Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Downtown L.A.

Downtown's Starry Kitchen to close this month

Starry Kitchen at California Plaza in downtown L.A. is closing at the end of July
Starry Kitchen, the downtown cafe owned by wife and husband Thi and Nguyen Tran (she’s the chef, and he’s the mouthpiece), is closing this month. Nguyen Tran emailed an announcement, sprinkled with his usual expletives, Friday afternoon: “We are shutting down the current SK location on or around July 31."

The announcement alludes to financial difficulties but also says that the couple is negotiating another restaurant location in the same building at California Plaza on Grand Street.

In the meantime, Nguyen says, “we just happen to be launching an Asian family-style joint-venture Din-Dins (don't call it a pop-up, 'cause we want this to be permanent) between Team SK and Fred Eric at the Tiara Cafe that's going to have the possibly ‘confusing’ for some (but hopefully straightforward for others) name of Starry (Kitchen) Nights @ Tiara Cafeprolly around Aug. 9.

"In the end, life is about learning (and hopefully avoiding creditors as much as possible … that's always nice too ;D).”

For Starry Kitchen catering, contact catering@starrykitchen.com or call (213) 814-1123.

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Photo: Thi and Nguyen Tran at Starry Kitchen. Credit: Krista Simmons / For The Times

FigOly to open July 27 in downtown's Luxe Hotel

The patio at FigOly, which opens July 27
FigOly, a sleek new modern Italian restaurant from "Top Chef" alum Alex Reznik (La Seine), is ready for its close-up in the newly renovated Luxe Hotel across from L.A. Live, with an opening date set for July 27.

Featuring three distinct dining areas, including a large outdoor patio overlooking the hustle and bustle of the corner of Figueroa and Olympic (from which the restaurant derives its name), FigOly also has recruited barman Matthew Biancaniello, who has made a name for himself with his verdant brand of mixology featuring farmers market produce at the Library Bar in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The space is ritzy, with a VIP patio and dining room that is accessible through the kitchen and a bar that glows a variety of flashy colors.

FigOly recruited Matthew Biancaniello for the barThe menu includes warm buffalo mozzarella topped with macerated strawberries and black pepper ($11); Piemontese pasta tossed with porcini and hen of the woods mushrooms, ricotta salata, cherry tomatoes and Marsala ($16); beef cheeks and oxtail paired with gorgonzola polenta, shallots and sotto aceti ($27).

Drinks include the Mamma Mia (tequila and muddled red bell pepper, scallion, cilantro, lime, agave syrup, and applewood-smoked salt) and Easter Island (vodka, cucumber, Peruvian mint sprigs, and lime with ginger-spiked champagne).

Reservations for opening week are being accepted only via Twitter, which involves a clever marketing ploy that requires people publicly Tweet @FigOly along with the number in their party and the date and time of the desired reservation. Management will then confirm via direct message.

FigOly at Luxe City Center Hotel, 1020 S. Figueroa St., L.A. (213) 743-7600; www.figoly.com.

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Photos: Top, the patio at FigOly; bottom, Matthew Biancaniello pours a drink. Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

Bon Appétit Grub Crawl is set for July 13-15

GrubCrawl_logo_black_final-After experiencing many a pub crawl abroad, the founders of Grub Crawl came back to the States with a business venture: to lead guided tours--not of bars--but restaurants. The company has been taking groups of foodies on a series of grub crawls around the Bay Area since 2009 and now brings the idea of food "crawling" to L.A.

The Los Angeles edition of the Bon Appétit Grub Crawl will be hitting up three delicious neighborhoods to dine July 13-15.

The tour starts on Friday in downtown L.A. with stops at Cole's, Umamicatessen, Las Perlas and Seven Grand. Next up on the tour, continued on Saturday, is Hollywood and West Hollywood with Mozza, Scuola Di Pizza, Pour Vous, Street, the Spare Room and Night + Market on the itinerary. Saturday's crawl will conclude with a live music performance by Vacationer at the Roxy. The final leg of the tour will include eateries on the Westside with visits to Father's Office, Sotto, Picca and Lukshon. Yum...

Attend the entire three-day event for $200 per person or pick one of the three-neighborhood food crawls for $80-$100. Tickets can be purchased online.

Bagrubcrawl.com.

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L.A. Craft Beer Crawl is back in August

Third annual L.A. Craft Beer Crawl
The third annual Los Angeles Craft Beer Crawl presented by 213 Nightlife will take place downtown on Saturday, Aug. 18. "Beer Chicks" Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi, alongside Cedd Moses, have curated a list of brews that showcase Los Angeles' craft beer scene. Attendees can choose from more than 70 craft beers to sample at seven downtown bars and restaurants (all within walking distance). Participating breweries include Eagle Rock Brewery, Bootlegger's Brewery, Ladyface Ale Companie and more.

