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LA Spice - Strong First Impressions


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LA Spice - Strong First Impressions

bulavinaka | Mar 31, 2013 01:17 PM

A Home Depot run left me not wanting to cook this morning. Looking for something different, I searched yelp in hopes that a fledgling eatery might be had in the general southwest quadrant in the Westside. Aside from the usual suspects, a new name (to me at least) showed up - LA Spice.

LA Spice is located on that stretch of Sepulveda (south of Culver Blvd) in Culver City where eateries like Pho Show, El Rincon Criollo, Whirled Peas and Grey Block Pizza currently reside. From what I've read off of their website and attached press articles, the owners earned their chops primarily in the catering business, and have decided to extend their model to include brick & mortar.

Their menu doesn't really seem to have a consistent theme in terms of a particular cuisine but what seems apparent is the focus on ingredients, and dishes that will reflect that (if that makes any sense). They seem to do a lot of things, which can be scary from my perspective, and a hard act to pull off. Breakfast, lunch dinner (maybe more like supper), bakery, and catering are all listed on their menu and website. I'm sure many still remember Bite on Pico in Santa Monica - great place, loved the food, ingredients were first rate, a very competent kitchen, laid back dining room, and great baked goods. As good as they were, once they offered dinner service with that small bites concept, things seemed too much for them to deal with.

LA Spice seems similar in some ways (from just my initial experience) but I don't see the issues that seemed to curse Bite happening here. The menu isn't huge but it seems they've offered enough nice choices that would be appetizing to good cross-section of eaters. You'll find wording in the menu that will tip you off that the kitchen is hardly institutional. Caramelized fennel, fennel pollen, Laura Chenel goat cheese, Weiser Farm potatoes, Nueske bacon, Pequillo peppers, muscovado sugar, Mycella blue cheese, star anise-braised pork belly banh mi with dau chua pickled vegetables, X-ray specs rainbow carrots...

LA Spice might not be as strong in the baked goods department as Bite, but what I tried - the creme fraiche cake with berries, poached pear strata, and the croissant - were very pleasing. I know the croissant is often how some measure a place. LA Spice's croissant is big with a nice buttery flavor. Its exterior is crisp but not shatteringly crisp like many like it. Still, I truly enjoyed its texture and flavor. It wasn't greasy or oily like so many croissants can be. I was there pretty early, so the baked goods case was just starting to show life, and the salads had yet to make an appearance as well. It appears that they truly show their glory for lunch and dinner - not a slow time like Easter Sunday morning.

I also ordered their croque monsieur and vegetable scramble - everything I ordered was for take-out - and I can only comment on how quickly the food disappeared. I only had small samples of most things, as by the time I got to the table, my family had pretty much demolished most of what I brought home.

I only took a quick look in their beverage case, but the same particularness in choices appeared here as well. Craft brews, small but well-edited wine selection, more unique sodas like Abita root beer, and some sparkling waters in a blue bottle - I think it was Saratoga.

The dining area is long a shallow, running most of the width of the glassed-in storefront. Everything is new, clean and casually smart. It should be comfortable enough since it's roughly oriented to the east - maybe morning sunlight. Most tables are for two to four diners. The kitchen appears relatively enormous - I'm assuming for the catering business.

I will definitely return to try more of their menu - all of it just sounds so promising. The added bonus for me is that I'm always looking for take-out options that offer choices that are unique, at least a step or two above the typical take-out places, and somewhat off the grid.

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