The Return of Starry Kitchen is Coming Soon to a Strip Mall Near You!

Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen hanging with Jet Tila at LAFW last Friday and totally keeping secrets like a boss

Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen hanging with Jet Tila at LAFW last Friday and totally keeping secrets like a boss

The internet has been abuzz with news of the return of Nyugen and Thi Tran’s pop-up restaurant Starry Kitchen. Just as they were getting settled in delivering their scratch-and-sniff curry and other delights through Uber Eats, plans were already in the making to set up the food for upcoming arcade-bar (or barcade) Button Mash.

According to the LA Times, Button Mash is slated to open as early as late September in a strip mall in Echo Park. “The restaurant will feature a sit-down area, an arcade game area and a bar and pinball area.”

EaterLA has announced that Button Mash is supposed to have “50 classic games from the owners’ personal collection of over 100 machines, plus a selection from local legend Jim Belsito’s pinball machine collection.” Centipede and Ms. Pacman are a sure bet, but we just hope they have Bubble Bobble. Although it was far more popular on home gaming systems than in arcades, Bubble Bobble kicks serious ass.

Games aside, we are just happy to have Starry Kitchen back, and we didn’t even have to contribute real money to their Kickstarter campaign (Although I fully expect Nguyen to honor his promise of getting a unicorn tattoo with me riding it). The LA Beat spoke with Nguyen about the new menu. “I think half of the menu will be new dishes here. Some of the stuff we did at Grand Star won’t be here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be back in other iterations or concepts.” Let’s hope someday, somehow, Singapore Crab will come back to us. For now we are just ecstatic that Starry Kitchen is coming back! And there will be beer!

As Nguyen Tran told the LA Beat, “it’s good to have our balls back in the game.”

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Beat Recommends: The Who

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Pete Townshend reminding us “I’m alive!” at the Staples Center, January 2013. Photo by Brian Michaels for the LA Beat.

I know, that sounds like something I’d say. Of course I recommend the Who – they’re awesome. I could have told you that when I was ten years old, having my mind blown by Tommy The Movie while my grandmother tried to drag me out of the theater. (She finally consented to sit in the lobby and leave me to it, just moments before the Uncle Ernie scene, for which I am eternally grateful.)  They became my favorite band that day and they still are. So, take the recommendation with the knowledge that it’s coming from a particular point of view.

Even at 50 years old, the Who still have plenty to recommend them, not least of which is the repertoire. Their big hits are eternal, and some are un-skippable in the set list, but those who have seen them before should expect surprises. Previous stops on this anniversary tour have seen them pulling out gems which hadn’t been tried on stage in decades, from sixties singles to seventies deep album cuts, even re-visiting “Cry If You Want,” the most rocking track from 1982’s much-maligned It’s Hard album. The Anaheim and LA stops come at the very beginning of this final leg, and given the way tracks have floated in and out of rotation since they first hit the road nearly a year ago, it feels like anything is possible.

They are, as many people like to point out, not the same as they once were. (Another thing not the same as it once was: the people who say that.) It’s not about re-creating the past, like the Civil War or anything. It’s definitely not the same. But it’s still very good. It’s particularly good when Pete Townshend is having himself a good time, and his last few appearances in town have been “on.” So have Roger Daltrey’s, considerably recovered in recent years from throat troubles that shadowed him in 2007. Continue reading

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Hurry Up and Get Your Tickets to LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade Before They Sell Out!

lemonade 221 (Custom)It’s the busiest time of the year for food events, and it’s understandable that they might all seem to run together. But Alex’s Lemonade has a special place in our hearts. Everyone’s enthusiasm is contagious, from the chefs to the guests to the mixologists. The event carries on the spirit of Alexandria “Alex” Scott, a little girl with cancer whose front yard lemonade stand, started when she was only four, grew into a foundation that raised over a million dollars during her lifetime. The foundation continues hosting lemonade stands large and small in her name. LA Loves Alex ‘s Lemonade is definitely on the larger end of the spectrum, with world-renowned chefs and mixologists pitching in to raise money for children’s cancer research. Suzanne Goin, Caroline Styne and David Lentz return annually to host and invite chef friends to pitch in.

LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade takes place Saturday, September 12, 2015 from 12-4pm at UCLA’s Royce Quad. Over 50 of the nation’s best chefs will be participating. One of our favorite things about Alex’s Lemonade is that chefs represent from all over the nation, with John Besh and Donald Link from New Orleans, Giada De Laurentiis of Vegas, plus chefs from Seattle, Portland, New York, Chicago and Boulder. Of course we are kind of partial to some of the local favorites, like Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec), Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish, B.S. Taqueria), Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ), Michael Cimarusti & Tristan Aitchinson (Connie & Ted’s, Providence), Susan Feniger (Mud Hen Tavern), Michael Fiorelli & Rebecca Merhej (Love & Salt), Scott Conant & Freddy Vargas (Scarpetta), Neal Fraser (redbird, BLD, ICDC, Fritzi Dog), Bruce Kalman (Union, Amano Pasta Bar & Market), David LeFevre (MB Post, Fishing with Dynamite, The Arthur), Steve Samson (Sotto), and Michael Voltaggio (ink). In addition, guests can enjoy tastings from over 47 wineries along with craft cocktails prepared by mixologists Eric Alperin, Neal Bodenheimer, Dona Bridges, Beau du Bois and Martin Daraz.

Alex’s Lemonade is the most family-friendly event of the year, with lots of children’s games and activities. Children under 12 years of age are free with paying adult, and do not need to register for the event. Many of the chefs bring their own children, making the day like one big family picnic. One other hallmark of Alex’s Lemonade is their special live and silent auctions of exclusive experiences, like having world-class chefs cook and serve a private dinner party in your own home. Tickets are only $195 and are tax-deductible. Buy your tickets now as they usually sell out!

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Top 12 Experiences at LA Food and Wine’s Night Market

Hamasaku's Jewelry Box Chirashi (Photo by Elise Thompson)

Hamasaku’s Jewelry Box Chirashi (Photo by Elise Thompson)

1. Hamasaku’s Jewelry Box Chirashi

Wonny Lee and Yoya Takahashi of the California-inspired Japanese restaurant Hamasaku created the most beautiful dish of the night. The word “chirashi” means “scattered,” and it is used to describe a variety of sushi and other ingredients scattered on rice. Of course, artfully arranged is more descriptive of the dish. Hamakasu’s chirashi did resemble colorful jewels, or perhaps a kaleidoscope. Some of the ingredients were tuna, salmon, cucumber, roe, and tamago.

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Stonefire Grill Opens New Location in Lakewood: Delicious Food and a Charitable Attitude

Tri-tip platter at Stonefire Grill. Photo by Ed Simon for The Los Angeles Beat.

In preparation for their Grand Opening last weekend, the new Stonefire Grill in Lakewood held a media lunch to showcase some of their most popular dishes. Stonefire Grill, based in Southern California, has a wide variety of meals, both as indiviual plates for those who desire their own meal and as family style, with platters of food intended to be shared by all at the table. This concept is also perfect for Stonefire Grill’s booming takeout business which can be ordered and then picked up at a special takeout counter. The ordering is simple; Stonefire Grill uses the fast casual dining concept where the guests order at the counter and are served at their table. This makes for not only faster service, but helps keep the pricing down because of lower labor costs.

Justin, Mary, Kyle, Robert Li. Photo by Ed Simon for The Los angeles Beat.

Justin, Mary, Kyle, Robert Li. Photo by Ed Simon for The Los angeles Beat.

Mary Harrigan, and her sons, Justin and Kyle along with her sister Maureen are very much into fresh, house-made dishes and it shows. The BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad has that just-made freshness that makes every bite a pleasure. The Margherita Pizza was delicious, the crust thin but substantial and perfectly cooked, with the crust crispy and not chewy. The fresh mozzarella and fresh basil made for a simple yet flavorful topping. A nice side dish, the Garlic Mashed Potatoes we slightly chunky and full of nice flavor from the slow-roasted garlic. Continue reading

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July’s Jose Iturbi Foundation’s Salute to Frank Sinatra at the Hollywood Bowl!

Donelle Dadigan welcomes Guests, Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow

Donelle Dadigan Welcomes Guests, Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow

On the night of July 22nd, a most amazing thing was in the process of celebratory acknowledgement at the Hollywood Bowl.  The concert in Question:  Sinatra’s 100th Birthday Celebration, featuring many-a-qualified artist re-enacting some of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ greatest hits, along with music historically recorded with The Count Basie Orchestra, Antonio Carlos Jobim and many others…

While you were all nestled snug in your boxes waiting listlessly for your Caesar Salad (or blind date; anticipating which you might “send back” first), “swearing” you saw someone who looked just like the “spittin’ image” of Donald Trump aggressively wolfing down an all-beef wiener in front of the popcorn stand (disheveled “hair” bobbing to and fro with Continue reading

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The Perfect Sandwich Exists at the New Trough Sandwich Kitchen in Newport Beach

Vice Sandwich. Photo by Ed Simon for The Los Angeles Beat

Once in a great while, something comes along that not only raises the bar for a given area, but also makes you appreciate how well even a simple thing can be done. In Newport Beach, the new restaurant that is rapidly winning over locals and tourists alike is The Trough Sandwich Kitchen. Located directly across from the Balboa Pavilion and just steps from the beach, the new sibling of Rancho Santa Margarita’s The Trough proves that there is still a place in this world for a great sandwich.

