First Look: Au Lac DTLA (Los Angeles, CA)

A sputtering fountain in the shadow of the Disney Music Hall marks the entrance to the softly open Au Lac DTLA. Retaining the opulence of the former First & Hope, the modern Art Deco dining room is a refreshing upgrade from the Fountain Valley location. We take our seats in the dinning room as Chef Ito takes the helm of the kitchen. From there he executes a handful of favorites plus a few new tricks. Still in the dawn of the restaurant (official opening on January 1, 2015), Chef Ito’s working menu promises many more new item to come.

Stuffed with mushroom, taro and carrot, the eggless Eggrolls are served with lettuce, mint leaves and soy fish sauce. These rolls are simple with a light but tight interior. The greens, confusing at first, are used for gripping the rolls and lighting the oil fried wraps.

Vegan sushi in Los Angeles is a tricky subject, many strong opinions exist, and I frequently find myself in the minority (aka: I think Sojin is just okay). So with that caveat, I say Au Lac’s varietal of raw vegan sushi is some of the best in Los Angeles. While I prefer Chef Ito’s Dragon Roll, the Cali Roll filled with pine nuts, dulse, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado and coconut flesh wrapped in nori is light, crisp and delicious.

My go-to dish has always been the Salt & Pepper Tofu, creamy tofu lightly battered in a saline shell. Peppered with jalapenos and sprigs of cilantro, this delicate dish comes off as bland if you don’t take time savor each bite and let the salts develop… like a Polaroid picture.

Raw rice is a real thing… I had no idea. This Curried Rice starts with soaked organic wild rice tossed with broccoli, cauliflower, peas and corn tossed in spiced macadamia sauce. It is served over avocado, olives and cucumber and topped with marinated mushroom, crisp onion, carrots and cilantro. It’s a lot of elements, a lot of flavors and a lot of goodness.

The Downtown menu includes the new Garlic & Basil Noodles. Slippery brown rice noodles are tangled with pinenuts, large cloves of roasted garlic, nutritional years and apple sage sausage (or your can sub veggies for a gluten free option).

The best dish of the entire night–nay the entire menu–is the Tostada. The sweet cornmeal shell is piled high with shredded cabbage, macadamia cheese, ground mushroom, salsa, dill-ranch sauce and cilantro. Complexly layered with savory and sweet element, this dish is very share-able but I’ll likely be ordering one all to myself from now on.

In addition to the new menu, Au Lac DTLA also has a full bar, complete with mini grand piano and crystal chandeliers. This beloved Orange County institution is a welcomed addition to the DTLA vegan dining scene.

Thanks to my dining crew: Elana, Tim and Alice!

710 W 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Pizzanista (Los Angeles, CA)

Huge huge huge slices! Double the size I expected…

After 8 years in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy! Do or Die!), I kissed my favorite pizza good-bye and flew home to Los Angeles. A few months later I was hired at Slice. I didn’t know much more about pizza then the average NYC foodie. But that’s considerably more than the average LA foodie… and probably how I got the job. This past year I’ve devoured the Los Angeles pizza scene, learning a simple truth: There is awesome pizza in LA!

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The Gorbals (Los Angeles, CA)

Plenty of space for thick rimmed glasses and scarves in 70 degree weather…

I’m not a star chaser. I’m not! Really! But… would I have cared about The Gorbals if not for Top Chef? Er, probably not.

In need for a last minute dinner reservation anywhere downtown, The Gorbals popped up on Open Table so I booked it. Illan Hall wasn’t a favorites on the show, but—much to the chagrin of my school teachers—TV tells me what to do these days.

In the pre-ultrahipsterazation lobby of the Alexandria Hotel an unremarkable door hides The Gorbal’s sparse dining room. Populated with utilitarian wooden furniture and down-lights, it’s a refreshingly quiet space from a winner of a reality television show. Although the unpretentiousness of the space is muddled by the paint-by-numbers predictability of the hostess’ high-waisted jeans and plastic rimmed glasses.

The menu is broken down by animal, with a neat little omnivore section for the likes of me (and you?)! The Pimento Cheese & Corn was sadly out of stock, still we ordered a nice assortment of hits and misses that gave me a clear picture of Chef Illan’s cooking point of view.

Yes, even without the meat.

The secret to these cucumbers is not lemon

Our meal kicked off with the Persian cucumbers and clearly not canned Garbanzos Beans tossed with Sesame Oil and Sumac ($8). Wading in a puddle of what I assumed to be watered down sesame oil, the cucumbers were ‘kicked up a notch’ with sumac. Apparently I didn’t know what sumac was before this meal, but I’ll never forget it now! Though the red color implies spiciness, it’s more like a sharp dusting of lemony zest! Fabulous!

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