Saturday, March 27, 2010

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 13

Despite our somewhat deserved reputation as dabbling dilettantes, flitting from place to place based on little more than wistful e-mails or random pork cravings, the FG's can, in fact, be highly efficient.   We've now done it exactly once.   

Episode 13 - We meet and eat at Street

It helped, of course, that Susan Feniger's Street made it incredibly easy for us to check the following global cuisines* off our list in one fell swoop:


Honestly, I don't know how much more efficient seven hungry people** could possibly be in an hour.

This place was conceived as a way for the chef***, known primarily as a Latin food diva and one of the lively co-creators of Border Grill, to showcase the multitude of global street food and flavors she fell in love with while traveling all over the world.   As a one-stop shop, it succeeds amazingly well.    It is by no means real street food.  It's fancier, consciously chef-created, and decidedly at home in the trendy digs the restaurant occupies.  Plus there are elaborate cocktail pairings, wines and craft beers, all priced, like the food, at upscale indoor rates.  That being said, the place is energetic, comfortable, and very fun.   We liked being there from the moment we walked in, and we had a hard time leaving our spot on the patio.   The menu, with its cleverly stenciled cover, felt and read like a "greatest hits" compilation:  Nothing had any relationship to anything else, but each individual thing sounded fantastic.    And for the most part, the dishes were terrific.  With such a diversity of carefully curated food, everything we ordered had at least one big fan, and a few got universal raves.  

Our tour started with an odd savory marshmallow crispy treat, probably of Indian provenance.  Puffed millet with curry and marshmallows.  But it was on the house, so there you go.  And the gorgeous assortment of drinks made the millet go down a lot easier:  a melon and beet aqua fresca, a concoction of mint and fresh ginger, a bittersweet lemonade, and a lethally alcoholic version of a New Orleans Sazerac.

The waiter insisted we try the Kaya toast, from Singapore.  Coconut jam on thickly buttered toast, to be dipped into a sunny side up egg laced with dark soy sauce and a smattering of micro arugula.   I was done after one bite, others were lukewarm, but FG8 loved it.

Everybody adored the Korean dumplings, made of sweet potato noodles that were crispy on the outside, filled with vegetables and drizzled with a tangy sweet and sour sesame sauce.  

The Ukranian spinach and cheese dumplings with sour cream were also a hit. A Jerusalem bread salad was huge and briny, with cucumbers, feta, and toasted olive bread.   FG8 was all over this one, too.****

From the selection of "handhelds" (otherwise known as sandwiches), the clear favorite was the beef brisket reuben.  The meat was fork-tender, rich, and perfectly paired with the buttery rye toast, sauerkraut, caramelized onions and melted Jarlsberg cheese.  A Vietnamese pulled-pork sandwich exploded with flavor in every bite:  peppercorns, anise, kafir-lime.  Served with fried plantains and crispy shrimp crackers, it wowed the table. The spicy fish Po-Boy was very tasty, but the lamb taquitos, while good, paled in comparison to the other choices.

Of the larger plates, the tempura fried chicken made people quite happy, as did the yummy cold soba noodles that came with it, but the soft pretzel platter fell flat.   Yes, the smoked fish salad was good, but the pretzel was overdone and the tiny squares of cheese in a pile made no sense.

As the last dishes were cleared away and coffee came, we all agreed that we'd had a great lunch.  But each one of our "great lunches" was different than everyone else's, even though we'd been served the same things.  Mine was those dumplings, the reuben and the pulled pork sandwich.  For others, it was the Jerusalem salad and the Po Boy.   Still others would return for the chicken and the coconut toast.  That's both the fun and the oddity of Street.

Is it the same as being on a sweltering hot sidewalk in Korea eating dumplings fresh from a guy with a sizzling wok on a cart?  No.  It's not even the same as going to an authentic Mexican dive in East LA.  And it's about 4 times as expensive as either of those options.*****    But it is like going on a luxury whirlwind tour with an expert who not only knows her stuff, but loves sharing it with you. 

FG Final Verdict?  Street is ON the list
Pricing info:  Street bites & salads $7-12, handhelds & larger plates $10-16
FG Value Rating: Fair deal -- barely.  The prices are high but the portions, especially on the larger dishes, are substantial and easy to share.

Ready for more?  Want to know where we're going next?  Come visit the Foodie Girls on our website!  More good stuff for your rumbling tummy.

*There was also a glass of sparkling French rose, so we could consider that country covered as well.
**I was joined by FG3, FG7, FG8, and a brand new member, FG14.  In a first, we also had two FG husbands come for lunch.   We were careful to impress upon the men how much of a privilege it was for them to be there, and they rose to the occasion beautifully.  They ordered well, shared generously, and in general treated the whole thing with the appropriate reverence.  
*** She'll be bringing her global flair to the upcoming season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo as a contestant.  Go Susan!  Bring home a win for LA!
**** I hesitate to speculate that her enthusiasm was at all related to that Sazerac.
***** This was by far our most expensive outing.  The bill came to $35 per person, but we did order a ton of food, alcohol, and coffee.  The alcohol and coffee, at least, are unusual for us.  In reality, if you came for lunch on your own, you'd probably get out of there for about $25, with a drink and tip.  But still!  There's also an interesting article in Newsweek about the incongruity of this whole "upscale street food" trend.

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