Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Diva Visits Susan Feniger's Street!

Clams with Black Pepper Sauce

The Diva is back with another divalicious restaurant review!

This time, I dropped in on Susan Feniger's new LA hot spot, Street, with Kuzak and The Chicago Foodie for dinner. The restaurant showcases a unique concept. Based on Chef Feniger's travels, the menu is based on street food from around the world. I was curious to check it out because usually I'm not a fan of combining so many styles together. I find that it can overextend a menu and a kitchen. My mantra is that it's better to one thing great than a lot of things good, but I'd heard so many good things from so many people.

We showed up on time for our Saturday night reservation, and from the start it was clear they were having a crazy night. Forced to wait, we stood by the bar and sipped drinks, admiring the chaos. The interior of the restaurant features an indoor dining area and an outdoor patio. After some time passed, we were finally escorted to our outdoor table. At first, I was worried we might be cold given the gloomy June weather, but the beautiful patio is adorned with fire pits, heat lamps and our comfy bench seat had a blanket, pretty much the most ingenious thing I've ever seen! It gave the whole experience the feeling of dining on your own porch, only with someone else serving your food.

After navigating the menu, I selected a series of dishes from around the world for us to try and placed my order. The first courses took time to emerge, but when they finally trickled out, we dug in heartily. First up were the Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings which came with a sesame dipping sauce, while tasty, they weren't anything to write home about. We also tried the Moldavian Meatballs in a traditional sweet and sour tomato sauce with dill sour cream. The sour cream was the highlight of this dish - the cool, crisp dill flavors contrasted beautifully with the heavy meatiness of the dish. The last appetizer we sampled was the Cuban Stuffed Potato Cake, spiced beef layered with mashed potatoes, an absolutely delicious comfort food that was both warm and hearty, almost like a more exotic twist on shepard's pie.

Mandoo Vegetable Dumplings

As we finished our appetizers, suddenly a frazzled-looking Susan Feniger appeared at our table to apologize profusely. Due to a super busy night, they were out of the short rib entree we'd ordered! For a split second, I flashed back to my Kogi taco experience (soon to be featured in an article I wrote for LAX Magazine) where they too ran out of short ribs. I must have done something bad in a past life, possibly involving short ribs, but I quickly recovered from my disappointment. Chef Feniger asked, "Is there something else I can bring you?" Figuring she knows her menu way better than I do, I replied, "Bring us whatever you want - we trust you!"

Cuban Stuffed Potato Cake

After promising to send out extra dishes on the house, she disappeared back into the kitchen. Once she left, we had a moment to discuss how wonderful she seemed - like a force of personality, but with great energy. While not having short rubs was disappointing, it was almost worth it for the opportunity to meet her! Quickly, more food than we'd ordered poured out of the kitchen along with Chef Feniger again. In addition to the Clams with Black Pepper Sauce and Baked Fish we'd ordered, she sent out the Lamb Kafta Skewers and several side dishes, including one she was considering adding to the menu. The lamb skewers came with white beans and braised artichokes, two of my favorite things in the whole world, a great choice by the chef.

Lamb Kafta Skewers

Interestingly, my favorite dish of the night was the clams, served in a sauce that was nothing short of amazing! Peppery and rich, with tons of flavor, but somehow not overwhelming to the clams, I could have eaten it sopped up with bread for the rest of the night. A fabulous dish that must be tried if you're eating at Street!

After eating as much as we could possibly fit into our stomachs, more than we'd bargained for thanks to our streak of bad luck turned good luck, we settled our bill and made our way out of the restaurant. While I loved the patio and loved Chef Feniger, upon reflection, I'm still not convinced by the concept of the restaurant. As I'd expected, while some dishes exceeded expectations, others did not, and I still believe it's hard to master such an extensive array of food and cooking techniques. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it's a tough challenge. I'd certainly recommend trying Street, for the clams and the great patio alone, but I don't know if I'll make it a regular haunt! And hopefully my short rib luck will start to change.

Restaurants Mentioned:

Susan Feniger's Street
742 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038


Kogi BBQ

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