Thursday, April 28, 2011

Paladar Underground Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)

Paladar Underground Dinner
Los Angeles, CA 90007
818.645.8664
www.paladarunderground.com
Thu 04/28/2011, 07:00p-10:00p




Paladar Exterior

Underground dining seems to be all the rage these days. Of course, at the high-end you have places such as Wolvesmouth and Pheast, but on the other end of the spectrum, I was surprised to find out about Paladar, a supper club launched a year and a half ago by two undergraduate students at USC: Alex Chang (a kinesthesiology major) and Bobby Kronfli (a music industry major). Chang serves as chef, while Kronfli runs the front-of-the-house and handles the business side of things (perhaps a natural fit, given that his family owns Italian wine bar Bacaro LA). As for the name, paladar refers to small, family-operated restaurants run out of someone's home, popular in Latin America, and indeed, true to form, Paladar takes place inside the two roommates' North University Park apartment.

Two seatings of roughly 30 people each are available: 7:00 and 9:00. As for the menu, normally three courses are offered (app, main, dessert), priced at a very affordable $15 (key for their mostly student clientele). Tonight, which happened to be the last dinner served at this location, the supper club returned to its roots, offering up classic American fare with a Paladar twist. In addition, I also requested some additional courses ahead of time so that I could better gauge the food. BYOB is encouraged, though cocktails are sometimes available, and I'm told that there were even occasional wine pairings from Paladar's resident sommelier, Cameron Parsons.

Hermitage Brewing Wheatopia
Taking full advantage of the BYO policy, I brought along a couple of beers and a Beaujolais. The Hermitage Brewing Wheatopia, interestingly enough, was a hefeweizen that didn't quite taste like a hefeweizen. It certainly wasn't bad though, being very easy-drinking with a subtle smokiness and pleasant malt character.

Bicycle Bread Company Bread Dipping Sauce
Bread is provided by Bicycle Bread Company, a local bakery founded by USC graduate Stephen Gordon back in 2008 (he was later joined by his younger brother Ben Gordon, a USC undergrad). I believe what we had tonight was a Honey Wheat, which I found quite delicious, especially when paired with the accompanying dipping sauce.

Fanny Bay Oysters/ Guanciale/ Wasabi/ Kelp.
1: Fanny Bay Oysters/ Guanciale/ Wasabi/ Kelp
Oysters from Fanny Bay, British Columbia showed off a healthy bit of salinity, and finished with a bright, briny flourish reminiscent of cucumber. They were nicely countered by the heat of the wasabi, while the guanciale served to add some savoriness to the mix. Meanwhile, I used the kelp as a sort of palate cleanser after consuming the dish.

Mixed Romaine Lettuces/ Home-Made Caesar Dressing/ Parmigiano Reggiano/ Crouton.
2: Mixed Romaine Lettuces/ Home-Made Caesar Dressing/ Parmigiano Reggiano/ Crouton.
Paladar's take on a classic Caesar salad was next. The flavors here were traditional, but the use of a crouton "bowl" was somewhat novel.

Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
With the hefe dispensed with, it was time to open the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. I often find Stone's IPAs a bit assertive for my palate, so I definitely appreciated this Belgian-inspired effort. The beer showed off a prototypical hoppiness to be sure, but it also conveyed tempering notes of spice, citrus, and herbs that I really liked.

Sea Scallop/ English Peas/ Asparagus/ Radish/ Spring Onion Purée/ Yuzukosho.
3: Sea Scallop/ English Peas/ Asparagus/ Radish/ Spring Onion Purée/ Yuzukosho.
Scallops arrived just about perfectly cooked, showing off the delightfully rare consistency that I crave. They demonstrated a marked salinity and very apparent pepperiness (from the yuzukosho, a Japanese yuzu-pepper-salt seasoning, I imagine), but were beautifully balanced by the various vegetables at play here (with the peas being particularly enjoyable). I really appreciated the maturity displayed in the plating as well. My favorite course of the evening.

Squid Ink Noodles/ Ika Shiokara-Butter Emulsification/ Ikura.
4: Squid Ink Noodles/ Ika Shiokara-Butter Emulsification/ English Peas/ Ikura.
Quite simply, ika shiokara is a Japanese delicacy of fermented squid guts, and as you'd expect, it has a very strong, very fishy flavor. It's not something that you see every day, and in fact, I'd only had it twice before: at Aburiya Toranoko and at Hachi. As such, I was rather surprised to see it being employed at Paladar. Here, the shiokara's power was moderated by the inclusion of butter, but even then, it lent a hefty dose of brine to the otherwise mild noodles. This intensity was further heightened by the use of ikura (salmon roe), but the peas did an admirable job in balancing out the dish.

