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The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Mid-City West

Tom Bergin's soft opening tonight

Tom Bergin's

After a lengthy closure and lots of anticipation about the outcome of a change of ownership and significant renovation, the historic Mid-City Irish pub Tom Bergin's will soft open tonight (Thursday).

Owners Brandon Boudet and Warner Ebbink (Little Dom's, 101 Coffee Shop) worked hard to maintain the bar's classic dark-wood look, which dates back to 1936, and brought on mixologists Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest to craft a lengthy menu of Irish whiskeys and imported beers.

Read all about the new menu and vibe in this sneak peek at the place before it opened.

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-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Brandon Boudet, left, and Warner Ebbink at Tom Bergin's. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Weekend brunch at Playa

Playa1 (1 of 1) Weekend brunch at Playa is a revelation. First of all, it’s wonderful to experience the light-drenched space in the daytime, without the crowds and the buzz. It’s a tranquil time, especially if you get there early. A cook bends over the tortilla press, arranging flower petals for the tortillas florales just so. The bartender mixes up a Bloody Mary made with rye and muddled basil for someone waiting for a friend.

In the light, you can appreciate the design details -- the pattern of the tiles, the sheen of the tabletops, the texture of the upholstery, the sizzling color palette.

Start things off with blue corn muffins with almond butter. I have to stop myself from eating the entire order. Seriously. Or try those tortillas florales with marmalade.

Then go for the duck hash with Weiser Family Farms fingerling potatoes, sweet peppers and a slow-cooked egg. (That’s a trick that renders the yolk and the white the same quivery texture.) 

Other dishes include a tamal of cracked corn and pulled pork, topped with a Playa2 (1 of 1) sunny side up egg. And a fine version of eggs Benedict made with jamon and a chipotle-fired béarnaise. Chef John Sedlar knows his béarnaise: He was trained by the late Jean Bertranou of L’Ermitage and his first restaurant, Saint Estèphe, was nouvelle French with a Southwestern twist. (To note: All through September Sedlar will be cooking Saint Estèphe’s signature dishes from the '80s at Rivera downtown.) 

The coffee at Playa is excellent, and if you don't need caffeine to get going in the morning, get the Spanish drinking chocolate with house-made passion fruit marshmallows. Zing!

Check out Playa’s brunch menu here.

7360 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 933-5300; www.playarivera.com. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brunch items, $6 to $15.

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-- S. Irene Virbila
Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Top photo: Blue corn muffins with almond butter. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Duck hash with fingerling potatoes, peppers and egg. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Claudio Blotta of Barbrix to open new spot with Ammo chefs

Roxanadana

Claudio Blotta and his wife, Adria Tennor, of Barbrix in Silver Lake are opening a new restaurant in the old Bistro LQ space on Beverly Boulevard. Their partners in the venture will be Dan Mattern and Roxana Jullapat, currently chef and pastry chef at Ammo. They’ll be staying on until the end of August there and then full steam ahead on the new project.

“I couldn’t be happier to be working with Claudio again,” Mattern says. "We worked together at Campanile when I was just starting out at the end of the '90s.” 

The plan right now is to call the new place Cook County. (That’s where Dan was born in Illinois.) The concept? California rustic. Mattern plans on a constantly changing menu, showcasing the best of the farmers market. Right now he’s fixated on whole roasted fish and Dungeness crabs and Santa Barbara spot prawns cooked on a wood grill. He’s also intent on sourcing local meats -- rabbits, pigs, grass-fed beef, etc. 

The partners are aiming for entrees priced at $22 and below. The menu won’t be small plates, though, but what they're calling reasonably sized portions. No doggie bags required. Blotta, of course, is doing the international wine list, which like the menu will change frequently.

For her part, Jullapat is obsessed with making everything in house whether it’s a bun for a burger or a special bread for the cheese plate. “I definitely take great pride in making puff pastry by hand,” she says. She also confesses she loves brunch and spends an inordinate amount of time thinking of morning pastries and other such dishes. 

Cook County will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and brunch on the weekend. It will seat 50 inside, plus 20 more on the outdoor terrace in front. Blotta says they’re doing a light remodel, which should take two to three months. But you know how these things go ... Barbrix opened a year and a half late due to problems with the city. They’d be very very lucky to open by November. But you never know.

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Tsujita L.A.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo: Roxana Julapat and Daniel Mattern. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chu / Los Angeles Times

 

Paper or Plastik Cafe: More than just a cup of joe

The coffee condiments sit atop an old Deluxe television set amid the cafe's industrial setting with high ceilings, copper fixtures and a glass-paneled storefront. A joint venture between Anya and Yasha Michelson, along with daughter Marina, Paper or Plastik Cafe is a neighborhood coffee shop and the heart of a community hub.

The goods come from all over town; coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee and Ecco Caffe; pastries (homemade pop-tarts, pies, croissants) from Cake Monkey, Sweets for the Soul, Sweet Lady Jane and Le Pain du Jour; and a rotating menu of sandwiches and salads from Auntie Em's Kitchen and Breadbar.