Tickets are available online and start at $49 per person ($10 if you are a designated driver). In addition to unlimited tastings, participants can purchase tickets to beer seminars ($15 per person) led by the Beer Chicks and others in the industry.

Food will be available from Cole's French Dip, Casey's Irish Pub and several food trucks, including In-N-Out.

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--Leah Rodrigues

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Photo: Hallie Baune and Christina Perozzi, the "Beer Chicks," at Cole's downtown. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

King Eddy Saloon sold to team behind the Library and Spring Street bars

KE4
Skid Row's last authentic dive bar is going belly up. But not before it throws one helluva party. King Eddy Saloon, which has been serving downtown Los Angeles since 1933, has been sold to Michael Leko and Will Shamlian, who also own the Library Bar and Spring Street Bar.

King Eddy Saloon owner Dustin Croick says the deal has been in the works for about a month; he confirmed the sale on Wednesday afternoon at the bar. Bill Roller, 74, who lives in the hotel directly above the bar and has been managing the bar for 35 years, was also present--as were the bar's usual cast of colorful characters, drinking $3 cocktails and chatting over plastic pitchers of cheap beer.

KE1"Bill's the heart and soul of this place," said Croick, whose grandfather Babe Croick purchased the bar in the 1960s when it was a solid "blue-collar, workingman's hangout." Babe moved his family to L.A. from Chicago and made his money running downtown parking lots before buying the bar.

Leko's team issued a statement calling King Eddy "the holy grail of dive bars" and promising that his team has "every intention of maintaining the mythical status King Eddy's has earned over the years while giving it a much-needed face lift."

Reached later by phone, Leko confirmed the sale and said the bar's history was its biggest draw. Leko said he intends to "kick the dust off it and bring it up to date" so that others can learn about its legacy. (It reportedly has the oldest liquor license in L.A.)

The sale became imminent after the building housing the bar--the 120-year-old King Edward Hotel--entered bankruptcy and was sold to new owners, at which point the bar's lease had lapsed.

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Eat.Drink.Americano debuts downtown

EatDrink2
The former Cafe Metropole on 3rd Street in downtown L.A.'s increasingly bustling Arts District has received a new lease on life in the form of a new gastropub named Eat.Drink.Americano. (The periods are theirs, not ours.)

The place is decked out downtown-industrial style with lots of exposed brick, rustic wooden chairs and tables, candles in Mason jars, a chandelier made of wine bottles, and a giant chalkboard wall with all kinds of tasty foodie things written on it including, "Duck & Pickles."

Speaking of duck and pickles, that savory duo is on the menu. Duck terrine comes in a jar, coated with a satisfying layer of fat and accompanied by chunks of housemade pickled cucumbers, carrots and onions alongside small rounds of toasted bread.

EatDrink3Other menu items include tomato and albacore tartare; black cod tempura and classic tomato sauce; king crab cannelloni and cauliflower foam; oxtail burgers; red Alaskan salmon cream cheese and poached egg flatbread; and steak tartare served with mustard ice cream.

Chef Juan Pablo Torre has also put together a nice list of charcuterie and cheese, and is devoted to locally sourcing everything that he can.

Booze is beer-and-wine only, with craft brews and small-batch reds and whites leading the list.

Next time you're in a forever line at the supernaturally busy Wurstkuche down the street, you now have a nice new option to retreat to for the holy duo of meat and beer.

Eat.Drink.Americano, 923 E. 3rd St., L.A.

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Photos: Bar area, top, duck and pickles, bottom. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

'LudoBites Foie Gras Night': Reservations lottery starts Friday

Foie
The way people are eating up foie gras, it's as if they're never going to eat it again. Oh, wait, maybe they won't. At least not in California, when a ban on the fattened duck liver goes into effect in July. And as the ban fast approaches, the opportunities to eat it several courses at a time keep coming. Bring your fat pants and a fat wallet (foie ain't cheap!). But the latest all-foie-gras dinner may be a tough reservation. Chef Ludo Lefebvre's "Best of LudoBites Foie Gras Night" takes place next Tuesday at Gram & Papas downtown, and spots at 25 tables will be assigned via lottery. Sign up for the reservation lotto at UrbanSpoon, starting on Friday at 10 a.m.

