The Spice Table Heats Up Little Tokyo

By Maya Meinert of ShopEatSleep / Special to LAist

The Spice Table in downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo is a welcome distraction from the neighborhood’s Japanese food. The restaurant at the corner of 1st Street and Central Avenue combines Singaporean and Vietnamese flavors, the culinary heritages of chef and owner Bryant Ng and his wife Kim, respectively. Ng, a former Mozza chef de cuisine, serves Southeast Asian-inspired sandwiches by day and all kinds of grilled satays, fried vegetables, noodles and more by night.

We had dinner here on a recent night, and our favorites centered on the vegetables. The sambal fried potatoes were addictive, as were the fried cauliflower florets, which were perfectly fried. The grilled eggplant with chili sauce had nice texture and was even a bit too hot for us, but our dining companions liked it. The asparagus with garlic, chives, lap cheong sausage, ginger and salted egg, on the other hand, was just how we like our veggies - with lots of flavor.

We also ordered the Black Pepper Crab Toast and the bone marrow topped with prawn sambal, both of which we would probably pass on in the future. The crab toast lacked creativity - it was simply a bunch of sautéed crab in a lightly peppered sauce (surprising, given its name) with some slices of toast served on the side. And the bone marrow, something we would normally love, tasted a little strange with the prawn sambal on top. Maybe surf-and-turf just isn’t our thing.

We did really like that night’s special: a whole pig’s tail. It was served with a dipping sauce, but I don’t think any of us used it (it looked like Vietnamese fish sauce) because the pig itself was so tasty on its own. Yes, it was a bit disconcerting to pull the meat right off the piggy’s tail bone, but not enough for us to keep our hands off it!

For dessert we ordered the Kaffir lime custard, which was good in theory but inconsistent in practice. By inconsistent we mean the flavors in the custard weren't evenly distributed; one bite would yield tangy lime and another straight-up cream. We wanted all those flavors in each bite.

As for what to drink, there's a respectable rotating beer list with brews from Craftsman and Allagash, among others. Wine is also available, with a mix of Californian, French, Italian, Spanish, Argentinean and German wines.

One of our dining companions took an order of headcheese with pickled mustard greens home and reported back that she loved it. Next time, headcheese will definitely be on our table.