Location: 923 E 3rd St #109, Los Angeles, CA 90013. (213) 626-8888
Date: March 23, 2019
Cuisine: Chinese Fusion
Rating: Really tasty, imperfect service
Tonight was a a smaller Foodie Club dinner with core members Erick and Larry and newcomer Kim (owner of Khong Ten in Santa Monica).
Nightshade, located in the Arts District in Los Angeles, is a flagship concept and first restaurant for chef Mei Lin along with partners Francis Miranda and Cyrus Batchan of No.8. The highly anticipated project will draw from the culmination of Lin’s personal culinary history – from helping her parents and extended families in their Chinese restaurants as a child in Detroit.
The sure have jazzed up the formerly hideous neighborhood a bit with street art.
Sort of gilding the turd, but it (mostly) works.
And while Nightshade has the standard arts district brick front.
The inside though is elegant instead of the usual industrial look.
The menu is small, so even with four people we just ordered the entire menu. Turns out they also have a bunch of great looking secret larger pre-order dishes like a duck and a big steak — wish we had known.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée Edition 164eme. VM 97. Krug’s NV Grand Cuvée 164 Edition is a total knockout. Based on the 2008 vintage, the 164th Edition shows all the crystalline tension and energy that is such a signature of the year. At times, the 164 reminds me of the 2008 vins clairs I tasted after harvest. The flavors are brisk, delineated and pulsing with energy, while the more oxidative notes that are such a signature of Krug Champagnes are not especially evident. A wine of total pedigree and class, the 164 reminds me of some of the great Grand Cuvées of the 1960s and 1970s I have been lucky to taste over the years. No Champagne lover will want to be without this spectacular, captivating wine. All that said, readers should be patient, as the 164 is painfully young, austere and in need of serious cellaring. (Drink between 2027-2047)
oysters on the half shell, passionfruit emulsion. These were nice. Bright flavors from the sauce. It pretty much hid the oyster flavor (retaining the texture) but was still good.
hokkaido scallops, coconut vinaigrette, crispy ginger, coriander. Sauce was great. Bright flavors here.
baja kanpachi, radish kimchi, shiso, kohlrabi. This dish missed a little. It wasn’t bad in any way, but was mild flavored and the sauce VERY mild. I couldn’t really taste that much shiso (which I love).
NV Krug Champagne Brut Rosé Edition 21eme. JG95+. The Krug Brut Rosé “21ème Édition” is from the beautiful base year of 2008, with the oldest reserve wine in the blend going back to 2000. The wine was disgorged in the spring of 2015 and is a blend of fifty-one percent pinot noir, forty-one percent chardonnay and eight percent pinot meunier. Ten percent of the pinot noir in the blend is still red wine from Krug’s own parcels of vines in the village of Aÿ. The blend is a slight departure from many releases of Krug Rosé, as hail in the village of Ste. Ghemme in 2008 dramatically cut back the quality of pinot meunier from this vintage, so that Chef de Caves Eric Lebel opted to use all reserve wines for the pinot meunier portion of the blend. The very complex wine offers up the characteristically refined and gently exotic bouquet that this cuvée is cherished for, wafting from the glass in a blend of cherries, a touch of pomegranate, orange peel, beautiful, savory spice elements, rye bread, a complex base of soil tones , dried rose petals and incipient smokiness. On the palate the wine is full, complex and still quite youthful in terms of structure, with vibrant acids, a lovely core, elegant mousse and a very long, perfectly balanced and seamless finish. This is already beautifully complex, but I would love to revisit it five to ten years down the road and see what the passage of time does to this beautiful constellation of aromas and flavors. (Drink between 2018-2050)
beef tartare, sesame, egg yolk jam, kochukaru. Very nice beef tartar. Interesting “thick textured” shrimp toast. Went well though as it’s mild, and added some good crunch.
tom yum onion, coconut dip. Like an awesome blossom with a kind of Thai-flavored coconut dip.
tamarind glazed carrots, toasted coconut, carrot top emulsion. Good for carrots.
sunchokes, strawberry molé, seeded granola. Can’t really remember very well.