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L.A. Beerathon now less of a marathon, but there's still beer

Cups are lined up for participants at the 2011 NYC Beerathon. This year was planned as the inaugural Los Angeles event.
In today's Calendar, we profiled this Saturday's L.A. Beerathon, an offshoot of a five-year-old New York event that promised partygoers a single prepaid ticket that would land them a mid-to-high-end beer at 26 downtown bars and restaurants. For beer nerds, it seemed like a Disney FastPass for booze, and a Saturday to be remembered (or, perhaps, very swiftly forgotten).

But a late-hour dispute with the California ABC over the definition of what constitutes a "free drink," has prompted a last-minute and radical change in the event. The organizers announced that refunds will be issued for every prepurchased $55 ticket, and eventgoers will no longer be able to show a pass and receive the allotted drink, effectively canceling the Beerathon as a structured event.

Organizers are still encouraging fans to travel the 26-stop downtown route and sample the wares (and several food and drink specials) at regular individual prices. Which means the event now just resembles our typical Saturday afternoon. 

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Photo: Cups are lined up for participants at the 2011 NYC Beerathon. This year was planned as the inaugural Los Angeles event.

Handsome is as handsome does

Handsome1 (1 of 1)Saturday morning and no coffee in the house, the perfect opportunity to check out Handsome Coffee Roasters' new roasting facility and café deep downtown. In the early morning, there’s very little traffic. I thought about stopping at the flower mart on the way and shelved the idea. Coffee first, before anything else.

Turns out the place is packed at 9 a.m. That I didn’t expect. Young families with toddlers underfoot giggling madly at other 2-year-olds beneath the tall tables. A would-be novelist practically putting two fellow coffee aficionados to sleep in their cups by droning on about his new agent and a possible book deal. Bicyclists making a pit stop. The sleepy-headed, the wired, lingering over espresso with milk and a heart drawn in the foam.

Handsome Coffee Roasters was founded by a Handsome4 (1 of 1) trio of Intelligentsia alums — Chris Owens, Michael Phillips and Tyler Wells. They’re all experienced coffee geeks, but Phillips won the title World Barista Championship in London in 2010, the only American to do so. His Twitter handle, by the way, is @1shot4theroad. I like it. 

At the new facility, you step up to the counter to order and pour your own water from a jug for that very purpose. While I'm waiting, I Handsome2 (1 of 1)peruse the shelves watched over by a benevolent-looking stuffed beaver and pick up a bag of Scout’s Honor espresso beans (1 lb., $22.50). There are bags of single origin coffee, some classic paraphernalia —Chemex brewers, professional-grade grinders, ceramic drippers, Hario press pots and kettle, etc., and also Handsome Roasters’ thick-walled cups. But I’m not really shopping. I’m trying to figure out how to make those copper plumbing pipe shelves. (This project bears further investigation — and coffee.) 

When my coffee comes, it’s smooth and fragrant, rich and strong. Add in an individual coffeecake from Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, sets me up for the morning. What next? Monterey Park for Chinese groceries and maybe later, dumplings at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia.

Just one Saturday morning in L.A.

Handsome Coffee Roasters, 582 Mateo St., downtown Los Angeles Arts District; (323) 606-3593; www.handsomecoffee.com

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Photos: Espresso with milk, the company bus, coffee in the making. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.

Umamicatessan soft-opens, plies downtown L.A. with pork products

Umamicatessan soft-opens in downtown L.A.
Umamicatessan, Adam Fleischman's haute answer to the lowly food court, soft-opens Saturday in the renovated Orpheum, across the street from the teal-coated Art Deco majesty of the Eastern Columbia lofts near 9th Street and Broadway.

With seating for 206, Umamicatessan features a large central dining area surrounded by five distinct dining concepts and an ample bar. They are: Pigg, chef Chris Cosentino's ode to all things pork; Spring for Coffee; the Cure (Fleischman's sauced-up modern deli); Umami Burger; and & a Donut, which features fresh-fried donuts with creative toppings and sauces. The bar, Umami Burger's biggest, is helmed by mixologist Adrian Biggs (La Descarga, Harvard & Stone).

Meals from each of the concepts can be ordered from one server, or diners can sit at the bar in front of the station of their choice. Food will come out at different times, according to the pace of each chef in each kitchen an order is placed with.

"It's a playground in here," said Jason Berkowitz, VP of hospitality for Umami Restaurant Group during a recent press preview. "We told the chefs 'The only limit is your imagination,' so let's see what evolves."

Perhaps the most stunning feature of the lofty dining room with its wooden tables and chairs is the two-story "tower of ham" that anchors Pigg.

The refrigerated tower will eventually be home to 20 varieties of ham from around the globe and even has its own conveyor belt for ease in dispatching the meat.

"People take cured meat for granted in that they think it only comes from Europe," said Cosentino. "We have a long-standing tradition of it here in the States -- from the South."

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.