LA Spice - Strong First Impressions
A Home Depot run left me not wanting to cook this morning. Looking for something different, I searched yelp in hopes that a fledgling eatery might be had in the general southwest quadrant in the Westside. Aside from the usual suspects, a new name (to me at least) showed up - LA Spice.
LA Spice is located on that stretch of Sepulveda (south of Culver Blvd) in Culver City where eateries like Pho Show, El Rincon Criollo, Whirled Peas and Grey Block Pizza currently reside. From what I've read off of their website and attached press articles, the owners earned their chops primarily in the catering business, and have decided to extend their model to include brick & mortar.
Their menu doesn't really seem to have a consistent theme in terms of a particular cuisine but what seems apparent is the focus on ingredients, and dishes that will reflect that (if that makes any sense). They seem to do a lot of things, which can be scary from my perspective, and a hard act to pull off. Breakfast, lunch dinner (maybe more like supper), bakery, and catering are all listed on their menu and website. I'm sure many still remember Bite on Pico in Santa Monica - great place, loved the food, ingredients were first rate, a very competent kitchen, laid back dining room, and great baked goods. As good as they were, once they offered dinner service with that small bites concept, things seemed too much for them to deal with.
LA Spice seems similar in some ways (from just my initial experience) but I don't see the issues that seemed to curse Bite happening here. The menu isn't huge but it seems they've offered enough nice choices that would be appetizing to good cross-section of eaters. You'll find wording in the menu that will tip you off that the kitchen is hardly institutional. Caramelized fennel, fennel pollen, Laura Chenel goat cheese, Weiser Farm potatoes, Nueske bacon, Pequillo peppers, muscovado sugar, Mycella blue cheese, star anise-braised pork belly banh mi with dau chua pickled vegetables, X-ray specs rainbow carrots...
LA Spice might not be as strong in the baked goods department as Bite, but what I tried - the creme fraiche cake with berries, poached pear strata, and the croissant - were very pleasing. I know the croissant is often how some measure a place. LA Spice's croissant is big with a nice buttery flavor. Its exterior is crisp but not shatteringly crisp like many like it. Still, I truly enjoyed its texture and flavor. It wasn't greasy or oily like so many croissants can be. I was there pretty early, so the baked goods case was just starting to show life, and the salads had yet to make an appearance as well. It appears that they truly show their glory for lunch and dinner - not a slow time like Easter Sunday morning.
I also ordered their croque monsieur and vegetable scramble - everything I ordered was for take-out - and I can only comment on how quickly the food disappeared. I only had small samples of most things, as by the time I got to the table, my family had pretty much demolished most of what I brought home.
I only took a quick look in their beverage case, but the same particularness in choices appeared here as well. Craft brews, small but well-edited wine selection, more unique sodas like Abita root beer, and some sparkling waters in a blue bottle - I think it was Saratoga.
The dining area is long a shallow, running most of the width of the glassed-in storefront. Everything is new, clean and casually smart. It should be comfortable enough since it's roughly oriented to the east - maybe morning sunlight. Most tables are for two to four diners. The kitchen appears relatively enormous - I'm assuming for the catering business.
I will definitely return to try more of their menu - all of it just sounds so promising. The added bonus for me is that I'm always looking for take-out options that offer choices that are unique, at least a step or two above the typical take-out places, and somewhat off the grid.
Thanks for the complete run down... I was SO happy when they opened up... I've been wanting an alternative to green peas, which I like but my favroite thing in the world are cold veggie salads a'la lemonade and clementine... and I knew L.A. Spice would have them...
Since they just opened up, I was limited to the veggie options. I had the Winter caprese, which was wonderful. The Butternut squash was cooked perfectly and the addition of the pesto and kale made it quite hearty.
I also went back and had their salad sampler. I liked all their salads and the portion was quite ample. But nothing woed me. I think I give an edge the spicing at Lemonade a little better and the inventiveness of Clementine.
We also tried two their desserts. A Kahlua Pecan Bar and Carrot Cake Cookie. Both were okay. Not NEARLY as good as the stuff being put out by Bite (How I miss thee!!!) I did like their jalapeno corn bread quite a bit.
The pricing is in line with clementine so it's not a cheap lunch. (Green Peas remains the value leader on the block on that regard) They also do braises and daily soups similar to lemonade, which will be my next thing to try. All in all, I'm happy to have this option. Burnt out fans of Green Peas and Curious Palate (waves hand) will rejoice! :)
Went back recently and although I was fully intent on trying something new, I once again ordered the salad combo because they had a special potato salad with tuna and i'm a sucker for both tuna and potato salad. OMG. This was the best Salad Nicoise I've ever had. Just spot on in so many ways. I'll be back for that salad for sure.
Once again though, their desserts fell a little short. I have been looking for wonderful Pate de Fruit similar to Boules. I was THRILLED to see they had some made of pomegrate. Sadly, they were more like jellies than true pates and overly sweet. ah well.
I tried their coconut tres leches cake - not coconutty enough. Use fresh coconut and coconut milk for the leche-part and I'd walk barefoot across a mile of broken coconut shells to get a shot at that.
Their banana desserts have been pretty good. Banana tart was good and banana torte (I think it was) tasted even better.
Tried their shrimp and grits a week ago - delish but the portion was kinda small.
Sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing your impressions. I want to go now, more than ever. http://www.laspicecafe.com/
All four of these breakfast items sound like winners to me:
1.LA Spice Breakfast
Two Fried Eggs, Nueske Bacon, Linguica Sausage,
Pequillo Pepper, Roasted Potatoes,
Heirloom Tomato Red Chili Jam, Tomatillo Salsa- 13
Red Guajillo Salsa, Corn Tortillas, Crumbled Cotija,
Fried Egg - 12
3.Bourbon Battered Brioche
Roasted Butternut Squash Mascarpone, Maple Walnuts,
Apple Butter topped with Seasonal Fresh Fruit - 11
4.Poached Pear Strata
Fresh Ricotta, Maple Crème Fraiche, Brown Butter
Caramel topped with Seasonal Fresh Fruit - 12