Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Little Next Door

On Saturday afternoon, we walked over to the Little Next Door, a busy French café which tends to be overlooked by the herd of trendsters who graze at Toast across the way. Little Next Door has a large attractive patio where it serves an array of omelets, savory tarts, charcuterie plates, salads and French sandwiches such as a croque madame and ham on a buttered baguette. But since the café saw it fit to turn on the hot lamps despite weather supporting wildfires, we sat inside in the colorful room with the its high, cobalt blue ceiling and plentiful copper accessories, including a stunning Elektra espresso machine which lords over the entire room. The staff spoke French to one another, and in the quest to preserve some Gallic authenticity, the waiters carried around circular trays like an extra appendage, just as they do in Paris. I am naturally taken by all of this, as I suffer from such an acute case of naïve Francophila that Sarko jokes irk me, at least when uttered by known Republicans.

We enjoyed a leek and gruyere tart which was rich and balanced and had a tasty, buttery crust. The tart was small enough to fit on a salad plate, though quite filling, and the accompanying salad was fresh and not over dressed, a rarity. The croque madame, if not quite on the level of Campanile’s Thursday night version, was very good. A large bottle of Badoit washed it all down nicely. In keeping with the season, we also enjoyed a spicy pumpkin tart though such was the quantity of pumpkin filling that management could have sold it as a cookie. The crust had that subdued buttery flavor that I really love.

The barista drew a solid shot from the Elektra, and we were then on our way.

Little Next Door

8142 West 3rd Street

Los Angeles

(323) 951-1010

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sapp Coffee Shop: The Vampire Lunch

Eating at Sapp Coffee Shop in Thai Town has loomed as a requirement for the aspiring foodie ever since Anthony Bourdain dined there on No Reservations. So on a Saturday afternoon, I dragged Marisa to the Thai lunchroom, though I forgot to inform her why Sapp has such a forbidding reputation. To wit: Sapp Coffee Shop, which must inhabit the sallowest dining room in any building not serving a penal function, is best known to food geekdom for offering a blood-thickened broth of Thai boat noodles with beef tendon, tripe, liver and testicle, which the menu dubiously translates as “meat ball.” We stayed clear of the offal and ordered the version with beef brisket, which was topped with cilantro and chicharrones. The savory brown broth was thick, moderately spicy and had an undercurrent of sweetness. Another blogger claimed to smell “soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, cilantro and green onions” in the broth, and I’ll just take this person’s word for it. The blood-and-testes option notwithstanding, the soup’s flavors were straightforward, i.e., much less exotic than expected, and could be easily bowdlerized by the Campbell’s Soup Company. The otherwise hospitable staff was remiss in not forewarning us that bovine cruor is a soporific, as a coffee on the drive home would have been useful.

We tried three other dishes, most disappointing of which was the som tom or papaya salad. At its best, a salad of grated fresh green papaya with lime and dried shrimp can be refreshing and spicy, but at Sapp the papaya was foul and depressing, the lime absent, and the dish inedible. A plate of fish balls in a green curry sauce and spirals of languid noodles wasn’t bad, even if the sauce had the consistency of mud.

The most interesting dish of the day was the crab fried rice with crab paste, Chinese broccoli, and scrambled egg. A burly crab flavor dominated the dish, and the freshly scrambled eggs' richness stood up to and complemented the crab. However, the rice itself was served at too high a temperature and thus had little taste and insubstantial texture. The kitchen bizarrely served the fried rice alone and last, like a main course, an unwelcome way to conclude a misfire of a lunch.

Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd.
East Hollywood
(323) 665-1035