y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: February 2011

Night + Market - Thai Street Food Specialties

It is unexpected to find small plates of authentic Thai street food in the trendy part of the Sunset Strip. Night + Market, a recent extension to Talesai, provides all that and more in a sleek, gallery like setting that perfectly highlights the soul satisfying food.

Curtained off entrance across from the door to enter Talesai

Communal tables and artwork on walls

Video projections on wall in dining room

Night + Market's mailing lists

The dining room felt so calm and no frills, one almost feels like they are dining in a home. There are hand written mailing list sign-up sheets taped onto the communal tables and walls.

Three of us were dining together that night, which conveniently allowed us to sample all but one dish on the DineLA menu. 

Appetizers of Yum Octopus/Tuna/Blue Crab

First courses consisted of a trie of cold salads bursting with flavors. While they were very spicy, the flavors all played off each other well.

  • Yum Octopus contained tender, steamed octopus tossed with crunchy shallots, fresh mint, lime and bird eye chiles. 

    • Yum Tuna came in the form of lettuce wraps with a filling of diced raw tuna dressed with lime, fish sauce, rice powder and roasted red chile. The rice powder provided a crispy textural surprise.

      • Yum Blue Crab contained raw, salted blue crab sitting on a bed of scorchingly spicy green mango slaw.

        The mango slaw offered a nice alternative to the green papaya or green apple slaws that often accompany Thai dishes. My tolerance for heat ranks high, but it's safe to say none of these dishes required any chili sauce. The heat level almost reached Jitlada's heat levels (the only Thai place where I don't add my beloved Prik Nam Pla chili sauce).

        Course two - entrees
        Course two offered a diverse selection of warm dishes. The one on the right is the Moo Ping Pork Belly Satay. The menu described the stay as 'bathed in condensed milk', which is intimidating. The dish did not feel heavy or sweet. In fact the peanut and cucumber relish served on the side tasted mostly of vinegar rather than sugar.

        Thai Charcuterie Plate
        The Thai Charcuterie Plate came with chieng rai herb sausage, isaan rice-fermented sour sausage with mortar-pounded 'noom' salsa, bird eye chilies. As the menu explained, a cabbage wedge was offered to tame the heat.

        The salsa tasted surprisingly mild compared to the salads. This time they left the hot chili in its entirety on the side of the plate. We wrapped the bite size sausages in cabbage, added a spoon of salsa and popped the rolls into our mouths.

        Hor Mok Red Snapper
        The Hor Mok Red Snapper came out looking like a Mexican dish of barbecued fish wrapped in leaves. Upon opening the the banana leaf tamale, an intoxicatingly fragrant steam wafted out. The moist fish was crusted with a soft, thick paste made with kaffir lime leaves, coconut cream and red curry ingredients.

        Oxtail and Game Hen entrees
        One aspect of the menu I loved was that a third savory course was offered in place of dessert. A wise choice for Thai food. We ordered two of the three entrees.

        • Kew Wan Braised Oxtail in a housemade green curry paste containing coconut milk, Thai basil and sugar snap peas. The curry sauce was slightly runny, but packed a ton of herbal, savory flavors. The side of roti (pan fried, layered flatbread) was perfect for mopping up the sauce. The stewed oxtail was nicely complemented by the crunchy snap peas.

          • Ob Gai Game Hen was a half hen braised in North country aromatics. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and sauce also had a runny consistency that also went fabulously with the mound of sticky rice topped with fried shallots.

          A couple of days before arriving, I read a tweet from the Chef/Owner Kris Yenbamroon saying that after the DineLA people leave he was going to put on a batch of pork rinds. It sounded random at the time. The one dish we didn't try was the Kao Soi Chieng Rai Noodle Soup, including among many things, the housemade pork rinds.

          Night + Market's Ice Cream Sandwich
          The DineLA menu offered a couple of supplements. One was a $20 optional wine pairing, which impressed a fellow diner. The other was an option to try the Ice Cream Sandwich dessert. The menu said it's "enjoyed throughout ghettos in Bangkok".

          The base was a pan de leche, topped with a layer of sticky rice soaked in evaporated milk. A scoop of housemade sweet coconut ice cream sprinkled with toasted mung beans rounds out this curiously delicious dessert. At first we thought the bread was overkill, but probably used as a vehicle to port around the ice cream. Once the bread started soaking up the ice cream and evaporated milk, it was clear why this dessert was yet another well executed dish.

