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Los Angeles in Therapy-Finding an Authentic Culinary Self

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Restaurants & Bars

Los Angeles in Therapy-Finding an Authentic Culinary Self

ehinckley | Jun 18, 2011 01:49 PM

I've lived in Los Angeles for a decade now and remember, when I moved here from New York, my frustration at the lack of innovative restaurants that also could execute well. The city just didn't seem to be in touch with a culinary identity, or even care. Fast forward to today. Suspend reality and imagine a city in therapy to find its authentic self, as most Angelenos do at some point. Los Angeles has become a city unlike any other, a culinary melting pot cum smorgasbord cum fusion amalgam. Street is a reflection of this epicurean shift.

Street has been on my try list for a long time, but for some reason, I never had the urgency to venture, as I did some of the other new restaurants in town. Perhaps it was because I had heard that some of the dishes worked, some did not, or that the concept was more interesting than the actual execution. In any event, I made it to the restaurant last week, a good amount of time since the restaurant opened.

Street is the restaurant equivalent of a trip to Epcot. I know this sounds like an insult, like me joking with my British or Canadian or Mexican friends that their respective cities resembles the theme park, but it's kind of similar. Street tries to capture multiple tastes and then fuse them together to make something different, but it just comes out a little heavy, greasy and overwhelming, with you wishing you were at the real thing. Kind of how I feel after visiting Epcot.

As I said earlier, innovation is important but so is execution as well as creating a food experience that is paced, and I believe these are Street's major flaws. In my dinner experience I decided to try the signature dishes the restaurant was most noted for, such as the Kaya Toast, a fascinating combination of toasted bread with coconut jam, drizzled egg and soy, the Tatsutage fried chicken with a noodles side, cheese grits, and the apple fritters for dessert. I know, sounds heavy. I'll blame my love of fried food and grits for my selections, however each dish had issues. The coconut jam, or butter with coconut in it, was so thick and the egg so rubbery, we ended up scraping a lot of food away to get the impact. The chicken was reminiscent of a trip to Long John Silvers as a kid with an overly battered presentation, oddly presented next to noodles that were overly doused in a marinade. As a southerner, I had to try the grits and the fritters. I now know how it feels when a Mexican goes to La Salsa- the grits had no seasoning and the fritters had doughy middles. All in all, these dishes showed to me a lack of understanding of the original food inspirations from which they came.

Our waiter was extremely unhelpful and a little spaced out, not really guiding us as first timers through the overwhelming menu, to ensure we had a balanced and well-paced culinary experience. To me, that's unacceptable in a restaurant of Street's culinary ambitions.

In the end, I applaud Feniger's efforts to make a unique LA experience that mirrors the melting pot Los Angeles is, but more attention to the experience of the diner is in order as well as a better understanding of the original dishes and the countries from which they were inspired.

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