Monday, May 21, 2012

Susan Feniger's Street @ Highland Ave, LA

Chaya Toast - a street food lover's paradise!!

Front Entrance
There are times you come across a restaurant concept that peaks your interest with a combined intensity of excitement & anticipation, along with a little curiosity & bewilderment 
(what a cool concept but how the hell does that work)?

This restaurant really peaked our interest, a restaurant concept centered around street food from the world; there's something about this that could truly be a success! One of the few obstacles though would be the authenticity of each regional street food and the ultimate ambience of the venue that would lend one to believe that they are in the environment from which the food comes from...

I have enjoyed Susan's restaurants before, albeit in a quirky hit or miss kinda of way, but I am fond of her personality and her success stems from an honesty that is the antithesis of the 'celebrity chef' out of control, circle jerk engine that permeates the industry like a scourge....




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Located on Highland Ave, the restaurant is in an industrial-esque neighborhood, with factory warehouse -like businesses that give it a post Blade Runner, apocalyptic ambience...with valet....

Interior Shot...yeah, it's that dark....
Interior artwork
Upon entering the restaurant, it felt like we had walked into the wrong venue; it looked like the inside of a 90's bar/club that, although designed throughly, seemed totally out of place.  We sat inside the Main dining area, although in hindsight, maybe the patio area would have been better...

To say that the restaurant was dark would be an understatement; it was the Cave of Forgotten Dreams and we needed night vision goggles to read the menu... We whipped out our flashlight apps in order to see anything, and then resigned ourselves to eat our meal in the dark....

I'm not sure about the interior, on one hand, I like the modern decor, but on the other hand, it totally doesn't fit the concept of the restaurant of global street food, (I'm not saying I want a melange of ethnic, patronizing chotchkies on the walls, but I wasn't expecting this).
And although I'm used to her restaurants having a quirky design sense that requires adjustment of the mind, I have yet to figure out what the deal is here...


Did not Amuse my Bouche....
The evening started off with an Amuse Bouche: (sooooo street food) millet seed puffs with Curry Cumin Marshmallow and Blackcurrant.  Conceptually, it was a good snack to start off the meal, and not lacking in flavor, the texture was off-putting..the puff component was mushy and sticky where you would expect a crackling crunch, it felt like you could see they made a batch earlier and left it out for the day..


Chicken and Waffles...I think we got the half order at the full price!!

We started off the meal with some crowd pleasing favorites: the Chicken Croquettes and Waffles.  Being that the restaurant serves Tapas like portions, I expected small portions, however, for ten bucks, you'd think they would be able to give you a whole waffle and at least three Chicken Croquettes! (3 portions is typical  of traditional Tapas and Dim Sum)!  Served with a Spicy Maple Sauce, the dish was very good tho, and taste wise, it was one of the highlights of the evening.

Kaya Toast
Kaya Toast: Toasted sandwich with Coconut Jam that you dip into a fried egg covered in soy sauce and white pepper with greens...  So many people raved about this dish, and having eaten this in Singapore, I was excited to be reacquainted with this delicious breakfast dish.  Available at any Kopi tiam (coffeeshop)  it's a pretty straightforward.  The Coconut Jam Toast was amazing, and to dip it in the egg would have sent it over the top.  Unfortunately, the eggs in Singapore have large, thick yolks which is what makes it so good.  Here, the dish was scarce on yolk, which then created an imbalance with the Soy Sauce and making the dish too salty.  I think here it would have been better to provide two eggs to better serve the balance of the ingredients, rather than preserve the look of the dish, given the aformentioned disparity.....


Rickshaw Noodles: Pad Thai
The next dish was the Rickshaw Noodles, and on this night, it was Shrimp Pad Thai.  I have to say, the Pad Thai was pretty decent; Shrimp was big and fresh and the Noodles were chewy, but again the portion to value ratio did not equate -it was a small dish for twelve bucks. I was beginning to think we were paying for the interior design costs and monthly rent, because street food is not typically supposed to be so expensive....

Paani Puri
This dish was probably one of the best dishes of the night: the Paani Puri.  A popular Indian street snack, it's a semolina puff shell stuffed with Spiced Potatoes, bean sprouts and yogurt with a cilantro mint water to pour over the top.  The tanginess of the water along with the burst of flavors of the filling was a perfect tapas style dish that we both thoroughly enjoyed!

Date & Kamut Fritters

Moving on: the Date & Kamut Fritters, big chunky Dates fried in a grain batter served on a bed of sweet yogurt, rose petals and candied almonds.  This was a sweet dish, combining nutty flavors with a crunchy sweet date and fragrant flowery aroma.  This could have been a dessert, given the fact it offered no savory component, as delectable as it was...

Pizza of the Day: Date and Blue Cheese Flatbread with Prosciutto


























Going onto on the last dishes of the night, we ordered the Pizza with Dates, Blue Cheese and Prosciutto (an add-on recommended by the waiter).  This was our least favorite dish by far: the Blue Cheese overwhelmed the entire dish, wasting the other ingredients, (we could have had cardboard and gravel, it wouldn't have made any difference) which is terrible since there could have been a great balance with the caramelized onions and sweet dates along with the saltiness of the prosciutto....

Oh we also ordered the Korean BBQ Meatballs with Asian Pear Pickles...it was alright, they were moist and juicy but lukewarm...we didn't take a picture, it underwelmed us..

Apple Fritters

We ended the night with the dessert recommended by the waiter: Croatian Apple Fritters: Crispy Fried Sour Apple Donuts rolled in Orange Sugar Crystals with Whiskey Cider Sauce and Apple Butter.  This was pretty much a sure thing, no one could ruin this dish!  It was a great hit, and ended the meal on a high(ish) note.

Popular with the after party crowd, the food seems affable to those who need to soak up the alcohol in their system and with an impaired palate, everything is, 'amaze balls' and 'can't get enough'!  And given the decor, it seems gear towards that late nite crowd emulating the dark dungeons of speakeasy cum uncomfortable seating- it's like the physical manifestation of someone that doesn't want the party to end, even tho everyone's gone. Why anyone would come for brunch on a weekend to sit inside a dark bar like atmosphere is beyond me, and even though I love Susan Feniger so much, I can't see Street as a success, what with the inflated prices and ambience contrary to everything that street food embodies: humble, affordable and fun......

Rick says: 'Dark, Stark and Bland'!

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Food:              2.5
Ambience:      2
Service:          3.5




Susan Feniger's Street on Urbanspoon