ginger and salt

red-eye dinner: street.

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Many moons ago I was watching an episode of Top Chef Masters in which Chef Susan Feniger was competing. Although she hails from the Midwest and has been based in Southern California for some time now, there was something that struck me as very ‘Seattle’ and down to earth about this woman.  Maybe I got the sense that you could sit down at her kitchen and feel right at home. Maybe she simply reminded me of a good family friend, someone whose laugh lines on her face are proof of a well-traveled, interesting, full life.

During that episode, Feniger made a dish inspired by the Kaya Toast at her restaurant in LA, Street.  It was a simple dish: toasted bread filled with coconut jam with a warm, runny egg.  It sounded so perfect, the ultimate comfort food, and yet I had never seen anything like it on a menu before.  I became borderline obsessed with the thought of it. I don’t even remember if it won the challenge or not, but I made a mental note that day that I would make it to Street to try this dish for myself.

Flash forward to a few years later and my mom and I were swooped from our late night flight into LAX on a Wednesday by our friend Kimba and driven straight to Street in Hollywood.  Given that it was a Wednesday night, the place was busy but not packed, and we were seated in the front room with a view of the entrance and bar.

It was hard to choose a cocktail as so many of my favorite ingredients were in several of them, but I settled on the Saint Diego, made with chile-infused tequila, cava, basil, and lime.  My friends know I love a good spicy tequila, but I also enjoyed the twist of having a bit of cava in there to lighten up the drink a bit.  Note to self: must try that this summer.

With cocktails in hand, I knew that trying the Kaya Toast was the first order of business.  It arrived in all of its perfect glory, the sandwich cut into four perfect squares. (I was lucky enough to get two of them.)  The toast is filled with a creamy, decadent coconut jam and then you dredge it in the neighboring plate of salty, runny egg, dark soy, and white pepper. Man, oh man.  This dish was the highlight of the night.

We followed with the Angry Eggs, spicy deviled little guys with red sriracha, green sriracha, and reshampatti chile.  I love deviled eggs and I love sriracha, so when I see a version with not one, but two types of the spicy sauce, it’s a done deal. This is a great spin on the classic variation.

Per our server’s recommendation, we shared the Curry Fries, which really weren’t fries at all, but still delicious.  The fries themselves were slices of yuca (when was the last time you ate yuca?) and they arrived smothered in a flavorful niramish coconut curry sauce with pickled tomatoes and cilantro.  While they weren’t quite what I was expecting, the dish was very comforting and quite hearty.

We also enjoyed the Shaved Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese and Lemon Picada as a lighter side dish.  The vegetables were crisp and well-seasoned, the goat cheese adding a bit of creaminess. I always forget how well kale and Brussels sprouts go together, but they really compliment each other nicely.

We shared a couple of other dishes that were good, but not great.  One was the rice bowl special of the night, consisting of Salvadorian gallo pinto (rice and beans) with carnitas and a spicy cabbage slaw.  Perhaps it was just that the other dishes were SO flavorful, but this one felt a bit bland.  Had I had it on it’s own at a street stand, I probably would’ve liked it just fine, but it couldn’t quite compete with the flavors of the toast and the fries.

The other dish that was a bit underwhelming was the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Belly.  The lamb is roasted in the wood oven and served with a mint chermoula and potato and parsnip puree.  Lamb and mint make for a classic combination and the flavors were there, but the textures felt off.  The lamb was more grisly than usual and had what felt like an excess of fat (this is coming from someone who loves pork belly).  Our server had highly recommended both of these dishes, which probably added to the disappointment when they didn’t fully measure up.

Our dessert was great and very unique.  The Thai Tea Creme Caramel was a light custard infused with Thai tea and was topped with lime caramel (!) and candied kaffir cashews.  It had all of the wonderful flavors of my favorite Thai splurge, a creamy Thai iced tea with condensed milk, but in a much more sophisticated format.

Granted, I know the restaurant is named Street as it’s inspired by global street food, often eaten while either standing or on the go.  However, seeing that the prices are a little steeper than say, a rickshaw in India, I would’ve liked the meal to be paced out a bit more.  I felt that everything arrived in a rapid fire manner and there wasn’t enough time to fully savor each dish without feeling rushed.

To bring it all even more full circle, I was laying in bed last night reading my new Cherry Bombe quarterly magazine (a beautiful publication celebrating women and food) and stumbled upon none other but an interview with Susan Feniger and the recipe for her signature Kaya Toast.  Realizing that I’m not alone in this obsession made it a little easier to fall asleep, dreaming of coconut, eggs, and dark soy.

Susan Feniger’s STREET, 742 No. Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA, (323) 203-0500, http://www.eatatstreet.com, Dinner Nightly from 5:00 – 11:00 pm, Weekend Brunch, Friday Lunch.

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5 comments

  1. Con

    T, the Maya toast is fascinating! what an interesting combination of ingredients. Any idea on where she got the name or inspiration on this one? -Con

    • Con, thanks for reading! Kaya Toast is a traditional snack in Malaysia and Singapore and kaya is actually the name of the spread with the coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. Definitely want to try to recreate it soon!

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