As a native Culver City girl, I’m absolutely floored by the bunny rabbit style growth of the restaurant scene in my little town. I may live in East LA now, but when I heard that one of the hottest new restaurants had popped up in my old hood, I had to go asap!
First out, the Furikake Kettle Corn ($5) Blazin’ Jay’s, Hawaiian Style. The kettle corn is richly buttered with the salty sweet goodness we all know and love, but then rocketed into the gourmet stratosphere with the addition of puffed corn, sesame seeds, nori flakes, and a blast of spiciness. The punchy mix is sourced from local popcorn vendor Blazin’J’s – watch out J, the word is out, and your booth will surely be blazin’ with foodies in the future.
Along with the kettle corn, we ordered the Moooooo Kimchee ($3)—a modest plate of cubed white radishes swimming in lactic brine. Other than the salty brine, these bite-size dices of crunchy daikon bear no resemblance to kimchee. We selected this over the Heirloom Pickles because my friend doesn’t like “pickles.” She was later surprised to discover the pickle plate wasn’t all cucumbers. Instead it was an earthy mix of carrots, parsnips, red radishes, and something that looked like an apple… maybe an Asian pear?
[Memo to the world: Pickles are not just cucumbers! Also, not all pickles are made with vinegar! The fact that this information is not inherently known stuns me every time].
Next to arrive was the Island Farmer’s Salad ($7). The yellow dish was piled high with shaved Maui onion, (raw) tofu, fried garlic, grapefruit and ginger shoyu vinaigrette, but didn’t amount to much more then a basic salad.
For our entrées we began with the Bittersweet Tempura ($7), kabocha and broccoli rabe, with shoyu dipping sauce. The kabocha is sliced potato chip thin and deep fried to a crunchy crisp—a sweet contrast to the thickly cut Kitchen Fries. The broccoli rabe, on the other hand, was… confusing. The leafy rabe appears delicate and crispy but quickly collapses into a greasy green heap. There are many things that taste better breaded and deep fried: burgers, lotus root, onions, Hot Dog on a Stick’s Cheese on a Stick…. but broccoli rabe isn’t one of them…
The Kitchen Fries ($6) are comprised of purple Okinawan sweet potato, yam, and Korean sweet potato, then served with kimchee sour cream and sea salt. The various tubers all tasted generally the same, and the kimchee sauce was very mild—more like a mellow ranch dip.
Though almost full, we made room for the Chu-Don’t-Know-Mang ($6)—pound cake churros rolled in sugar and cinnamon, served with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. This heavy-handed interpretation of a churro is stacked like a Lincoln Log cabin with encrusted beams. The pound cake is thoroughly fried, but never achieves the satisfying crunch of its namesake. My friend and I both dripped chocolate milk all over ourselves eating this dish and ending up drinking the ice cream-soup concoction directly from the glass… an activity I do not recommend with less then best friends.
A-Frame is a converted IHOP stripped (well, probably sandblasted) of its paint and carpeting, and then fenced in with curved pine planks. The effect elevates this prefab commercial architecture into an almost angelic design—a church of food (or, for you agnostics, a sanctuary of food). Its soaring geometry evokes the flying buttresses of another time.
The communal layout of the restaurant encourages interaction with fellow diners. The food is served family style, and sharing with strangers is implicitly encouraged. Sounds mad, right?! I didn’t believe it either, until I found my fingers in a bowl or two of my neighbor’s meal. It helped that they were friends of Head Chef Jonas Curameng, so I was more than happy to help consume their “extra” courses…
Perhaps the most clever by-design element of the restaurant is the speckled enameled metal plates. The lightweight tableware makes passing dishes back and fourth among friends (or strangers) an easy one-handed job. The food comes out super fast, and before you know it, your table is filled with delectable dishes. Service was stellar until the very end of the meal—I watched as everyone aggressively flagged down their waiter for the bill. But when that bill came, it was well worth it!
12565 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232