COLUMN – Josh Terry; Creative Director
As the Creative Director of a restaurant branding agency, I feel like I should enjoy oysters. I feel like I should enjoy all food and drink and for the most part I do– except oysters. Believe me though, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve sought out these briny bites up and down the coast from Swan Oyster Depot, to L&E, to Olympia Oyster Bar. Every time thinking that this will be the time that wins me over.
Why would I subject myself to all this unsatisfactory slurping? Because I really FEEL like I should enjoy oysters. And pretty much everyone I’m with loves them. They go nuts for them. And when everyone’s eyes light up as an icy plateau of shellfish is paraded across the restaurant, I’m always there to kill the buzz with an unenthusiastic “meh.”
Oh but I’ve seen the pearly light! (Figuratively, pearls would probably be a choking hazard). All it took was a trip up to the Hog Island Oyster farm in Tomales Bay. In my day, I’ve eaten some weird stuff produced by interesting processes (think Sun Cooked Stew in Africa and Live-Shrimp in Cambodia) so when it came to this hang-up, I realized maybe it was the process that was missing. Sometimes I need to go through a gastronomic gauntlet to really appreciate the product. In this case, it was shucking my own oysters.
Hog Island is a simple setup. It’s a working oyster farm, so the frills are for function not form. That’s a welcome treat for someone who has worked in an industry rife with overdone design and empty restaurant concept development. Past the piled up nets, buoys, and gurgling troughs of oysters in various stages of processing there is a “pick-up” window. You place your order and get a quick demo to hopefully reduce the amount of self-stabbings and bits of broken oyster shell you consume. Armed with the requisite amount of instruction and appropriate tools: oyster knife, protective glove, and cold beers- we carried our tray of 60 (you basically order by the dozen…or five dozen. That’s commitment.) assorted Sweetwaters, Kumamotos, and French hogs over the to picnic/shucking zone.
By about the 5th or 6th oyster you really start getting the hang of it. By the 12th, I was a machine and by the 20th+ I was a machine covered in sea-water, bits of shell, and beer. Pro tip – be wary of the beer-to-oyster ratio, as your newfound shucking skills may regress. By the end of it all, I had put down more oysters in that one sitting then I’d probably had in my entire life. Shell yes! Shuck yeah!
I now love oysters.
The first thing you should order is french fries covered in étouffée. Just trust us on this one. It’s not on the menu, so don’t even bother looking yet. First things first. From there, you can take many turns. Gumbo, jambalaya and po’boys are the easy choices, and basically any fried seafood is guaranteed to make you happy. There are other southern staples like fried chicken, meatloaf and pork chops, if that’s more your speed. And a few Legaux specialties like Shrimp Ryan and Harold & Belle’s Scampi round out the offerings. Oh, and did I mention they won Best Creole in LA from LA Magazine? Not too shabby.
Crenshaw Boulevard, Skid Row, South Vermont: these are places we Angelenos associate with the term “street.” Night + Market’s location on Sunset? Perhaps slightly “street” when Little Wayne is performing down the strip at the Roxy, but even then… not exactly. While the address of the restaurant is somewhat contradictory to its street food concept, I’ll let it slide—Night + Market’s flavors are better fitting for a Thai palace than our pot-holed LA roads anyway.
Step into Night + Market and you get a sense of authenticity right off the bat. With walls full of a mishmash of framed artwork, Thai album covers, sporadic neon signs and a Buddhist homage to one’s ancestors, one could easily forget they’re in West Hollywood. Well, if they didn’t notice the communal tables. Or the ever-so popular Mason jar glasses. Oh, or the mixologist-approved drink list. And once you notice the list, trust me when I say, the Mekong Old-Fashioned with a splash of lychee juice makes the perfect aperitif. In terms of flavor, this is just the beginning…
After a single sip of that drink, I put myself in Chef Kris Yenbamroong’s hands. So when it said the papaya salad “should be enjoyed with sticky or coconut rice” on the menu, I had to oblige. The curried crab and crab fried rice, I swear was made with ingredients straight from Krabi. And the pad thai? Had the perfect amount of spice and tasted like the Thai noodle we all know and love, yet was somehow better than any other—could the dried shrimp have made it that good? Foolishly stuffing myself with their generous portions, I saved no room for dessert, but I have no doubt that the ice cream sandwich would have been mind blowing. Because hell, even the beef grapow sounded mind blowing and I don’t even eat meat.
