I don’t know about you guys, but I love me some food from the far East. Maybe it’s from spending so many of my younger years in Hawaii with my local “Aunties” cooking up spicy shrimp stirfries and steamed Chinese buns stuffed with char su pork as mid-afternoon snacks that’s made me suss out Asian-style cuisine as my comfort food. Chicken noodle soup? No thanks. When I’m not feeling good, I’d rather a piping hot bowl of ramen noodles in spicy broth with pickled ginger, or a make-your-snot-run zesty Thai green curry to satisfy my taste buds. Nothing says comfort to me more than spicy, salty, sweet and sour pungentness. Also, what better cure is there for a hangover than a delicious bowl of pad thai? None, I tell you!
So of course, as soon as I heard about a new restaurant in town whipping up Asian-inspired comfort food, I was there. Especially since the chef used to work under Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton at LA’s outrageously successful Pizzeria Mozza(you’ve been there, right? Of course you have). Chef Bryant Ng and his wife Kim opened The Spice Table as an homage to their Asian roots, a place to honor old memories and share family recipes. And oh man, are we lucky they felt like sharing.
The Spice Table is in LA’s Koreatown, between the 110 and 101 freeways. The restaurant itself is modern and oh-so-downtown, high ceilings and dimly lit bulbs encased in old metal bird cages, and on the occasion we were there, quite positively packed with people ready to chow down. Crazy-delicious smells were wafting out of the kitchen, grilling meats and spicy broths simmering away, making me want to go buck wild and order the entire menu.
But I restrained myself. Sort of. We started off with an excellent paté served with a soft sliced baguette and a glass of prosecco (Italian sparkling wine). For those of you wondering what in hell paté was doing at an Asian restaurant, paté is actually used quite a lot in traditional Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches as a spread. And if you haven’t had a bahn mi sandwich yet, you little nutjob, you are seriously missing out. Piles of thinly sliced roasted pork or chicken, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers and chilis, mayo and a nice smear of paté, all stuffed into a soft french baguette.. They’re amazing! And lucky for you and me, The Spice Table offers them to go at their deli counter for lunch time. I love lunch!
For our next course we opted for the black pepper crab toast, a big plate of steaming hot crab swimming in a spicy sweet gravy and served with thick-cut Texas toast. This was a whopper in every way (except the Burger King way): succulent, decadent, and a punch to the old taste buds. I’d garner it isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re not into spicy food, but I could imagine eating the whole plate by myself on a day after a wine tasting marathon. Speaking of wine, we decided to pair the rest of our meal with a German riesling called Dragonstone. I love to pair spicy food with German rieslings, which cut the heat in such a delicious way, and this one was the perfect paramour to our crab.
Next up were some satays: a fatty and juicy grilled lamb belly satay, and a sweetbreads satay, served with a sambal peanut sauce. The lamb belly was pretty great, if not a wee bit chewy, but the sweetbreads absolutely knocked my designer socks off. If you don’t know what sweetbreads are, just know that they usually come from a cow, and they’re delicious. (They don’t come from the nether regions, I promise.) These sweetbreads were truly some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere, so wonderfully tender and sandwiched between pieces of sticky salty bacon. Holy smokes.
We moved on to a vegetable side dish, a plate of braised cabbage peppered with bacon and reconstituted dried shrimp. This wasn’t no vegetable dish! This tasted like more bacon! Yes, please!
Our final course was one of the specials of the evening, a gorgeously cooked rib-eye steak, sliced for sharing and seasoned to the height of perfection. It was simple and divine. And the perfect farewell.
Know what the best mark of a good restaurant is? When you’re already craving the exact same meal the next day. Hey, Spice Table: get ready to see a lot more of this face.