Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fat Spoon (Los Angeles, CA)

Fat Spoon Restaurant
329 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Mon 08/16/2011, 07:20p-09:45p

Following in the footsteps of Aburiya Toranoko and Lazy Ox Canteen, IDG head Michael Cardenas debuted his latest passion project, Fat Spoon, this past Monday. Taking over the space of the former East Japanese Restaurant next door to Daikokuya ramen, Fat Spoon is a Japanese curry-centric venture created in partnership with Chef Hiro Fujita, Eugene Inose, and Jeffrey Louie.

About the Chef: A Tokyo native, Hiroyuki Fujita first fell in love with food while working at his mother's restaurant. Later, he cooked at Cardenas (an eatery opened by a former associate of the Cardenas clan) in Ginza, where he developed a style that fused Japanese culinary tradition with European flair. In 2000, he was lured to Los Angeles to open the Michael Ovitz-backed Hamasaku with GM Toshi Kihara (Ma Maison, Spago). Hamasaku was a success, and Ovitz once again tapped Fujita to head the kitchens at Kumo in West Hollywood (located at 8360 Melrose, coincidentally the former site of Ma Maison, as well as Tulipe, Itameshi Ya, Jozu, and Citrine). Kumo opened in September 2007, but never really caught on, and was shuttered in July 2008 after a car slammed into the building. A month later, the restaurant was turned into another outpost of Hamasaku, but even that ended up closing in April 2009 (the space is currently home to Michael Voltaggio's Ink, which is slated to debut this September). Post-Hamasaku, Fujita landed a position at Cardenas' Sushi Roku, and the two worked together to conceptualize Fat Spoon.

Fat Spoon Kitchen
Fat Spoon isn't exactly a large space, with a smattering of tables in the front and a reclaimed sushi bar in the back seating eight. The bar, unsurprisingly, is the best seat in the house, affording diners a front-row view of the happenings in the open kitchen.

Fat Spoon Menu Fat Spoon Menu
The menu, like the restaurant itself, is compact. Clearly, curry is the star here, but Japanese-inflected salads and pastas, along with a smattering of comfort food sides, also make a good showing. Prices, meanwhile, are fortuitously low (though that didn't really matter in this instance, as Cardenas ended up comping the entire meal!). To drink, look out for a prototypical selection of Japanese beers, including Sapporo on draft, as well as a handful of sakes, shochus, and wines. Click for larger versions.

Yebisu Echigo
Some biru to start: Sapporo's luxury brew Yebisu [$7.50], along with Echigo [$8] from Niigata.

Seafood Salad
Seafood Salad [$9.00] | Marinated Shrimp, Calamari, Scallop, and Clams served w/Assorted Greens & Curry Dressing
We began with a seafood salad, a fitting preface for the heavier curry and pasta courses to follow. I found the various seafood items deftly prepared, lightly cooked, and still distinct and delicious. At the same time, the piquant curry dressing did a great job tying all the flavors together, while the greenery served as a nice counterpoint to the dish. My favorite element here, though, were the bits of fried lotus root, which added a fantastic crunchiness to the salad.

Pork Cutlet Curry Pork Cutlet Curry
Pork Cutlet Curry [$10.00] | Crispy Fried Kurobuta Pork Loin
I do not hesitate in calling the katsu kare here the best that I've had. The pork itself was cooked perfectly--tender and moist on the inside, with a crisp, crunchy, yet lightweight coating. The curry sauce added considerable depth and complexity to the cutlet that kicked the flavors at the play up another notch, while the rice did an excellent job in moderating the dish.

Tarako [$10.00] | Salted Cod Roe, Cream, Dried Seaweed & Shiso Leaf
Tarako refers to a Japanese preparation of salted cod roe, and here, it made itself known in a big way, contributing a considerable salty, briny note that, when combined with the umami-rich smack of the nori, overarched the entire dish. At the same time, the al dente pasta, aided by a dollop of cream, helped temper the weight of the tarako, while the shiso added a refreshingly minty note to the fray.

Calpico Ramune
And now for some Japanese soft drinks: Calpico [$2.50], a.k.a. Calpis, was sweet, acidic, and refreshing, with a distinct lactic tang that recalled the essence of yogurt. The Ramune [$3], meanwhile, was also quite delicious, showing off a tart citrus-y flavor that I found reminiscent of bubble gum.

Beef Curry Curry Condiments: Radish, Pearl Onion, Hot Sauce
Beef Curry [$9.00] | Homemade simmered Short Rib
As much as I liked the katsu kare above, the beef curry might have been even better. The short rib was expectedly tender, and showed off loads of deep, dark, curry-tinged flavors that worked wonderfully with the brown rice that we requested with the course. I especially appreciated how the beef displayed a bit of char, which added a nice bit of crunchiness on the palate. A trio of accoutrements--radish, pearl onion, and hot sauce--were provided to balance out the heavy savors of the course, but weren't strictly necessary.

