Monday, August 22, 2011

Taste of A-Frame

A-Frame's house-made pickles with creamy dipping sauce
Yesterday and this morning I'm fasting in preparation for a medical procedure later today. It's routine - no problems. But yes, it is a follow-up to my saga earlier this spring, so you can imagine what my day is like. And why is it that I'm spending my day reading about and thinking about FOOD?

I've been eager to go to A-Frame, chef Roy Choi's restaurant in Culver City after reading my friend Barbara's review of it on her blog, Table Conversation. Choi is known for the Kogi Trucks - serving Korean-Mexican tacos on wheels since 2008.

A-Frame is built in a former I-Hop (International House of Pancakes), with it's quintessentially 60's modern peaked roof, but transformed by wood paneling and sunny colors into a kind of hipster chalet. The menu calls A-Frame a "modern picnic," and cites as inspiration the chef's memories of sitting on concrete benches at newspaper-covered tables, cracking crabs with mallets and eating with your hands, sharing food with strangers.

We sat in the pretty outdoor dining area, beneath lampshades that spun and twirled in the wind like frilly white petticoats. The tables are set informally with bright yellow baskets of utensils you can grab if you want them, and the food is served on colorful tin enameled platters and bowls.

It is backyard picnic food, it's true - chicken wings, baby back ribs, barbecued chicken - but this picnic is Asian inspired - the flavors and techniques are Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian.

As we considered the menu, I had a cocktail man with rum, pineapple, lime - and hot chiles. We also ordered a bowl of furikake kettle corn. Every review of A-Frame raves about this Hawaiian-style snack - popcorn and corn pop cereal sprinkled with a Japanese condiment that's a mix of sesame seeds, salt, sugar, dried bonito flakes, and chopped dried nori (seaweed).

The waitress dumped half the bowl onto a sheet of butcher paper on the table, and we tried it. Salty-sweet-tingly hot, with an umami-like mix of flavors, the stuff is highly addictive!

Next, we ordered a platter of pickles served with a creamy dipping sauce. I had not seen these mentioned in reviews, but [The Man I Love] likes pickles, so I thought it would be worth a try. What arrived was a selection of pickled cukes, radishes, fennel slices, tiny organic carrots, and big chunks of Asian pears. They were sweetish, tangy, and dipped into the sauce, they were delicious! The serving was generous enough that we took some home.

If all you're up for is a cocktail and some munchies, these two dishes are perfect, providing salt, sweet, and tang to go with a drink. But if you're still hungry, move on to the rest of the menu. There's a heading for "to pass around" and another heading for dishes "to get your hands dirty." It was hard to decide.

Sesame leaf wrapped shrimp tempura are three plump crispy fried bundles on skewers - like little spring rolls, except the sesame leaf replaces rice paper.  There's a creamy dipping sauce that seemed peanutty to me. Though they're called "shrimp tempura", the filling in the little rolls seemed to me more like a shrimp paste than whole shrimp. They were tasty, though, and perfectly fried. They're served with fresh cucumbers sprinkled with seasoning and perhaps a touch of vinegar, and fresh chopped herbs.

Next up spit-roasted lamb served with salsa verde, and a side of kitchen fries. The fries are wedges of purple Okinawan potatoes, Korean yams, and sweet potatoes, with a kim chee and sour cream sauce.

I have to say that the lamb was probably the least successful dish we had. I thought the meat was a little fatty, and the flavors undistinguished. But other than this one miss, everything at A-Frame is tasty - a bit salty, sweet, vinegary and spicy. Next time we'll try the Cracklin' Beer Can Chicken, or the Knuckle Sandwich!

Oh, man, now I'm really hungry.

We arrived at A-Frame right when it opened, at about 5:15, and had no trouble getting a table. But when we left about 40 minutes later, the place had filled up.The menu encourages you to share the dishes among your party, but since most of the seating is at communal tables or the bar, you'll more than likely end up talking with your neighbors. Maybe you'll get to taste other dishes, too!


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

That looks delicious.

The good thing about fasting is when you get to break it...

Sharon said...

This food looks so exotic and interesting! Your blog gives me so many ideas about places to check out the next time we go to L.A.

Janet said...

CA and Hawaii have so many GREAT Japanese-inspired places...sigh! There used to be a Japanese supermarket here near Boston where I could find many types of furikake but no more. And on kettle corn! YUM!!!