y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: April 2013

Farewell to Bahooka, L.A.'s Temple of Tiki

Bahooka, thought by many to be Los Angeles' most wonderful and kitschy Tiki bar/restaurant was set to close on March 10th, 2013, after 46 years in business.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zl bar flaming drink

However, after the mad crowds on Saturday, March 9th, they decided to shut their doors 24 hours early. Anticipating such crowds, I made plans to visit on Saturday. 

They stated that on their last day they would provide standing only service, even for meals. And they decided to sell the contents of the place, so going on the last day sounded like a huge adventure for the most die hard loyal customers.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_a front

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_d front sign

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_c chains

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_b side trees

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_g patio

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_f front door

Bahooka had been on my 'to do' list for years, being a HUGE tiki lounge fan. It was disappointing when the original Trader Vic's moved to LA Live, so I planned to enjoy Bahooka in all its glory.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_h fish

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_i fish

The Polynesian/tiki restaurant space contains over 100 blue, glowing fish tanks

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_p Rufus

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_q Rufus

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_r Rufus

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_s Rufus

Their infamous 36+ year old resident, carrot-eating fish mascot, Rufus draws a lot of attention.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_t mailboxes

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_u cashier

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_x decor lights

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_y decor signs

Many other tiki, nautical treasures and signs fill every nook and cranny, and there were lots of hallways, turns and rooms.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_j tiki

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_k tiki

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_l hostess

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_v decor

The Rosemead location, somewhat off-the-beaten-path, lent itself to families as e regular patrons, some coming to Bahooka Family Restaurant with their parents since childhood.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zb flaming drink

In addition to their flaming drinks in salad bowls they make "mocktails" for the non-drinkers, making it convenient for children as well as adults.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zo crowd

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_o menu

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_z bar signs

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_za bar bell

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zc bar booth

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zg bar empty cups

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zd bar bench

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zf bar decor Simpsons

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_ze bar man

I fully expected that their drinks would be made from mixers and the menu of largely fried food was not quite up my alley, but the ambiance in this tiki wonderland remained compelling. 

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zi bar mai tai

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zj bar mai tai

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_m sale

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_n sale

Come to think of it, the mai tai tasted great, was not weak and not overly sugary. Drinking it out of a plastic cup took part of the fun away, but that was understandable considering the impending closure.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_w memories

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zp sign filled to capacity

Even on Saturday, they'd reached capacity fairly early into the evening.

Bahooka last weekend Mar13_zq parking lot tiki car

Such one of a kind places in L.A. are dwindling rapidly and we are lucky to enjoy these bits of our city's history before it's too late.

Kali Dining Pop Up x 2

Lately I've cut back on going out to eat, in order to eat a healthier diet. So every outing has to count. Besides Wolvesden and Ludo Bites I rarely go to a Pop Up event twice. The fact that I went to a Kali Dining dinner twice in just over 1 week speaks to the experience. So many people I know raved about it and went multiple times, it had to be good.

Kali Dining Feb13_zb dinner 2 amuse bouche 2 octopus orange paprika rosemary bread

Chef Kevin Meehan's Kali Dining runs like a dinner party where strangers dine at a communal table at someone's home. Being able to watch the chefs cook and interact with the attendees really lends itself to a uniquely fun experience.

Chef Kevin's impressive restaurant background includes L’Orangerie, Bastide, Patina, Café Pinot and others. His food reflects European and Asian inspirations. The ingredients-driven menu is said to include items sourced through the chef's hunting and foraging.

Kali Dining Feb13_ha room 4 pig and box

The 5-course menu of California Cuisine, with a lot of seasonal ingredients and modern technique really impresses while remaining comforting. It's a very hard balance to achieve.

Kali Dining Feb13_p dinner 1 Chef Kevin Meehan

If I'd eaten this food at a restaurant without meeting the chef, I'd really enjoy it. But eating it while chatting with the chefs and watching their hard work really amplifies the experience. Chef Kevin greets and chats with each guest. His colorful personality with strong opinions and wit adds so much to the evening.

I enjoy how L.A. is full of "transplants" from other cities and countries, and like Chef Kevin's Long Island background and vibe.The second time I went, immediately upon walking in I was greeted with a hug by all three chefs. I felt welcome, and this intimate setting probably cannot be achieved in a restaurant.

Kali Dining Feb13_a loft hallway

Kali Dining Feb13_b loft elevators

Kali Dining Feb13_f balcony 1

The previous meals took place at Culver City, Venice, Fairfax area, and in our case, at a loft in Downtown LA.The location changes fairly often, as does the menu.

Kali Dining Feb13_c dinner 1 kitchen prep plates and schedule

Upon walking in there were rows of plates set up along with an outline of timeframes and dishes.

Kali Dining Feb13_d dinner 1 room dining table

Kali Dining Feb13_e dinner 1 menu

Kali Dining Feb13_e room 4 centerpiece

People socialized in the loft before the meals began. Both times the events were with private groups who took over the loft. However I did not know everyone in attendance so had plenty of time to mingle, even exchanging contact information with a couple of guests.