Carbonara Carbonara
Carbonara [$9.50] | Pancetta, Egg & Parmesan Cheese
A carbonara is an Italian pasta dish focused squarely on the holy trinity of bacon, eggs, and cheese. Fujita's version stayed true to the essence of the original, putting forth a lush, luxurious mound of Parm- and egg-enveloped spaghetti, all accented by a whisper of salty smokiness from the pancetta.

Sautéed Mixed Mushroom
Sautéed Mixed Mushroom [$2.00]
Given my penchant for mushrooms, this side dish instantly jumped out at me. Three types--cremini, shiitake, and enoki--were expertly sautéed here, conveying their earthy, umami-rich flavors beautifully. Lovely textures, too.

Pudding [$4.00]
A custard pudding served as our lone dessert. It was actually surprisingly satisfying, sort of like a crème caramel-meets-crème brûlée type of deal, with a delightfully egg-y character balanced by the overt sugariness of caramel sauce.

Hiroyuki Fujita, Michael Cardenas
Chef Hiroyuki Fujita with Michael Cardenas.

It's been a while since I'd had a good Japanese-style curry, and in that regard, Fat Spoon really delivered, dishing up kare that was soulful, satisfying, and delicious, while the rest of the menu was nothing to sneeze at either. As for what's next for Cardenas and company, there's still that Spanish tapas concept with Perfecto Rocher. It was supposed to occupy the space left vacant by Beacon in Culver City, but that deal fell through, leaving the team still searching for a location. In the meantime, we have another spot in Downtown to enjoy, so be sure to give Fat Spoon a try if you're finding the line outside Daikokuya a bit long!

Fat Spoon Exterior


Anonymous Jonathan said...

Is it just me or is there no pictures?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger Bobby @ Gourmands Review said...

No pictures for me either.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:51:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

My host was having some problems earlier in the day. Should be working now!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 7:05:00 PM  
Blogger Eddie Lin said...

Wow, Kevin, you're slummin' it from your usual venues! Looks tasty though. Good to finally meet you at Night+Market!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 8:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Trevor said...

You do such a great job these reviews - lovin' it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you say the pork cutlet is the best you've ever had but where else have you had excellent pork katsu?

sadly, i haven't found a great version in LA. the katsu at wakasan is alright, wako donkasu a bit better, but still nothing like the great katsu in Japan (Maisen, Butagumi, Tonki, etc)

Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Cinderella11pm said...

I had a ramune at the sushi restaurant you recommedned about a month ago, to and really liked it!

Happy eating Kevin:)

p.s. Finally made it out to WP 24 -totally loved the panoramic view.

Thought the presentation was lovely, and the food was good but not great.

Too expensive for Chinese Food, even if it is Wolfgang Puck!

Valet parking at The Ritz (validated at dinner) was only $10 dollars:)

Thursday, August 18, 2011 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger Sam C. said...

love this coverage. I'll definitely go check it out when i'm in the area (and I've been having my tonkatsu craving...curry house just won't cut it)

Friday, August 19, 2011 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Eddie: I slum it surprisingly often. I just don't post about it. ;)

Trevor: Thanks man. Hopefully I'll have time to hit up Guelaguetza like we talked about.

Daniel: Curry House of course, as well various nondescript places. Certainly nothing like the top places in Japan that you mentioned unfortunately.

Cinderella: I heard they fixed the valet parking prices after my bitching about it. I thought the food there was pretty good. Interesting that you mention the price--why isn't Chinese allowed to be expensive?

Sam: Definitely worth a try if you're around. I don't mind Curry House, but I'd give the edge to Fat Spoon.

Friday, August 19, 2011 12:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Cinderella said...

Hi Kevin.
Good question.

For me it was because I think the food at PF Chang's was equally good.

So I say - do I want to pay for the view? No, not unless I was on business or had plans downtown and it was convenient.

Wolfgang Puck is great, and for $110 for four courses before drinks, tax and tip, I'd rather opt for Spago, I think.

And thank you for bitching about the valet parking prices - I benefitted:)

Saturday, August 20, 2011 7:26:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I have to disagree with you: PF Chang's is nowhere in the same league.

Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger letopho said...

OMG, did someone just compare this to PF Chang's? I just died a little.


Friday, September 16, 2011 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Christopho, no, she was comparing PF's to WP24. ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:01:00 PM  

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