Because every Angeleno loves to eat, even if he has to valet, we bring you Table Stakes: a series that answers man’s eternally recurring question (“Uh, what’s new?”), and recurs once every lunar cycle or so. Bon appétit.
The Red Chickz
The Red Chickz
You’re here for: A late-night bite after hitting the bars or watching a DJ spin at Exchange LA. Or: a no-frills lunch with a candidate for the best chicken sandwich in town.
You’re dining on: Arguably — and who doesn’t love a great food debate — one of the finest Nashville hot chicken sandwiches in the Southland. Salt, heat, savory and sweet with a crunch that brings it all together, plus seven levels of heat for your perspiration preference (you’ll have to sign a waiver for the “Inferno”). Finish off your poultry pièce de résistance with one of nine Golden Road beers — something sweeter like a Pineapple Spice if you’re going super spicy with your sandwich, or an IPA if you like your heat on the mellow side. Don’t forget to ditch the ketchup and grab some Comeback Sauce for your potato wedges.
You’re here for: Your monthly group dinner at a spot where the meal will match the mood. Boisterous, young, vibrant — this encore to Hinoki + The Bird also makes for a solid date spot if both of you are looking to let your hair down as you grub.
You’re dining on: Blackship is the marriage of Japanese ingredients with Italian technique, but the word “fusion” is a profanity within its walls. Sharing is encouraged, and the plates reflect that. Start with the Albacore Namerou, mix the quail egg in the tartare-style plate, and then put it on the star of the dish — the rice chicharron. The Hamachi crudo comes with a variety of ingredients that change daily; ours had pickled beet, wasabi root and a green garlic sauce that brought out the buttery umami of the fish. Finally, don’t miss out on the Shungiku brown-butter gnocchi or the Swordfish resting on a saffron dashi broth — both are standouts that combine flavors in a new and supremely satisfying way.
You’re here for: Top Chef winner Mei Lin’s food ... or dinner with a client who isn’t scared of ingredients they haven’t heard of, much less eaten. Nightshade is very much at home in the Arts District, both in decor and dining: you won’t know whether to eat the dishes or frame them.
You’re dining on: The shrimp toast in Cantonese curry is a hit — the kind of food you want to share with everyone at the table, then regret you didn’t hoard for yourself. Push your boundaries with roasted sunchokes and sunchoke chips (the edible part of a sunflower) in a persimmon mole and seeded granola; there’s a breakfast potato vibe to it that can’t be ignored. Pair it with a whiskey or scotch from their impressive top-shelf selection, or a cocktail with ingredients as diverse as the food.
LN2 Pizza Shoppe
LN2 PIZZA SHOPPE
You’re here for: Date night, and you’re looking for a new spot on Melrose that you haven’t been to a dozen times. Or you’re looking for a cocktail and a bite before heading over to The Groundlings to check out a friend and/or client. Hit the back patio for happy hour and watch the sherbet clouds wash over you during sunset
You’re dining on: Comfort food with an upscale twist, like the buffalo duck wing with a sriracha-tangerine glaze that provides a delicate balance of hot and sweet. You can’t go wrong with a pepperoni pizza, but why not challenge yourself with their manila clam pie? There are plenty of reasons to think that a clam-chowder style pizza just plain wouldn’t work, but in a refreshing surprise those reasons are unfounded. Food aside, LN2 is the element symbol for liquid nitrogen, and the drinks menus is filled with cocktails that freeze or flame.
You’re here for: A great breakfast before a meeting in Culver City, happy-hour alternative to the Culver Hotel, or drinks after an Arclight excursion. It’s perfect for debating the plot holes in Hollywood’s latest comic book-turned-blockbuster.
You’re dining on: Culver City has never been known to turn their nose up at anyone, and despite the classical French fare on the menu, Simonette is no different. The best example is their omelette, which consists of four ingredients: eggs, a secret blend of soft cheese, pepper and chives. The fluff of the egg, gooey cheese and snap of pepper in each bite create a nearly idealized version of the humble dish. But just because they can skew minimal doesn’t mean Simonette won’t flex their muscles on occasion: the salt-roasted beets with chevre, pine nuts and chervil (French parsley) over a curry vinaigrette are a must-try. And what French meal would be complete without a crusty baguette? Use it as a vehicle for their moule frites, a worthy iteration of a French classic.