Kali Dining Feb13_hb book 1

We perused a copy of this book, with fascinating combinations and platings of the food.

Kali Dining Feb13_hc book 2 potted radish in sesame soil potato in clay
potted radish in sesame soil potato in clay
Kali Dining Feb13_hd book 3 white chocolate mousse crispy peas condensed milk
white chocolate mousse crispy peas condensed milk
Kali Dining Feb13_h dinner 1 room wine cheese

For the 2nd dinner, the organizer created a "happy hour" before the dinner with cheese, marcona almonds, these special dried grapes and the BYOB wine.

Kali Dining Feb13_j dinner 1 kitchen prep 1 butter

Kali Dining Feb13_k dinner 2 kitchen prep 2 bread Luke
Chef Luke
Kali Dining Feb13_m dinner 2 kitchen prep 4 bread

Kali Dining Feb13_l dinner 2 kitchen prep 3 bread

Kali Dining Feb13_n dinner 1 kitchen prep 2 butter

Kali Dining Feb13_o dinner 2 amuse bouche  3 bread

The smell of fresh buttermilk bread filled the loft, which is intoxicating to me, after almost a decade of low carb eating. Very little tops fresh bread with good butter in my book. The butter cube was topped with rosemary, sea salt flakes and pepper. 

We were told there is a half hour window after which the quality of the bread starts deteriorating.The first time I might have talked too much and ate it too late. The 2nd time I ate it warm, steaming with crispy crust and a fluffy, solid center. 

Kali Dining Feb13_q dinner 1 kitchen prep 1 Jidori eggs

Chef Kevin was adept with the knife flicking skills. I told him his moves reminded me of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, when the character was practicing whipping out his gun really fast.

Dinner #1 - amuse bouche: Jidori Scrambled Egg in Shell

Kali Dining Feb13_r dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 Jidori egg shells

Kali Dining Feb13_s dinner 1 amuse bouche 1 Jidori scrambled egg in shell Buttermilk rosemary bread

Kali Dining Feb13_u dinner 1 amuse bouche 2 Jidori scrambled egg in shell

Kali Dining Feb13_t dinner 1 amuse bouche 3 Jidori scrambled egg in shell

The jidori, free-range chicken egg, common in Japan, had a custardy rich texture and if that wasn't enough, it was topped with crème chantilly.

Dinner #2 - amuse bouche: Octopus / Orange / Paprika

Kali Dining Feb13_v dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 plating

Kali Dining Feb13_w dinner 2 kitchen prep 2 plating

Kali Dining Feb13_x dinner 2 kitchen prep 3 plating amuse

Kali Dining Feb13_y dinner 2 kitchen prep 4 plating amuse

This tender octopus was served with slices of dehydrated/fresh orange, sprouts, citrus foam and a paprika sauce.

This was quite a substantial amuse bouche, granted I wasn't complaining. 

Dinner #1 - First Course: Octopus Carpaccio

Kali Dining Feb13_za dinner 2 amuse bouche 1 octopus orange paprika

Kali Dining Feb13_zc dinner 1 amuse bouche 1 octopus carpaccio citrus smoked paprika nasturtium

This variation of the dish contained thinly sliced octopus, dehydrated/fresh oranges, citrus espuma (whipped foam), smoked paprika and nasturtium flowers. The paprika kick added good flavor.

Dinner #2 - First Course: Raw Tuna 
foie powder / parmesan cream / crudité

Kali Dining Feb13_z dinner 2kitchen prep 1 crudite

Kali Dining Feb13_zd dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 plating Jerumel bw
Chef Jerumel Laygo
Kali Dining Feb13_ze dinner 2 kitchen prep 2 plating Jerumel
Chef Jerumel Laygo
Kali Dining Feb13_zf dinner 2 kitchen prep 3 plating tartare

Kali Dining Feb13_zg dinner 2 kitchen prep 4 plating tartare

Kali Dining Feb13_zh dinner 2 kitchen prep 5 plating tartare

Kali Dining Feb13_zi dinner 2 kitchen prep 6 plating tartare

Kali Dining Feb13_zj dinner 2 course 1 1 raw tuna foie powder parmesan cream crudite

Kali Dining Feb13_zk dinner 2 course 1 2 raw tuna foie powder parmesan cream crudite detail

Another seafood dish made me happy. This one contained many components that blended into a perfect, well seasoned plate. 