The Trough does one thing well (maybe two things if you include their excellent breakfast burritos) and that is creating a delicious sandwich. The Cheese Steak is an excellent example of how what has become a common, almost boring sandwich has been elevated by The Trough. Thinly sliced ribeye is topped with a creative provolone mornay sauce, mushroom duxelles and a flavorful peperonata. The flavors blend well and contrast nicely with their cornmeal roll, a slightly crunchy outside and tender interior. The roll is baked for them by OC Baking. Continue reading

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Prepare Yourselves for “The Taste” on Labor Day Weekend

Michael Fiorelli's Peach Crumble from The Taste's 2012 "Field to Fork"

Michael Fiorelli’s Peach Crumble from The Taste’s 2012 “Field to Fork”

It’s that time of the year. As one food festival ends, another begins. Although we are still posting about LA Food and Wine, we wanted to get word out to you about LA Time’s The Taste before it sells out. Five exciting Taste events are spread out over three days this weekend at Paramount Pictures Studios. Besides unlimited tastes and sips from Southern California’s best restaurants, mixologists and vintners, there will be cooking demos and panels. Friday night features an opening night soiree. Saturday afternoon is Field to Fork, focusing on fresh, local, seasonal cooking. Saturday night is Dinner with a Twist, which brings you cocktails and innovative restaurants. Sunday afternoon you can attend the Sunday Brunch and BBQ, and Sunday night is Flavors of LA.

Opening Night; Fri., Sept. 4th, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is a special chance to rub elbows with The Times’ renowned Food staff, the festival co-hosts and participating chefs and bartenders. Participating restaurants include BierBeisl Imbiss & Bakery, Chichen Itza, Alma, Badmaash, Belcampo Meat Co. Bulgarini Gelato, Canelé, Celestino Diablo Taco, Doomie’s Home Cookin, Eagle Rock Public House, Faith & Flower, Ford’s Filling Station, Howlin’ Ray’s and Sotto Restaurant. The night “will offer a curated selection of distinctive bites, premium cocktail and wine offerings and live entertainment.”

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Reviewed: Ascencia’s Urban Blues Festival

Groovin' to the blues

Groovin’ to the blues

Saturday I was at the buffet of blues presented by Ascencia, an organization that helps the homeless. The show was the Urban Blues Festival, hosted by Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Walter Trout was the headliner, but when you have acts like Guitar Shorty, Arthur Adams, The Scorch Sisters, The Americans, Little Faith, The Trout Brothers Band and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton on the bill, it’s hard to tell who the headliners are.

I’m not a huge fan of festivals, especially in August, but some are so compelling, you can’t turn them down. This was one. The show started at 11am, just around the time the sun moves from “it’s going to be a hot one today” to “I should have worn shorts” time. I don’t know what the official temperature was, but it was hot. And bright. Did I mention how hot it was?

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LA Food & Wine’s Opening Night Showcases LA’s Best

Drago's Corn Anglotti with TrufflesThe annual Los Angeles Food and Wine festival is when the chefs take out their big guns. We were definitely impressed by the wide array of offerings on Thursday’s opening night: Ultimate Bites of LA. Sponsored by Lexus, it was a glamorous evening with the downtown skyline as the backdrop and a huge red carpet laid out on Grand in front of the Disney Hall and the new Broad Museum.

If anything stood out Thursday, it was the profusion of pastas and seafood. In case anyone didn’t know yet, the chefs made us well aware that it is truffle season. Fernando Darin of Patina Restaurant Group shaved truffles over a heavenly duck confit tortellini, while Drago Centro presented a corn and truffle agnolotti.

Not to be outdone, La Vecchia Cucina from Santa Monica announced their presence with a Fresh Casarecchia pasta tossed with a braised lamb shank ragu, and a quenelle of Italian buffalo milk ricotta cheese. With Italian black truffle, of course. It may have been a warm night, but the ragu was still as warming and comforting as it would be in Winter. Angelo Auriana of The Factory Kitchen served Risotto Monzese from a hollowed-out wheel of Parmesan.  Chef Steven Fretz of The Churchkey served a Ricotta Gnudi with Corn Espuma (Gnocchi-type dumpling with corn foam), that looked very much like mashed potatoes and gravy from a 1950s cookbook cover..

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