On Friday night, over 30 participating restaurants served tasty bites to foodies and fans looking to catch a glimpse of their favorite chefs, as well as a taste of those acclaimed eateries one frequently hears about but often doesn’t get a chance to experience. The L.A. Food & Wine‘s eclectic street-food bazaar, dubbed the “Lexus Grand Avenue Night Market,” happily surpassed our expectations, offering guests an overload of small plates, wine tastings, brimming beer goblets, and delicious deserts, all noisily consumed adjacent the spectacular angulations of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
‘Arroz Caldo’ by Chef Alvin Cailan
By far the best dish we tasted was prepared by chef Alvin Cailan (Eggslut / Ramen Champ), who offered his take on Filipino comfort food by topping cups full of warm porridge with cold egg crumble and your choice of chicken, pork, or tofu, along with scallions, deep fried garlic and a splash of fish sauce. The combination of temperatures and textures was surprising, scrumptious, and infinitely satisfying.
‘Pork, Two Ways’ by Chef Isaac Gamboa
I’m usually not a very big fan of pork belly – it tends to be fatty, chewy, and is generally overrated. However, chef Isaac Gamboa’s (One Pico) take on this popular pig delicacy ups the ante, combining the slow-cooked belly with smoked tenderloin and offering this pork explosion over a small bed of pickled cabbage. The pork skin was crispy, the tenderloin lean, and the cabbage offered just the right amount of acidity, making each bite snappy, spicy, and seriously delicious.
‘Southwestern Sashimi’ by Chef Steven Fretz
There’s often nothing better than a beautiful piece of fresh sashimi. Here, chef Steven Fretz (The Church Key) provided a nice cut of albacore with sticky rice and, most interestingly, a hefty dollop of diced green chiles, adding an unexpected southwestern flavor profile and textural element that was surprisingly appealing.
‘Banana Pudding’ by Chef Barb Batiste
There were some really great dessert bites at Night Market, from chili-mango-flavored cotton candy to Fluff Ice’s take on Taiwanese shaved ice. But the best dessert bite was hands down the banana pudding cups made by chef Barb Batiste of B Sweet Dessert Bar. The banana was crispy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, and perfectly paired with a mildly aromatic pudding.
Even with all the the variety of food, wine, and beer, the night wouldn’t have been the same without certain chefs amplifying the experience with wild displays of cooking, drinking, and culinary camaraderie!
Morro Bay Oyster Company
Neal Maloney’s Morro Bay Oyster Company set up an amazing oyster station that drew big lines all night long, as well as guest shuckers, including chefs David LeFevre (Manhattan Beach Post) and Kris Morningstar (Terrine), who both were delightfully saucy while offering the briny bivalves with caviar, or just a mild mignonette, or, for the more adventurous – on the half-shell sans condiment.
Seoul Sausage Co.
Chef Chris Oh happily manned the Seoul Sausage Co. booth, doling out scrumptious squares of braised-then-grilled pork to the long line of salivating fans, many of whom were lucky enough to catch chef Jet Tila (Pakpao Thai) of Cutthroat Kitchen fame share a friendly toast, after which Tila repeatedly screamed: “Chris Oh everybody – he’s famous!!”
Superba Snack Bar
As the night wound down, the temperatures stayed high. Luckily for patrons, cold beverages and icy desserts did abound. One such dessert was a flavored dry ice concoction presented by Superba Snack Bar, helmed by bread and pastry wizard Carlos Enriquez, who at one point pulled the nozzle from his dry ice machine and sprayed everyone down.
Twas a refreshingly fitting end to a night marked by fantastic food, ample booze, and unexpected and hilarious displays of foodie friendship.