I can’t quite put my tongue on it, but Night + Market really is the freshest tasting, most flavorful, yet authentically done Thai food sans MSG I’ve ever had… well, ever. But be warned: mentally prepare to wait a bit, as everything takes a bit longer than you’d expect. And the bill you’ll receive in the end is much, much greater than any you’ve paid in Thaitown. Your belly will un-regretfully know exactly why.
The long-awaited Georgetown Cupcake found its way to the West Coast. And to make its presence known, they brought rainy weather with them to make Saturday’s grand opening a little more DC-esque. As much as we’d like to say we waited in the two hour line for a free cupcake and to meet the lovely ladies behind the baking tins, we opted to fork out the $2.75 per frosted treat the day after instead. Some of us Angelenos just aren’t cut out for this rain thing.
Despite LA’s cupcake overload, we wanted to check out Georgetown Cupcake to see if we’d miraculously be wowed. Our friends over at Ralph Gentile Architects (hi, guys!) designed the space, a lovely homage to its East Coast roots. The marble, columns and moldings are all classic and clean — unlike the table after eating our goodies, but we wouldn’t call the experience at all crummy. At the first bite, I was wowed! The inch of maple-infused cream cheese frosting was sweet and fluffy and the moist pumpkin cake had just the perfect amount of spice. While the frosting appeared overwhelming at first, I savored every bit of it with its cakey counterpart and was even saddened a little with each fallen crumb on my napkin.
While I don’t have any plans of becoming a cupcake connoisseur in the near future, I now understand a little more about the love of the cupcake. With that being said, I’d like to welcome Georgetown to LA with open arms. (And an open mouth. We’ll gladly accept deliveries.)
If Industriel were really a farm, the farmers would be decked out in Yves Saint Laurent overalls and the chickens would eat truffle-infused feed by hand. Just when I thought I was over the industrial chic restaurants popping up all over Los Angeles, this “Urban Farm” is a refreshing reminder as to how it’s done well. With eye-catching details in every direction and bold artwork anywhere you turn, it’s safe to say the space is equally as fresh as the food.
I found Industriel via Eater before heading downtown to run some errands. En route to FedEx? Check. Good reviews on Yelp? Check. “Local”, “specialty” and “house crafted,” in the menu? Check, check aaand check. Although, I won’t lie—it didn’t take much convincing past the food and interior shots on their website. Industriel was definitely on my Sunday’s list of to-do’s.
And there was nothing chore-like about it. From the enormous farmers’ portraits at the entrance to the honey bear chandelier hanging above a claw-foot tub, your eyes are guaranteed to be stimulated the second you walk in. As will your tongue. Start off with the daily bread. No, it isn’t complimentary, but the focaccia and (what I assume is) house-made butter and olive oil is well worth the $3. If you’re feeling really wild, investing another $3 on Castelvetrano olives is also highly suggested.
For my entrée, I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, but the exotic dishes like the rabbit and shiitake pelmeni, cider-brined pork loin and foie gras trio sparked curiosity on even my pescetarian palate. Staying on the “safe side,” I opted for the spring squash risotto, which was served in a dramatic, over-sized dish with a beautiful presentation. And yes, the burrata-stuffed squash blossom tasted as good as it sounds.
If you’re in the mood for some fancy farming, throw on your designer flannel and head to Industriel. Oh, and don’t forget to put “pick up their house-made goodies” on your list.
If you’re looking for a chic brunch spot, desserts to blow your sweet tooth’s mind, or an interesting cocktail, we’ve got a place that covers all three bases—and we can understand why it’s the talk of the towne.
I found Towne on a Sunday when in search of a new downtown restaurant to impress a couple girlfriends visiting from San Francisco. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical making reservations fearing Towne would lack some LA edge, but after walking into the elegantly modern space with a friendly, attentive staff, my doubts were left by the mints and business cards at the hostess stand. In retrospect, it was silly to expect anything less than memorable from the owner of Mi Piace in Pasadena and Bottega Louie’s former pastry chef.
And everything was memorable, indeed. The salt and pepper shakers that made us giggle. The service. The Phil Collin’s inspired drink list. The fresh burrata and squash blossoms on my scramble. The dramatic pour of the strawberry consommé on the Nutella French Toast at our table. Even the French pressed, after-brunch coffees and lattes left a lasting impression. Oh, and the original banana and red velvet twinkies—we wouldn’t dare forget about those!
In the end, we were completely satisfied with our trip to Towne. We were wow’ed by each bite and we savored every sip… it all tasted as good as it looked! If I had to come up with a complaint, it would be not saving enough room to try a PB&J macaron, but there’s always next time.