Big Hit in Little Osaka: Burgers, Cocktails, Donuts & More at Plan Check
Nestled in West LA’s Little Osaka, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar is a neighborhood restaurant that will make you wish you called this stretch of Sawtelle home. The inviting atmosphere and mouth-watering comfort food courtesy of former Umami corporate chef Ernesto Uchimura has made Plan Check an instant hit.
The first thing you'll notice upon examining the menu is how Plan Check is chiefly a gastropub, but offers sly nods to its Little Osaka location. The use of wasabi and bonito on the menu that includes crab dip pays due respect to the neighborhood, while the pickled vegetables instantly transported me back to humid summer days in Kyoto. The Asian flavors are not limited to the dinner menu; plum wine and nigori sake find their way onto the cocktail list.
"The area is known for its Asian cuisine, so we wanted to counter that, while still giving a nod to the neighborhood by infusing those ingredients," says owner Terry Heller, when I recently was invited to come in for a tasting. "Ernesto wanted to create a menu completely different from the neighborhood fare, and the bar is the only full bar in the neighborhood, yet both incorporate certain ingredients as a tip of the hat to the community's culture."
With a former chef from the burger juggernaut Umami in the kitchen, you know a burger is in your future. The Chef’s Favorite Burger lives up to the name: cheese two ways, bacon two ways, the much- publicized ketchup leather, hot sauce, and a fried egg for good measure. I breathed a sigh of relief as I cut into the messy burger and saw that it was cooked a perfect medium rare. As the egg yolk oozed all over the pink patty and the crispy bacon, I knew I was home. I’m tempted to say that this is a must-order, but I also have my eye on their pastrami burger with double smoked pastrami, swiss cheese, kimchi mustard, pickles, and of course, another fried egg.
The stuffed and roasted Portobello mushroom with Swiss cheese fondue was another winner. Crispy kale provided excellent contrasting texture, and the steak sauce added an extra depth of umami flavor.
Not every punch landed. The warm crab dip was too creamy for my tastes, and the mushroom in the pickled vegetable assortment was chewy and slimy - the kind of experience that calls for a minute of recovery before ripping back into the burger. The pickled cauliflower on the other hand, I wonder if they sell it by the quart.
The cocktail list was created by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix of several of the city’s best cocktail bars: La Descarga, Harvard and Stone, and Black Market. The cocktail menu is solid, but not yet worthy of a cross-city excursion like their other spots. After a long drive on the 10 West, the Ronin is just what the doctor ordered - Sazerac rye, Remy VS cognac, Benedictine, and bitters. The Godzilla with Pisco Porton, Midori, orgeat, lemon, and lime delivers exactly what you’d expect--no more, no less. I was pleasantly surprised with the well-curated draft beer list. LA favorites like the Golden Road Hefeweizen and Strand Brewery 24th St Pale Ale are available, as well as Japanese and Belgian brews.
“The bar team wanted to create signature cocktails, unique to our establishment,” Heller explains. “The drinks have Japanese influenced names, with ingredients that pair well with our modern American comfort food menu. We're looking forward to focusing more on Japanese whiskeys, and will be building inventory of that soon.”
Do you really need dessert after a juicy burger and several filling small plates? At Plan Check you do, if only because it would be a shame to miss the churro-style donut. While you are at it, what’s one more drink for the road? The donuts pair beautifully with the Chiapas cocktail (Chai-infused Herradura tequila, almond milk, all spice dram, and bitters). If you need a caffeine fix, Plan Check started serving Tomo Coffee just last week. The coffee is roasted just a few blocks away - doesn’t get more local and neighborly than that.
With a talented chef in a well-designed space in the right location - it’s no surprise that it’s been packed since it opened. Heller explains, “The biggest challenge so far has been keeping up with the tremendous amount of traffic. Servicing everyone has been a bit challenging, however things are becoming smoother. The demand was just larger than we had anticipated. We're excited to continue experimenting with new specials and pairings. Definitely looking forward to upcoming months!"