1995 Domaine Anne Gros Clos Vougeot Le Grand Maupertui. VM 92. Deep red-ruby. Extravagantly rich aromas of blackcurrant, pepper, smoke and tar. Large-scaled, deep and very sweet; explosively fruity and impressively tactile. Chewy tannins are buried under a wave of finishing fruit. A knockout Clos Vougeot truly worthy of its grand cru status.
koshihikari rice congee, xo, pork floss, onsen egg. We mixed this all up. It was one of the best dishes with both a homey carby quality and a delicious umami flavor from all that goodness including the XO sauce.
squid ink bucatini, cuttlefish bolognese, gochujang. Always love this kind of seafood / ragu type pasta.
lasagna, pork ragu, tofu cream, prickly ash. Very interesting light delicate texture made from many layers of wonton wrapper pastry! Quite nice, but we needed two of them and they closed the kitchen on us early and wouldn’t give us any more (more on that later).
Erick brought: 1996 Domaine Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses. VM 93+. Saturated ruby-red. Supersweet aromas of raspberry, currant, graphite and sweet oak, plus an exotic suggestion of citrus fruit. Silky and sweet, if rather unforthcoming in the middle palate; offers great concentration and a near perfect sugar/acid balance. Firm tannins are covered by fruit. Great whiplash of a finish. This has considerable early appeal but will be even better after seven or eight years of additional bottle aging.
prawn toast, cantonese curry. Really good. Nice firm texture to the “toast” and great curry sauce.
szechuan hot quail, japanese milk bread, house pickles. This is a variant of the fried chicken bits in piles of aromatic chilies — the classic Szechuan dish that I order all the time. Nice, with moist larger meat and a good bit of heat. Although I would have liked the giant chili pile. I probably enjoy a great version of the classic slightly better — partially because it’s bigger!
coconut mousse, lime coconut granita, pineapple, nata de coco.
Check out inside. The faint white cubes were coconut jelly. The mouse is the white, the green the lime, and the pineapple inside. Weirdly deconstructed but absolutely fabulous flavors. Great, great dessert. Refreshing too.
guava, cream cheese, white chocolate. You break the (white chocolate) top. The guava and cream-cheese are below. Nice too.
almond sorbet, tangerine ice. Also really nice and refreshing. Interesting textures with the soft chocolate-textured sorbet rings and then the ice underneath.
silkened tofu, rhubarb, shiso, basil seeds. The weirdest of the 4 weird desserts, but tasty too.
I have to say that the desserts were excellent. But they aren’t a balanced set as all 4 were frozen, and sort of light fruits. All very refreshing but nothing in the cakey/bready or chocolate families. All technically very interesting though, and individually delicious with great texture factor.
Tonight’s crew, minus me.
Overall, this was a great meal. Often these small Foodie Club affairs are more enjoyable than large format dinners. We had a good little crew, ordered everything at the restaurant (minus the pre-orders, more on that below), brought excellent wines, and had a fabulous time.
Food was very good. I like that it’s upscale fusion with Chinese (and some other Asian) influences but not just special plated forms of Chinese dishes. Many dishes were very good: onion, scallops, tartare, congee, shrimp toast, pasta, lasagna, quail. That’s a high percentage! They weren’t super big and even with all that (the complete menu) for 4 people we could have eaten a couple more (more on that below).
Desserts were EXCELLENT. Really good. But not a wide ranging set. All too similar in form and profile. They need some chocolate etc.
Which brings me to a couple service points: Server was friendly, but there was some confusion going on (they are very new) and they weren’t super attentive. They did (mostly) follow my instructions of bringing the dishes one at a time. We also asked about 2/3 through to double up some of the courses that were ALREADY COMING (some time away, not anywhere near done) and they told us the kitchen was closed. But they never warned us about “last call”, and we could see the guys working in the kitchen making dishes. There was no cleaning up going on. And our remaining savory dishes kept on coming for 20-30 more minutes. So they easily could have done it. They hadn’t closed up. This is an example of not putting the customer first. Not that we went hungry, but we were peeved. Not a good thing for a restaurant. I’m still a bit peeved 3 weeks later!
Also, we kept seeing these really awesome looking big duck and steak dishes. We asked before we ordered and were told they are pre-order. But it’s not even mentioned on the menu (and we looked online) so how were we to know? They ought to list them like Majordomo does. We would have liked the larger dishes and they were needed on this menu that barely has formal mains — and no red meats (other than the tartare).
We handled the wine service (opening and pouring) but they let us open four bottles (and they pocketed the corkage, good deal by them but as long as there isn’t an enforced bottle limit I’m fine with it).
For more LA dining reviews click here.