A couple nights ago we went with our friends Katie and Matt to STREET, Susan Feniger’s new restaurant in the former Highland Grounds coffee shop on Highland just above Melrose. The menu is inspired by global street food, with an emphasis on vegan and environmentally sustainable ingredients. I had heard great things from a couple of other foodie friends as well as Jonathan Gold’s review, but had read mixed reviews on EatingLA.com. I’m a fan of Feniger and her cooking, so I was predisposed to love this place, particularly since it’s in my neighborhood.
First off, the menu is challenging to navigate—a veritable palate whiplash from Scandinavia to Southeast Asia, and many ports of call in between. I, for one, would find it more accessible if it were reorganized by region instead of, say, one lump category: “Noodles, Soups, Stews, Curries”, a category that represents the cuisines of Thailand, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Vietnam and India.
Knowing the Too Hot Tamales, I feel confident that Feniger’s solo venture will find its sea legs. But to put it gently, there were a few missteps. The first was the amuse bouche sent out to each table—puffed millet with curry, marshmallow, black currants, coriander and fennel seed, a sort of savory rice krispie treat. I wanted it to be crispier, but it was chewy and stale and dominated by untoasted whole fennel seeds.
With our cocktails (I got a lovely Hemingway Gin & Tonic made with Junipero, an intensely juniper-y gin from the folks at Anchor Steam that shows no quarter) we ordered the Moldavian Meatballs—ground beef and kashi simmered in a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce with dill sour cream—which were pretty good, but a little on the sweet side.
I liked the cardamom, ginger and soy filling in the pork dumplings, but the dough on the dumplings was gluey. The spiced potato paranthas—flatbread stuffed with spiced potatoes and fried in butter—got mixed reviews from our table. Katie and I liked them more than the boys did.
The New Jerusalem Bread Salad—a take on Middle Eastern fattoush—was so over-salted and heavy on the cumin that it was barely edible. There were also next to no Jerusalem artichokes involved.
The Egyptian-style Baked Fish (Artic char) was cooked nicely, but the bed of kushary (lentil and macaroni) was off-putting both from a flavor and texture perspective. The dish went largely untouched.
The one dish we all loved was the Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Pork Belly, Chinese broccoli and choy sum greens. But here, I’d like to point out that we had ordered family style and they brought one big bowl with a large spoon. Not particularly user friendly with large egg noodles.
But where things really went south were in the beverage department. First let me say that the beer, wine and cocktail selection is fun, smart and accessible. The drink vessels, however, are not. I ordered a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône blanc, and it arrived in this precious Sanbitter bottle that looks like a bud vase, along with a diminutive tumbler from which to drink.
From a service standpoint, I think we were there on a REALLY off night. While we waited 20 minutes for dessert (soggy Turkish doughnuts), I ordered a coffee, which was delivered in a glass tumbler and was so damned hot I couldn’t pick up the glass. I asked our server if he could pick it up, and he agreed it was way too hot, adding, “it was probably sitting under the heat lamp for a while. Let me see what I can do.” He walked up the ramp toward the bathroom and seconds later reappeared with what looked to be the same exact glass of coffee, which was still too hot to pick up.
So, if you are heading to Street, let me know when the coffee mugs are in. And hopefully by then the kitchen will have fully caught up to Feniger’s clever, if ambitious, concept.