Phlight: Helping to Revitalize Whittier with Wine and Tapas

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Restaurant Whittier

Phlight is helping to lead Uptown Whittier's culinary charge.

By opening Phlight, a tapas restaurant and wine bar, husband and wife Jay and Nikomi Arroyo are spearheading an effort to revitalize Uptown Whittier, a quaint stretch of storefronts and restaurants in The 562, an Area Code most people I know haven’t heard of, let alone visited. Phlight could easily popularize The 562, with its soaring wood ceilings, easy vibe, and Chef Daniel Salcido’s compelling 31-item menu that focuses on Spanish cuisine, but also includes seldom seen Chamorro dishes from Guam.

Phlight’s name is a play on a flight of wine, plus a play on the wine bar’s location: Philadelphia & Bright.

The wine list at Phlight is intriguing, with many affordable bottles, plenty of unusual by-the-glass options, and interesting descriptors. Each glass we tried was stellar. Fleur du Cap ($8 glass) was a 2004 unfiltered Chardonnay 2004 from South Africa, described as tasting “golden – lime & butterscotch.” I sure couldn’t taste lime and butterscotch, but the Chardonnay was a crisp knockout. Another winner was the Fontana Fontal ($7 glass) Tempranillo Crianza 2003, from La Mancha, Spain, described as “raspberry & cinnamon – buttery finish.” I would certainly order both wines again, but could also see myself exploring Phlight’s other tantalizing options.

Olives Los Angeles

To start, each table receives a bottomless bowl of cinnamon-roasted almonds and mixed olives tossed with chile flakes, oregano and thyme.

Crab Cakes Los Angeles

Phlight served coconut and panko-crusted crab cakes ($12) doused in aioli with carrot and cabbage salad. I would have preferred the spicy plum sauce that was listed on the menu, since I’m not crazy about flavored mayo, but the lump crab meat’s quality was indisputable.

Chamorro Food Los Angeles

Chicken Kalaguen ($8) was an interesting Chamorro dish featuring grilled, chopped chicken tossed with lemon and shredded coconut, plated on spicy red pepper strips. The dish was served cold, and could have used sweetness from fried plantains, another listed ingredient that didn’t reach our table, but it was still pretty flavorful. I never thought I’d say this, but the portion size was actually too generous. Turns out a little Kalaguen goes a long way.

Short Ribs Los Angeles

Brown sugar & ginger short ribs ($12) played better on the menu than on the plate. Bone-in short ribs braised with caramelized coconut and red wine reduction and were fairly fatty, but the flavor wasn’t strong enough. Which was surprising, given the enticing ingredients.

Scallops Los Angeles

Pistachio-crusted scallops ($16) also sounded a bit better in theory. Jumbo sea scallops were well-prepared, but the Jamon Serrano that encircled the scallops was wan, and the pistachio crust could have used more crushed pistachios. Still, I enjoyed the cabbage and Grand Marnier sauce.

Macaroni And Cheese Los Angeles

Phlight’s gargantuan baked elbow macaroni & cheese ($8) dome was a resounding success, blending three Spanish cheeses, Jamon Serrano chunks, Spanish sausage & artichoke hearts. The crusty top was a good textural counterpoint to the oozing core.

Crepes Los Angeles

We finished strong with baked Iberian crepes (4 for $9) filled with white squash, Shiitake mushrooms, Spanish Garrotxa and Idiazabal cheeses. The crepes were expertly prepared, soft on the interior and crispy at the edges, plated with sweet Port wine sauce to balance out savory fillings.

With portions so large, we didn’t have much room for dessert. Of course, at any restaurant, if the desserts sound good enough, I’ll find the stomach space. Unfortunately, none of the three desserts generated as much excitement as the savory menu. Mexican chocolate soufflé, flan, and coconut custard just aren’t good enough.

The two of us split six dishes, which turned out to be about two dishes too many. The portions were gargantuan. Still, the menu was so original it was tough to resist. I look forward to returning to continue sampling those great wines, and to sample dishes like filet mignon and applewood-smoked bacon meatballs with Manchego & caper Dijon cream sauce; octopus & calamari 3 ways; and espresso bean, guajillo chili & Mexican chocolate crusted filet mignon with red wine au jus.

Phlight: Helping to Revitalize Whittier with Wine and Tapas


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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