There's even a playful ad campaign touching on the cafe's function as a multidisciplinary arts space.  With coffee as its core, the Mid-City cafe aims to serve the community as an artistic center, providing an outlet for visual and tactile performing arts.

5772 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-935-0268

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-- Caitlin Keller

Video credit: Paperorplastikcafe.tumblr.com

It happens to critics too: The Friday night restaurant relay

Sotto illus 3 What do you do when you’re five minutes away from a restaurant where you're meeting friends, and they call to report that the valet just told them there’s been a power outage: The restaurant is closed.

It's Friday night and with Sotto temporarily closed, I scramble for somewhere else to go.

How about Misfit, the restaurant that replaced Anisette in the Clock Tower building in Santa Monica? They don’t take reservations anyway. Let’s just go.

The friends are five minutes ahead, and just when I’m inching toward the address, they call from the restaurant to warn there's a 45-minute wait. Too long.

Well then, let's try Villetta, the new Italian in the old Chez Mimi space in Brentwood. We’re so close, let’s just go and see if we can get a table. 

Not a chance. 

By now we've been driving around for almost 45 minutes, and I'm getting desperate.

Let’s try Vincenti, I suggest, and I can hear a smile in Daniela’s voice when she agrees. We call first. Yes, they’ll have a table in 15 minutes or so (it’s an early crowd). 

And, so, after what feels like a race across the city, we finally sit down, starving by now, to a fine Italian meal of cacia e pepe, fried soft-shelled crabs and roast duck. It’s been too long. The dining room still looks smart, and the crowd still dresses for the occasion. Service is excellent, as always. Plus — we can hear one another across the table. 

In the end, we have a terrific evening, polished off with ice cream sandwiches at Sweet Rose Creamery at Brentwood Country Mart.

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— S. Irene Virbila

Illustration: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

Salad spot, Mixt Greens, coming to downtown L.A.

Mixt

The popular San Francisco lunch spot Mixt Greens is coming to Los Angeles -- downtown next Wednesday, with plans for a restaurant near LACMA and one in Malibu later this year.

Mixt Greens staff prepare salads and sandwiches in front of each customer, using local, seasonal and organic ingredients when possible. It’s a menu that reflects the owners’ philosophy about sustainability.

Diners can feel good about their meals, knowing “our food is healthy, local and our restaurant sustainably built and operated eco-responsibly,” said Andrew Swallow, the executive chef. He owns the company with his sister, Leslie Silverglide and her husband, David.

“Sustainability is a key principle of our business, and it permeates every aspect of our company and restaurant operations,” Leslie Silverglide said in the release about the opening at 2 California Plaza.

Mixt Greens, which calls itself an eco-gourmet restaurant, says it uses non-toxic green cleaning products, compostable takeout containers, and has a comprehensive compost and recycling program. And the location in the Screen Actors Guild building near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, opening in the spring, will have an “edible wall,” or vertical garden, growing salad greens, herbs and vegetables to be used in the restaurants.

The salad bar's next generation, custom salad restaurants, such as Tender Greens in Culver City and elsewhere, have proved popular, allowing even the pickiest of eaters to have their meals the way they want them.

The Mixt Greens menu includes the “Orchard” salad with butter lettuce, Asian pear, apple, blue cheese, fennel, candied walnuts, pomegranate seeds and Champagne vinaigrette. “The Cowboy” has herb-marinated grilled chicken, along with romaine hearts, roasted red peppers, black beans, sharp cheddar, red onion and Point Reyes blue cheese dressing with a chipotle honey drizzle. The menu also has sandwiches.

The downtown location will be open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prices range from $7.95 to $11.95 for salads and $6.95 for sandwiches with a side salad.

Swallow has cooked at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern and at the Ajax Tavern in Aspen, Colo. His book, “Mixt Salads,” is due out in the spring.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo of Mixt Greens in San Francisco, courtesy of Mixt Greens

Sampler Platter: A rave review from Oprah, insane recipes from the Futurist Cookbook and cow brain curry

Witches' Fingers, sugar cookies with raspberry jam for cuticles and sliced almonds for fingernails, from recently opened Village Bakery and Cafe in Atwater Village.

The most insane cookbook you will ever read, news about Doughboys and cow brains top today's food news roundup.