          Lemon bush outside window at Night + Market
          By our second round of entrees, Chef Yenbamroong, personally came out to greet us and ask how we were enjoying the meal. He invited us to return and try the frequently changing menu again. Not that anyone had to ask me twice.

          Night+Market on Urbanspoon

          Come On In: Mozzarella Many Ways at Obika

          It has been a pleasure discovering Obika last summer, shortly after a branch of this Roman Mozzarella Bar opened in the Westfield Century City Mall. I'm not much of a mall person, but my prejudices about mall food crumbled after the first tasting at Obika.

          Obika - Cases containing Delicata and Affumicata (Smoked) Mozarrella Balls

          Obika's handmade Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna, handmade from water buffalo milk, is directly imported three times per week from selected Italian producers. My first visit was during the aperitivo time, consisting of several tastings along with Italian wine from their menu. The second visit was during the recent DineLA.

          The chalkboard menu at this branch of the Roman Mozzarella Bar explains that Obika comes from a Neapolitan phrase roughly meaning "Come on in. Here it is." So please enjoy this sampling of highlights from both visits.

          Obika - Mozzarella Di Bufala Rolls
          Obika - Fried Breaded Mozzarella Di Bufala
          Obika - Detail of Fried Mozzarella and Stracciatella di Burrata
          Obika - Stracciatella di Burrata With Cured Meats
          Obika - Warm Crostini with N'duja di Calabria (spice pate)
          Obika - Burratta e Spinaci

          The star of this dish, the burratta, was served with butter sauteed spinach topped with parmigiano reggiano, served on a crostini. The greens added a fresh, earthy texture to accompany the creamy cheese.

          The duos of pasta consisted of Schiaffoni di Gragnano with tomato and basil sauce and mozzarella di bufala Campagna DOP. On the right is trofie pasta with fresh, homemade basil pesto.

          The dessert trio contained a chocolate and nutty torta caprese, a sweet and salty mousse di ricotta with pine nuts, honey and golden raisins. And finally, a light tiramisu. A sweet ending to a charming meal.

          Obika - Duo di Paste and Trio di Dolci

          Obikà Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

          Recent Finds: Waterloo & City - Comforting & Exciting

          During the recent DineLA week in Los Angeles, where diners can enjoy 3-course meals for lunch or dinner at an often discounted price, I visited some favorites and tried something new.

          Waterloo & City, the British gastropub named after a London underground railway line, has never disappointed. This time it even exceeded my satisfaction from prior visits. Their DineLA menu highlighted some of Chef Brendan Collins' new menu items.

          Waterloo & City - caesar salad

          As a starter I ordered the caesar salad in an effort to keep things light, keeping room for the hearty main course and desserts. This inventive presentation and classical tasting caesar salad with poached organic egg, dried prosciutto, anchovies and the wrap-around crouton turned my head as the server walked by me with it. I was thrilled when he placed it in front of me. 

          Waterloo & City - caesar salad. Click on photo to enlarge.

          Despite its modern look, it tasted traditional, familiar and comforting. The modern touches were subtle, such as the poached egg yolk running into the dressing adding a new level of creaminess.

          Waterloo & City - Prime Beef and Bone Marrow Pie

          I love marrow, almost never passing it up on a menu. Having said that, each choice on this menu was equally appealing. The entree of prime beef and bone marrow pie with a silky, creamy potato puree really hit the spot.

          From the title, I expected a beef pie with some marrow mixed into the filling. This golden crust with a bone marrow and tiny spoon perched in the middle was another delightful surprise.

          Waterloo & City - Prime Beef and Bone Marrow Pie

          After devouring the marrow and lifting the bone out, some of the marrow melted into the filling, adding even more flavor. In a pot pie situation, one expects slow cooked slightly mushy filling. This finely shredded beef tasted bright and was complimented by finely diced, still firm carrots, potatoes, peas and other vegetables.

          Nobody in the table was able to get more than halfway done with the pie, but it tasted almost as great reheated the next evening.

          I wrote another post about three rounded shaped comfort foods. Here are two more winners to add to that theme. Can't wait for the next trip to try Chef Collins' other creations.

          Waterloo & City on Urbanspoon