two non-alcoholic drinks.
There will be 25 of these dinner plates available to all guests and can be pre-ordered on Tock. The dinner package will be available every Friday and Saturday for pick-up, from 6PM-8PM.
Venture out to The York in Highland Park, Los Angeles, and you’ll find more than just your typical pub grub and drinks to enjoy outdoors. Within the bar’s walls resides Bang Bang Noodles, a street food sensation that’s slinging a variety of noodles akin to what you might find on the streets of Xi’an in China.
The owner, Robert Lee, has a lot of Michelin starred-kitchen cred, but left the fine dining scene to set up his noodle stand in Los Angeles. Growing up eating street food classics, he wanted to build something “for my own, that I could relate to, that others could relate to as well,” as he told Foodbeast.
For Lee, that has been bowls of his noodles, which he stretches, slaps, and pulls to order. They’re cooked in boiling water and served with a spicy, tingly sauce (there’s also a soup option) as well as a bunch of toppings. Lee includes a variety of options, including lamb and shiitake mushrooms as a nod to the Uighur culture in China’s Shaanxi region, the inspiration for his own noodles. Pork, beef, and seitan round out the proteins on the menu.
Lee also includes a Xi’an tomato sauce variety that gets plated with bok choy. The tang of it elevates the noodles to a unexpected yet mouthwatering flavor experience.
Food festivals haven’t exactly been a thing since the COVID pandemic hit, as having a ton of people in an area clamoring for food has been a tough challenge. A new collab event between Resy and American Express, however, could provide blueprints on how to run them during a pandemic.
The “Resy Drive Thru” experience, happening in Los Angeles on October 15th and 16th, will have guests go through a driving tour of some of Los Angeles’s best restaurants. At each stop, they will be served a course inside of their car and then guided to the next one by a socially distanced waiter.
Restaurants featured in the experience include L.A. favorites Chi Spacca, Night + Market, Jon & Vinny’s, LASA, and Trap Kitchen. Other restaurant stars in the mix include Konbi, Gwen, Alta Adams, and a dish from chef Nyesha Arrington. Majordomo and Kismet will also provide special items.
The event is going to a good cause, as Resy and American Express will team up afterwards to make a donation to World Central Kitchen. However, it will also serve as a strong example of how one could get multiple restaurants to come together and serve food in a festival-like setting during a pandemic.
Tickets for the Resy Drive Thru go on sale for the general public on September 30th (American Express card holders can buy them 2 days earlier). They can be bought individually or as a group, although group ticket holders must all arrive and travel in the same vehicle throughout the event.
Debuted just a few days ago, the Menudo Ramen takes Don Chon’s traditional red menudo and adds noodles to the mix. Each cup of the order also gets topped off with corn, lime, cilantro, onion, oregano, and chili peppers.
While the traditional menudo bowls Don Chon specializes in contain hominy, the ramen version swaps the hominy for noodles.
Don Chon, located in Pacoima, California, is known for specializing in both red and white menudo, but also makes their own handmade tortillas for dipping. They’re a sister restaurant to Birrieria San Marcos, a restaurant that sizzles on Instagram with their birria creations.
When it comes to the Menudo Ramen, the comments so far have been mostly positive, with folks on Instagram curious to try it or saying that it looks good. Others are curious about the addition of corn to the top of the ramen, while some would rather just have the traditional bowls.
Regardless of how you feel about menudo ramen, it’s definitely an interesting combo worth sampling.
Recently, a video featuring rapper Ja Rule advertising for a Greek restaurant has made its way around the internet. The video, which has garnered over 3 million views on Twitter to date, shows Ja Rule going off for one of his favorite local restaurants, Papa Cristo’s.
For those unaware, Papa Cristo’s is a marketplace and a restaurant that’s been at the heart of the Greek community in Los Angeles for over 70 years. The owner, Chrys Chrys, is a local legend that fires up lamb chops, grilled octopus, and many other Greek specialties hard to find at most other restaurants.
While the viral video itself is mostly getting ripped by Twitter users for the editing (Ja Rule dancing in front of a green screen and slapping the owner’s head on some stock footage), the story behind it is actually pretty intriguing. Foodbeast reached out to Papa Cristo’s to learn more about the video and found that it was part of both a TV show and just general support Ja Rule wanted to give.
According to Papa Cristo’s, Ja Rule created the segment for something called “Pitch Perfect,” a show he created as part of TBS’s “Celebrity Showoff” series. Ja Rule and Chrys chat for a while before coming up with the ad, which the rapper hopes to use to bring light to Papa Cristo’s as well as supporting local restaurants in general.
The full clip will air on June 23rd on TBS, but you can view part of the show in the video above. Papa Cristo’s also mentioned that Ja Rule is helping to raise money for No Kid Hungry alongside supporting family-run local spots.