-- L.A.-based vegan chef Tal Ronnen, author of "The Conscious Cook," makes an appearance on "Oprah" today -- and The O calls him the best vegan chef in America.
-- Welcome to the Futurist Cookbook, featuring battered and deep-fried roses, a chicken stuffed with ball bearings, salami cooked in espresso and then flavored with eau de Cologne. And then it gets weird. “I’m dazzled! Your genius frightens me!” The Smart Set
-- Recipe: butterscotch cashew bars. Why? Because they sound amazing. James Beard Foundation
-- Cow brain curry at Raso Minang in West Covina. Why? Because it sounds amazing. Gourmet Pigs
-- The 99-Cent Chef visits the cornucopia of carts in MacArthur Park.
-- Is your seafood hurting the planet? Greenspace
-- Want to keep up with the latest food recalls? Sign up for Safe Tables' e-alerts.
-- Irvine local Hai Vo wins Brower Youth Award for his efforts to get the UC system to commit to 20% real food procurement by 2020.
-- Per property owner Charlie Jacob, Doughboys is shooting for a Dec. 1 opening. Blackburn + Sweetzer
-- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wades into the bagel wars. New York Daily News
-- Just in time for Halloween: Witches' Fingers -- sugar cookies with raspberry jam for cuticles and sliced almonds for fingernails -- from the recently opened Village Bakery and Cafe in Atwater Village.

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo credit: Sue Sawyer

Sampler Platter: Agura sushi soft-opens, absinthe in Rome, Halloween cupcakes

It looks innocuous, but the Diavaolo, a chocolate milkshake with 80-proof absinthe, packs a big punch. It's served at Latte Piu, one of two

A cupcake so cute it's scary, a Roman milk bar and a new sushi restaurant on La Cienega lead our food news roundup.
-- Teetotalers may be more depressed than drinkers. Time
-- Absinthe in a chocolate shake? Welcome to Latte Piu, a milk bar in Rome that’s patterned after "Clockwork Orange's" Korova. Los Angeles Times
-- Agura sushi on La Cienega soft-opens. Blackburn + Sweetzer
-- Figs, cupcakes, Guy Fieri and seven more things David Chang and Anthony Bourdain hate. Grub Street LA
-- San Diego Meat Co. recalls 925 pounds of beef products due to E. coli threat. Los Angeles Times
-- Red Mango has a new seasonal flavor: pumpkin spice.
-- Most adorable Halloween cupcake ever? We Love You So
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: It looks innocuous, but the Diavaolo, a chocolate milkshake with 80-proof absinthe, packs a big punch. It's served at Latte Piu, a milk bar in Rome. Credit: Baxter Holmes / For The Times

Sampler Platter: Fat is the new normal, Eating Valley Blvd, XIV's vegan tasting menu, protecting Kentucky bourbon

Wayne Thiebaud, Four Sandwiches

Food art, bourbon, red onions and fat acceptance lead today's food news roundup.
-- Alton Brown says he doesn't see "Good Eats" lasting much beyond next year. Show Tracker
-- Chef Michael Mina’s vegan tasting menu at XIV. To Live and Eat in L.A.
-- Fat as the new normal: Saying no to diets, fat acceptance and questions about whether extra pounds really equal extra risk. Los Angeles Times
-- If you like art with your food, don't miss Wayne Thiebaud's iconic cupcakes on display in a retrospective at the Pasadena Museum of California Art until Jan. 31. Eating L.A.
--New food blog, Eating Valley Blvd, devoted solely to 8 miles of Asian eateries on Valley Boulevard between the 710 and 605 freeways, goes live.
-- Congressman Ben Chandler urges his fellow Kentuckians to protect the state's signature bourbon and horse industries. Lexington Herald-Leader
-- Gourmet Pigs declares Spago one of dineLA's best deals.
-- What to eat at Tanzore's Diwali party in Beverly Hills this week. Grub Street LA
-- Ma'Kai (Santa Monica) may close and be replaced by a Red Onion. Eater LA

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Wayne Thiebaud's "Four Sandwiches" (1965) puts its own spin on the theme of uniformity. Credit: Hackett-Freedman Gallery

Sampler Platter: Esquire names Bazaar as Restaurant of the Year, McDonald's to open at the Louvre, Doughboys reveals new exterior

Bisonherd

Fast food comes to France's fanciest museum; news on Doughboys and the Gold Room; and all sorts of food-crime news in today's food news roundup.
-- The Bazaar by José Andrés is named Restaurant of the Year by Esquire. Rivera makes the magazine's Best New Restaurants of 2009 list. And RH and West Side Tavern are included on Esquire's list of Another 15 Places Not to Miss. Eating Las Vegas
--McDonald's to open at the Louvre. Los Angeles Times
-- An E. Coli-laced hamburger patty that paralyzed a woman exposes flaws in the food safety system, especially ground beef production. New York Times
-- Doughboys reveals its new exterior. Blackburn + Sweetzer
-- Echo Park's Gold Room gets polished up. The Eastsider LA
-- More on the Capitol City sports bar, which we peeked into a few weeks ago. Los Angeles Times
-- New York City public schools limit bake sales. Gothamist
-- Insanity hot sauce fells British columnist. Times Online
-- Pasadena, Texas, woman eats ex-hubby's goldfish after a fight over jewelry. Houston Chronicle
-- Man gets 18 months in prison for hot dog theft. Telegram
-- Fourty-four tons of rotting kosher bison meat stink up South Dakota town. Yahoo! News
-- Curry festival spices up London. CNN
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Tobias Hatfield poses by his bison herd on his ranch outside Williams, Ore. Credit: Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune / Associated Press
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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.