2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages
In preparation for our pièce de résistance, I popped open the 2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages that I'd brought. It was sort of the quintessential Beaujolais, a light, simple, tart-ish wine with loads of juicy fruit flavors and a slight peppery tinge. Eminently drinkable, and perfect for early summer quaffing.

The PALADAR Burger: Angus Beef/ Cheddar Cheese/ Onion Jam/ Remoulade/ Wild Arugula/ Brioche Bun.
5: The PALADAR Burger: Angus Beef/ Cheddar Cheese/ Onion Jam/ Remoulade/ Wild Arugula/ Brioche Bun. With: Yukon Gold Potatoes/ Aioli.
The Angus patty arrived at the right temperature, and was suitably tender, succulent, and imbued with a proper beefy goodness. The pairing of cheddar cheese was straightforward, but effective, and the arugula's bitterness served as a healthy counterpoint in the burger. I appreciated the tanginess of the remoulade, and I even enjoyed the onion jam, which I was afraid would be too sweet. In a way, this sort of reminded me of a more approachable version of the Father's Office burger. The accompaniment of potato with aioli was also quite delectable, reminding me a bit of the classic dish of patatas bravas.

Pound Cake/ Fresh Market Strawberries/ Creme Anglaise/ Candied Basil.
6: Pound Cake/ Fresh Market Strawberries/ Creme Anglaise/ Candied Basil.
The pairing of pound cake with strawberries wasn't exactly novel, but nevertheless enjoyable. The key here was that candied basil, which contributed some pungent, spicy overtones to the dessert that really helped tie everything together.

Alex Chang, Robert Kronfli
Alex Chang and Robert Kronfli.

I didn't quite know what to expect coming into Paladar, but the kitchen managed to turn out a rather satisfying meal. I wish I had something like this when I was an undergrad--I'd be coming here all the time! I was able to see the underpinnings of some real talent in Chef Chang, which is especially impressive given that he's had no formal training and only started cooking recently. He's stated that he'd like to pursue cooking full-time, so it'll be interesting to see where that leads him.

As for what's next for Paladar, expect a documentary (directed by Gil Freston) to be released in the near future. More importantly, given that the duo is graduating, Paladar will be moving to Bacaro LA, which is actually just a stone's throw away from the old apartment. I'm curious to see what they can do with a real space and a real kitchen. The first dinner will be Mother's Day, Sunday, May 8, so be on the lookout for that!

Paladar Interior

9 Comments:

Blogger Aaron said...

I'm impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit. Two seatings of 30 is impressive to run out of a residential kitchen. Did they have any other kitchen staff? I can't imagine this one guy handling all these dishes himself.

Also, how'd you find out about it?

Sunday, May 08, 2011 5:26:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

I think its very nice for these kids to try to do this. I would hope they try to work for a few people.

Sunday, May 08, 2011 7:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Darin said...

Very interesting. With Lark Creek and now underground dining, USC has come a long way from chicken nugget Tuesdays at EVK.

Sunday, May 08, 2011 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Aaron: Indeed. Alex had two helpers in the kitchen. I actually found out about Paladar through him; he's a reader of the blog, and emailed me about the supper club when he found out that I was a USC alum.

David: That was my advice to Alex, that he should try to stage at a few restaurants here in LA before deciding to pursue cooking full time.

Darin: Ah I missed chicken nugget Tuesdays. :p Interestingly, Alex actually worked at Moreton Fig before being let go due to budget cuts.

Monday, May 09, 2011 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Chubbypanda said...

Really interesting find. How'd you hear about them?

Thursday, May 12, 2011 1:14:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Deleted comment due to Blogger outage:

Chubbypanda said...
Really interesting find. How'd you hear about them?

Sunday, May 15, 2011 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Allen, Alex is a reader of kevinEats, and invited me to come try out Paladar once he found out that I was a fellow USC alum.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger Lori Lynn said...

Ha! We almost named our Supper Club "paladar" two years ago, after a few very interesting meals in Havana.

Really terrific menu. That they can do two seatings of 30, that is a lot of product for 60 people to keep cold? I am so curious of their refrigeration. We do 24 people and fill 2 refrigerators.

Kudos to Chang and Kronfli - best wishes for continued success!
LL

Sunday, May 15, 2011 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Lori, I didn't pay specific attention to refrigeration, but I didn't really see anything out of the norm.

Friday, May 20, 2011 4:25:00 PM  

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