With our lives getting busier and busier, it becomes more challenging for the Hubby and I to have time to ourselves and actually take a vacation. More recently, we’ve come to appreciate the simple idea of “weekend getaways” and “day-trips” – nearby and local for the most part; no long-term childcare required; and since the trip is short in nature, we are forced to pack in as much exciting stuff as possible…and honestly, that’s the FUN part of planning our trips.
I am a big Top Chef fan and have become a fan of several chef contestants. When they introduced Top Chef Masters, I immediately got hooked. This past season featured Chef Susan Feniger from one of the first televised cooking shows “Two Hot Tamales”! It wasn’t until she was on Top Chef Masters many years later that I grew to love her as a talented chance-taking Chef who had this contagious fun-loving personality. I had heard about her restaurant in Santa Monica called STREET and told the Hubby that I really wanted to check this place out someday – the international menu blew my mind! So when I landed my new gig, my loving husband made an executive decision to take me there to celebrate. And we, of course, made the most of being in LA. This is the first post of our trip, but I’m going backwards, starting with the end of our trip.
Oh LA traffic – boo. Not being locals and getting a little confused by our GPS, many u-turns later, we decided to fold and call the restaurant to tell them we were going to be late. The hostess was so understanding and said she’d take care of us when we arrived. Once we approached STREET, we decided not to fuss with looking for parking and decided to go the valet route ($8). The restaurant looked pretty packed…and after examining the room, I noticed a back patio area. That’s where we were seated and let me tell you, with the beautiful weather that day, I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. Sunshine, cool air, and the furniture consisted of comfy patio-like pieces and beautiful stylish bench booths.
On to the food…well, drinks first!
Okay, really – on to the food. They brought out this complimentary snack that resembled “popcorn” but was infused with Indian spices and bound together with marshmallow. Points for creativity and definitely something you can say “I’ve never had anything like this before!” and mean it.
Susan was voted off for making her famous Kaya Toast (apparently, the dish was not complex enough for the judges). This appetizer was inspired by Singapore. Two slices of thick toasted bread with a coconut jam filling, served with a soft fried egg drizzled with dark soy sauce and white pepper. The idea is to break the yolk and dip the mini sandwiches in the mix of yolk and soy for a nice sweet and salty sensation. This dish is the most popular of her menu. Really exceeded my expectations – delicious!
We also ordered the Lamb Kafta Meatballs, inspired by Syria. I am not a huge lover of lamb dishes, but the last two I’ve had (lamb meatloaf from Urban Solace and this one) have been unexpectedly good! This was served on a grape leaf with Syrian cheese (similar to feta), drizzled with a carob molasses and sprinkled with dates. Mmmmm…every bite.
For our main entree, I had done some research on Yelp. My findings were that the Tatsutage Fried Chicken and Malaysian Black Pepper Clams were a big hit. So the Hubby ordered the fried chicken and man, was that dish outstanding. It was accompanied with a side of soba noodles and perfectly pickled veggies. He loved it (and so did I).
I was so excited to get my clams…but sadly, I was disappointed. Now, I am a huge lover of salty things – I put fish sauce and shrimp paste on most Filipino homecooked dishes, even if they’re ALREADY salty! But this dish was way to salty – I felt like a handful of salt was thrown into the broth. I HATE complaining about dishes and rarely ever send them back – it’s embarassing and I feel bad and even rude. But with my husband’s validation of the over-salted dish, he encouraged me to raise my hand about it. Our server took great care of us, as did the Chef, who even apologized and agreed that the clams were too salty. To make up for it, they sent out a complimentary appetizer – Paani Puri – while they prepared the entree I decided to get in lieu of the clams. This was actually a nice refresher to all the salt on my palette. Little crispy puffs with a nicely spiced potato chutney filling and bean sprouts, and served with a yogurt cilantro water.
I was hoping that my substitution to the clams was not going to disappoint – I had ordered the Thai Rice Noodles, which was their version of Pad Seeyew, my all-time favorite Thai dish! I am very picky with my Pad Seeyew, so I didn’t know if I was setting myself up since I already had set standards. AND, not to mention I usually ordered my noodles with beef, not pork, which is what it came with. I cannot even tell you how happy I was with the dish! Amazingly good and the pork was not just sliced pork, it was shredded tender pork that tasted like it was sweetened somehow! Delicious! It was a bit spicy but did that stop me from eating it? Nope. The only thing that was different from Pad Seeyew was the absence of eggs in the dish. But this dish was only inspired by Pad Seeyew not a replica.
To end our dinner, noneother than Chef Susan Feniger herself recommended one of her favorite desserts. It’s not even on the website, so I’m going to have to wing it in explaining it. It was like a Thai Tea Mousse topped with candied nuts. So wonderful and a lovely closing to our STREET experience. I’m downplaying this, but I was incredibly STARSTRUCK when I met Susan. Her attitude and personality are inspiring to me, so meeting her made this trip extra-special and memorable.
Originally, we weren’t planning on having dessert at STREET but we couldn’t help ourselves and had to try this Chef-recommended creation – so glad we did. But we also wanted to go to a local dessert hot spot called Diddy Riese. With a little more help from Yelp, I learned that this place is a local favorite and they are known for their ice cream cookie sandwiches! What amazed me was how inexpensive everything was – really???? For a dozen cookies, it’s only $3.75. And these cookies aren’t little! Cookies are baked fresh all day, every day. You have your classic cookie flavors – white chocolate macademia, chocolate chip (with or without nuts), snickerdoodle, peanut butter, M&M, oatmeal raisin and I think there’s more! Each one scoop ice cream sandwich is only $1.50! You can choose your cookies and ice cream flavors and be as creative as you want. They also serve Hawaiian Shave Ice with or without ice cream – oh yeah! You have to stop in if you’re in the LA area (they’re in Westwood close to UCLA) but just be prepared to look for parking, stand in line and pay with cash only. Don’t worry, it’s worth it!