On January 29, 1919, the U.S. entered an age of darkness known as Prohibition that banned the manufacture, sale and transport of liquor. This led to over 13 years of rampant organized crime. Maybe Prohibition wasn’t such a good idea after all. Mercifully, Congressmen came to their senses and ratified the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s demise, several L.A. cocktail hounds held parties, including Bar Keeper’s historically inclined proprietor, Joe Keeper.
Knowing that I was in store for a cocktail fueled night, I fortified my system with a stop at Olimpus Juices – one of L.A.’s best juice shops – before hitting the gym. Enrique and Jorge Mora opened three years ago at one of Hollywood’s busiest intersections, specializing in the kind of juices and smoothies popular in their native Mexico. The tiny space featured only three tables and was awash in Greek mythology, with busts of Zeus and other Gods.
Zeus’ Thunderbolt ($5.50) combined milk, cashews, dates, strawberries and protein powder. Thankfully the protein powder had no noticeable flavor. It was refreshing, though it could have contained more cashews and dates for sweetness and texture. The version at The Juice Fountain is heartier. Still, the brothers provided a generous pour, filling my 24-ounce cup and providing the pitcher, which contains residual juice.
Enrique made his surprisingly satisfying garbanzo bean pie ($2.75) with wheat flour and a honey sweetener. He said it was their grandmother’s specialty. The legume pie was on the dry side, but still a solid snack.
The first Friday of each month, Joe Keeper hosts “Mixology Classes” at Bar Keeper, his Sunset Junction barware emporium. For these cocktail gatherings, Keeper brings in a “bartender of merit” who chooses vintage cocktails that people don’t make anymore. For Repeal Day, he recruited mixologists Rhachel Shaw and Scott Campbell to prepare uniquely American cocktails. Both cocktails came from “What You’ll Have” by Julien J. Proskauer, published in November 1933, the year Prohibition ended.
Campbell previously tended bar in San Francisco at The Skylark in the Mission District and at the Blind Tiger Lounge in Chinatown. He now works in the entertainment industry. Shaw currently works behind the bar at Malo.
Campbell mixed THE WALL STREETER, combining 2 parts Rye, Whiskey, 1 egg white, 2 dashes Cointreau and 1 teaspoon Grenadine. The egg whites added viscosity, and the Grenadine added color.
Shaw mixed BRONX COCKTAIL (Gin), incorporating the Juice of ¼ Orange, ¼ Sweet Vermouth, ¼ Dry Vermouth, ½ Dry Gin. Shake, Strain & Serve. This cocktail was sweeter due to the fresh orange juice and sweet Vermouth.
For dinner, I met some friends at the grand opening of Delux, an Art Deco restaurant and bar in the middle of the ever-evolving Cahuenga Corridor, from designer Kristofer Keith and partner Adolfo Suaya. We arrived at 9 PM, and the space soon filled with fashionable Hollywood types intent on securing a seat at Hollywood’s latest hotspot. Yes, there’s a velvet rope, and yes, you better have your name in the books.
Kristofer Keith’s design is spectacular, featuring a green marble bar backed by a 45-foot-wide stained glass mural. A fireplace divides backlit green glass, which depicts blimps, skyscrapers and mountains. Keith said he was inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic film “Metropolis” and the book jacket cover on Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” The high ceilings sport a row of six beaded chandeliers. There are two distinct areas of Delux, including a lounge and the sunken bar, which features banquettes and high-top tables. Upstairs, women are encouraged to luxuriate in the ladies’ lounge, which features red velvet curtains and sumptuous red leather seats.
Eric Greenspan, chef-owner of The Foundry on Melrose and Suaya’s long-time friend, constructed a unique menu featuring 14 shareable small plates. Every dish incorporates alcohol, and there’s no need for utensils. In fact, there are no utensils.
We sat in the sumptuous lounge chairs and split six different dishes. Two of the dishes looked identical, but tasted completely different. Crispy Macaroni and Cheese ($9, pictured at top) came with a dish of Whiskey Barbecue Sauce. They were probably a little too dry, but had good flavor. The addictive Risotto Arancini ($10) contained oozing Scotch cured cheddar and wild mushrooms.
Endive ($7) boats cradled whiskey lacquered walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and a dice of caramelized pears.
Seared Scallops ($13) came on crostini with sweet citrus marmalade and champagne buerre blanc. Bay scallops tend to have the consistency of pencil erasers, but not in Chef Greenspan’s capable hands. Here, their silkiness played well against the crisp crostini.
Rosy cubes of Tuna Sashimi ($14) came on crisps with vodka and tomato marmalade and horseradish.
Every dish was good, but the Seared Tuna “Melt” ($6) was phenomenal, containing silky strips of tuna, vodka spiked peppers, oozing cheese, a creamy swipe of aioli and a fluffy rye roll.
Since I already had two drinks in my system and had to drive, I skipped cocktails. My friends ordered four cocktails apiece and absolutely raved about the Spicy Dom with pickled jalapeno and cucumber foam. Turns out mixologist Damian Windsor, previously of Gordon Ramsay at The London, Seven Grand and The Hungry Cat, wrote the cocktail menu. One missed opportunity isn’t so bad for such an eventful night.
Greenspan was in the kitchen for opening night, but he has his own restaurant to run. Hopefully once he returns to The Foundry, the food at Delux remains interesting and consistent.
The experience inside Delux was fun and promising, but they definitely need to work on their exit strategy. For some strange reason, nobody was allowed to leave through the front door. Instead, diners (and drinkers) were shuttled out the back door, past the smoking patio and dumpster. Then the valet station was a complete disaster. It took 40 minutes to get my car. Considering I paid $10 up front, that was especially offensive.
After dinner, Matthew “Mattatouille” Kang called to say he was down the street at Kogi BBQ and wanted to know if I was interested in joining him. I was full, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to see why there was so much food blog buzz surrounding the Korean food truck.
Parking is a catastrophe near Amoeba Music and the ArcLight on weekends, so I parked behind the Kogi truck with my caution lights flashing and devoured two Korean tacos: spicy pork and short rib ($2 apiece).
Every Kogi taco comes topped with sesame-chili salsa roja, julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette, cilantro-green onion-lime relish, crushed sesame seeds and sea salt. Both tacos were flavorful, but could have used a more emphatic char. Still, Kogi’s truly original tacos are only $2 apiece, so it’s hard to complain.
Chef Roy Choi offers nightly specials. During my visit, it was short rib sliders and a chicken quesadilla ($5) with a smoky orange sauce and pomegranate seeds.
Again, the flavor was good, but the flour tortillas were too floppy. Overall, Kogi’s textural contrast could improve.
Unlike cities like New York and Austin, Los Angeles has surprisingly little food truck variety. Hopefully trucks like Kogi and the Green Truck are signaling a shift from just Mexican food. Kogi’s owners have been been smart with their concept and viral marketing. Just about every food blogger in town has already written about Kogi, and Chef Choi and his partners apparently have plans for a fleet of Kogi trucks. For variety and value’s sake, Kogi is a welcome addition to the late-night L.A. food scene.
On my next Hollywood food crawl, I’ll take the Red Line to avoid the parking aggravation. Aside from that, Repeal Day was a major success in terms of food and drink consumption.