Friday, November 20, 2009

Soi 56

Does LA need another Thai restaurant? From fiercely authentic to mediocre-with-white-table cloth, this city has a lot to offer/bestow/inflict in that department, but I say yes, there's always room for more. Case in point: Soi 56, a newcomer with Thai street food as their main selling point, divided into skewers and small plates. (Disclaimer: they keep the lighting dim and we sat at the darkest table, so I apologize for the flash photography.)

We kicked things off with a few skewers:

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Flap meat and green onions: loved the beefy flavor, not the lukewarm temperature.

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Banana with honey and coconut milk: tart and more of a dessert (as the server mentioned to us). A departure from the usual fried appetizer.

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Chicken livers: expected perhaps more from these than a normal chicken liver could, err, deliver. I was hoping they'd be creamier, but maybe I'm too used to pate and other types of liver.

In addition to their more nibbly food, their menu also includes larger dishes of curries, noodles, and house specials (such as oxtail soup and spicy quail). Surprisingly, the dishes from the kitchen were better than the skewers from the grill.

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Deep fried marinated babyback ribs: this dish and I were meant for each other! Every charred bite of fat accented with a slight acidic zing (I'm guessing lime).

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Aromatic butternut pumpkin curry: Charles loves pumpkin curry and this one passed his test with flying colors. I may or may not have cleaned up the last of the curry with a rib.

Soi 56's menu has all sorts of things I want to try next time around: squid leg skewers, crispy mussel crepe, fish sauce wings, roasted game hen... a lot more to cover! On the drinks front, they've got drafts like Hefeweizen and Arrogant Bastard as well as wine and soju cocktails. Perhaps you are just as content with Thai iced teas, but it's refreshing that the restaurant has taken care with its alcoholic beverages.

Service was slow and not very organized, however, which put a bit of a damper on the meal. The servers were friendly when they were at our table, so perhaps just a lack of front of the house communication or an understaffed night. Since it's in a busy area, come prepared to pay for parking (either metered or valet) or walk a few blocks. We were able to find non-metered street parking because we ate pretty early.

Soi 56 is more than what I thought it would be (being located next to Big Wang's may have influenced my expectations, sorry). The menu reflects passion for the food as well as a sense of who their customers may be, appealing to both discerning gourmands and those who don't feel like they're missing out by passing on offal. The restaurant doesn't have things down pat yet, but I'm excited for what things may come.

Soi 56
1556 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 962-5656

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



Dinner tonight was donkatsu, which is basically Japanese for pork cutlet crusted in panko. I picked up a package of pork specifically labeled for donkatsu at my local Korean supermarket, but usually I buy thin boneless chops. And you will know I'm Korean by the way I dress my cabbage (i.e. the high-brow combo of mayo and ketchup). The piece of pork is petite, but it was one of those "one is not enough, but two is too much" dilemmas that befall those who prepare meals for themselves. Luckily, I am fanatical about cabbage, so got carried away with a second helping and ended up barely cleaning my plate.

This dish is something I can eat at any given moment, though without the awesome sauce, it's almost not worth it. Making donkatsu at home is much more satisfying than eating it at a restaurant (unless you go to a specialty joint) because most likely the pork will be more substantial and it's straight from the pan. Lukewarm or tough fried foods are terribly depressing, no?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Broccoli (Not) Au Gratin

I've been in a vegetable mood these days. Today's star ingredient is broccoli, which I used to eat a lot as a kid. These days, I opt for its more mellow counterpart, cauliflower, but I was looking for a dish to mix things up.

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I knew I wanted to try something with breadcrumbs and this Emeril Lagasse recipe caught my eye. What I made is more of a roasted broccoli dotted with some bechamel and bread crumbs, but the recipe was helpful in confirming my instinct that I should blanch before roasting.

I forgot to drizzle the breadcrumbs with olive oil until towards the end of cooking, but as that step is crucial to getting lovely browned bits, please pay better attention than I did! Steamed broccoli seems so depressing now that I've had this version that is more mellow yet luscious.