Dinner #1 - Second Course: Risotto 
wild mushrooms /black truffle / buckwheat

Kali Dining Feb13_zl dinner 1 kitchen prep 1 parmesan crisps mushroom dust

Kali Dining Feb13_zm dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 truffles

Kali Dining Feb13_zq dinner 1 course 2 1 risotto wild mushrooms black truffle buckwheat

Kali Dining Feb13_zr dinner 1 course 2 2 risotto wild mushrooms black truffle buckwheat

Dinner #2 - Second Course: Risotto / mushrooms / black truffle

Kali Dining Feb13_zn dinner 2 course 1 1 risotto mushrooms black truffle

Kali Dining Feb13_zo dinner 2 course 1 2 risotto mushrooms black truffle

The jidori egg and octopus made me quite happy, as did the risotto with black truffle with its porcini mushrooms and shaved black truffles. 

Not to mention the tasty parmesan tuille, which added a crunch and a slightly bitter quality to the rich and creamy dish. And the whole thing was topped with mushroom dust. So happy to have enjoyed the dish twice.

Dinner #1 - Third Course: Beef Tenderloin 
burnt onion jam / smoked fingerlings / charred leek / parsley paste

Kali Dining Feb13_zs dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 scallions pan

Kali Dining Feb13_zt dinner 2 kitchen prep 1 smoking gun

Kali Dining Feb13_zu dinner 2 kitchen prep 2 smoking gun Luke

Kali Dining Feb13_zv dinner 2 kitchen prep 3 smoking gun

Kali Dining Feb13_zw dinner 2 kitchen prep 4 smoking gun

Kali Dining Feb13_zx dinner 2 kitchen prep 5 smoking gun Luke

The crowd got quite excited when they pulled out this Smoking Gun handheld smoker and "loaded it" with wood chips.

We were really in their space but Luke patiently tolerated the "food papparazzi" (with our cameras).

Kali Dining Feb13_zy dinner 1 course 3 1 beef tenderloin burnt onion jam smoked fingerlings charred leek parsley paste

At this point in the meal, this was quite a hearty entree. The sous vide cooked beef was impossibly tender. It was clearly basted in a lot of butter, which makes everything better. The accompanying chimichurri sauce, smokey onion jam, foamy butter and fleur de sel salt flakes seasoned the beef beautifully without taking the beef's inherent taste away. 

The sides of the smoked fingerling potatoes of various colors and grilled leeks added more hearty elements to the plate.

Dinner #2 - Third Course: Beef Tenderloin 
burnt onion jam / smoked fingerlings / charred leek / parsley paste

Kali Dining Feb13_zz dinner 2 course 3 1 beef tenderloin burnt onion jam smoked fingerlings leek confit parsley paste

Kali Dining Feb13_zza dinner 1 course 3 2 beef tenderloin garlic and sauce

Kali Dining Feb13_zzb dinner 2 course 3 2 beef tenderloin empty plate

The second time around the beef and potatoes were cooked in a similar way. The parsley paste added a fresh flavor to the plate, although I preferred the addition of the chimichurri sauce from the 1st meal, which complements meat so well. 

Either way, you could see that we didn't have issues cleaning up the plate.

Dinner #1 - Dessert: Chocolate Mousse 
peanut butter gelato / coco soil / salted almonds
Kali Dining Feb13_zzc dinner 1 dessert 1  chocolate mousse peanut butter gelato coco soil salted almonds

My philosophy is that if you eat dessert it should count. They don't always impress me. This one combined classic tastes in such a unique way, while at the same time being the ultimate comfort dish. And a very rich one. 

The gelato of peanut butter in a vanilla crème anglaise base,
came fresh out of the ice cream machine. White chocolate is not one of my favorites because of its cloying sweetness, but this velvety paste tasted great. I loved the cocoa nib crumble which also balanced the sweet levels.

Dinner #2 - Dessert: Panna Cotta
strawberry / honey / rosemary / rasberry sorbet

Kali Dining Feb13_zzd dinner 2 dessert 1 panna cotta strawberry honey rosemary rasberry sorbet

Kali Dining Feb13_zze dinner 2 dessert 2 panna cotta strawberry honey rosemary rasberry sorbet

Kali Dining Feb13_zzf dinner 2 dessert 3 panna cotta strawberry honey rosemary rasberry sorbet

The macerated strawberry dessert cleansed the palate and offered a light end to a big meal. There might have been some type of strawberry-beet dust sprinkled on top.

Kali Dining Feb13_zzg dinner 2 Chef Kevin on Facebook

Chef Kevin is quite up to date on social media. He shared some entries from Facebook and was aware of diners who interacted on the Kali Dining page, and also sat with us to chat.

Kali Dining Feb13_zzh dinner 2 dessert 2 coffee brewing Wai

After dinner, one of the diners brought and prepared some Ritual premium coffee which we really enjoyed.

Kali Dining Feb13_zzj dinner 2 dessert 4 toffee almonds chocolate

Chef Kevin pulled toffee with dark chocolate and almonds from the refrigerator and gave each of us a small bag of to take home. I enjoyed it at home the next day with tea, reminiscing about the dinner.

I deeply admire what chefs do - their creativity, skill and hard work. Chef Kevin makes what he does seem effortless.The food has a lot of bold flavor. It will be exciting to experience Kali Dining's next iteration.

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