Written with Monique A. LeBleu and Billy Bennight II
This summer saw the very last LA Food Fest, which bids us farewell after 10 years of bringing together local food trucks, restaurants, vintners and bartenders. The event has primarily been a showcase for smaller, independent fare, but a few upscale eateries always make an appearance. Over the years, the Food Fest introduced us to many hot new places in LA, like Howlin’ Ray’s Nashville Chicken, Starry Kitchen and Afters Ice Cream.
This year we tried the offerings of some other new-to-us restaurants, like one of my favorites–a pork satay from Cuizina Filipina and the fish and mango taco from Fishin’ for Brews that was as good as any you would get in Baja. Bite Me gourm-asain blew us away with their take on arancini. The “Kimchini” is a breaded and fried kimchi rice ball stuffed with gooey cheese and drizzled with teriyaki and sriracha aioli. The food truck, African Chop, served a spicy and delicious plate of Suya beef with Jollof rice, beans and plantains.
The Wild Boar Meatball Pizza from Pizza of Venice was fresh out of the oven and much better than I expected from a pizza oven on wheels. The popular Burristas had the mild and messy “MRC Burrito” stuffed with pork, and Luck Dish Curry served a very appealing Chicken Curry, a deeply satisfying Japanese street food.
The familiar, dependable places did not let us down this year either. The Jerk Cured Salmon Crudo at Eagle Rock Public House was fresh, cold and sweet. We loved Shrimp and Pineapple on Nori and Spicy Tuna on Cucumber from Pokebar, Takami Sushi’s Tuna with Soy Vin Blanc, and the Crab Hand Roll from Sushi Roku. Rafa Covarrubias’ shrimp on a chip was full of flavor and satisfying, as was Ceviche las Olas’ Shrimp Ceviche Tostada. LA Beat favorite Pez Cantina served a cold Shrimp Ceviche Verde along with green and red Micheladas.
Mi Piace is where I go for lunch when I’ve had a rough day and need to be spoiled. Their offering of spaghetti and meatballs may have seemed simple at first glance, but it is the quality and skill that make it rise above. They also had unbelievably chewy Coconut Macaroons.
Grilled food was a huge draw this year, with spectacular smoky dishes. A collective favorite was the brisket from A’s Barbecue. DANTE Brasa y Fuego from Mexico City served meat with a perfectly grilled exterior, so tender it melted in your mouth. Also on the grill was Chef Eduardo Morali of Pangea Group from Monterrey, who roasted elotes for street corn and served it with black garlic and huitlacoche. Not to be outdone, local caterer Oak Smoke BBQ made an awesome Pulled Pork.
Entertainment included live music from Alih Jey, Vick Jagger, mariachis and Black Crystal Wolf Kids, who covered 90s hits in their ironic pastel jumpers. But the most entertaining thing may have been Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen/Button Mash.