On the Street Where Susan Feniger Lives
I have often walked down this street before, but there was no Kaya toast or Moldavian meat before...
Finding Susan Feniger's Street is a little bit like the headiness of a new romance. Your friends love it, your mom loves it, they can go from casual to fancy, they give you exactly what you want when you want it, and they are always full of surprises.
The high ceilings make the room feel open and spacious in spite of the limited size. The bar is a surprisingly comfortable place for a meal when the room is packed. There is outdoor seating under giant umbrellas with fire pits and thoughtful little touches like blankets to curl up in on cool evenings. Service is attentive and friendly without being intrusive. This could be love.
The menu is international, inspired by global street food, and is definitely all over the map. Stars like Japanese Shizo Shrimp and Paani Puri will definitely keep you coming back for more. Susan Feniger's first venture without Mary Sue Milliken gives an interesting insight into what one hot tamale has going on. Feniger's partner in Street, Kajsa Alger, brought in many of the Asian influences. Although the global flavors are appreciated, sometimes the menu feels a little disjointed.
As is often true in the real world, it seems like the cause for disharmony falls squarely on the shoulders of America. Most of the tidbits and main dishes have a certain logic to them, but some American dishes like the Reuben sandwich don't quite cut it. The addition of salads feels counterintuitive as well, but I guess this is Los Angeles, where some people live on lettuce, and Feniger sure can make one mean salad.
Other than the unusual menu and the occasional and understandable beginner's awkwardness, Street runs smoothly and easily. Heaven is in the details and for the most part Street's dishes show perfect execution and balance. There is a kind of Buddhist mindfulness.
Most of the dishes that really make Street special are in the Tea Cakes & Dumpling section. It would be a great idea to gather a group of friends and make a meal from this section alone. The Cuban Stuffed Potato Cake is even better than from the Cuban bakery. Paani Puri, "small tastes of spiced potato, chutneys, and sprouted beans enclosed in crispy puffs of dough..." over which you pour yogurt-cilantro water were the inspiration for the restaurant. The little cups of deliciousness are truly inspirational. After sampling the Singapore delicacy of Kaya Toast ("Toasted bread spread with thick coconut jam; served with a soft boiled egg drizzled with dark soy and white pepper") I had to return to the restaurant 4 times in one week to eat it again and again, even taking orders to go. Kaya Toast made me into Susan Feniger's bitch.
The sharing dishes were not as thrilling. The Spiced Potato Paranthas are a little bland, and the Thai Bites, although fun and exciting, proved somewhat complicated and unweildy. We are just not qualified to assemble our own appetizers. We need an expert.
The salads are all spectacular, particularly the Scandinavian Beet and Apple Salad. The All American Salad has a homemade thousand island dressing that is rich and creamy, a reminder of why it was invented in the first place.
The Noodles, Soups, Stews and Curries are variable. The Malaysian Pepper Clams are a dish you would walk miles back to order again and again. The Beef Pho is pretty standard, and the Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp is spicy and just a bit sweet.
The wood oven dishes are for the most part winners. The steak tasted like - steak, but was a little sweet. The comforting softness of the fresh wild mushrooms and spaetzle was upset by the stringiness of the fresh enoki. Whereas the Lamb Kofta Skewer should have a shrine built to it. The lamb retains its intense flavor without being too gamey, and the accompanying artichoke is inspired.
For desserts, the Espresso, Chocolate and Halvah is a winner; halvah is an underutilized ingredient. I'm going to make halvah cookies as soon as the weather cools off. The Egyptian Basbousa Cake is alright, and the Toffee and Cookie Plate is outstanding, but the best choice is definitely the Turkish Donuts. Simmered in cardamom rose syrup, light and airy, delicate to the touch, they beg to be dipped in the sour cream and the rose hip jam. Street makes their own cool drinks, like chrysanthemum mint tea and a slightly bitter lemonade.
After Street fills in a few potholes, Mozza just might be in danger of losing the title of king of the block. Move it on over...