I‘ve had Nightshade LA bookmarked on my list of places to eat since it only had a minimalistic Instagram feed to go off of. I spend a fair amount of time dining out, keeping my ear and nose to the ground for forthcoming restaurants and Chef Mei Lin’s outpost had me long before I booked a table. On January 2nd of this year Top Chef alumna and former protegeé of Chef Michael Voltaggio began service in Downtown Los Angeles.
Walking into Nightshade LA on Saturday evening as the sun was settling into its place at dusk, the husband and I were greeted by a space where millennial pink went to grow up. Complimented by deep emerald booths, hanging greenery, bookended by gold; the space was a wistful sun-filled environment. Though we had flubbed our reservation the hostess was more than accommodating and ended up sitting where I prefer to anyway – at the bar. We sat down preparing to be wooed. And wooed we were.
Beginning the meal with a bespoke cocktail by the name of no. 310 it was refreshingly light and full of body. Mixtures of peach, in season cherries, a touch a citrus from lemon and completed with a pilsner. Even those who run from beer would delight in this. I’m not certain if the number is a nod to Los Angeles’ iconic area code, but I peeped.
Like many new eateries, Nightshade is another that offers small plates and recommends four to five plates for the full experience…
Ranging from mild to spicier as the menu proceeds we selected the tom yum chicharron, koshihikari rice congee, the famed shrimp toast, bone-in short ribs, and ultimately went back and added the hokkaido scallops. Each dish was rich, decadent, and did not disappoint. The chicharron was served alongside a lemony aerated dip topped with roe. Light, airy and reminiscent of a childhood snack that had been elevated. I have always enjoyed pork rinds and having them served like this was excellent. Note, it is a large portion so I would advise you order this if you have a party of 3 or more.
Served with curry the shrimp toast is not teeming with spice but it is loud and in your face with flavor. Looking at it you may think the three pieces won’t be enough but indeed it is as the flavor builds as you continue eating it. It is delicious and will most certainly be a dish that becomes one of Nightshade’s signature items. What did deliver in spice unexpectedly was the congee. Each accruement dished up inside of the bowl to be stirred in table side, be prepared for the heat from the xo sauce. It is also hearty, so much so I ended up taking it home.
Having been told the short rib was a vision to behold and smoked for days, I could not pass it up. It arrived with a char that would make you want to slap the cook and the perfect pink inside. The meat was succulent and tender. It can be enjoyed alone but is meant to be eaten wrapped inside butter lettuce with mint and pickled red onion. With each pop into my mouth – I thought to myself, why would anyone ever give up meat?!
Even after all of that,
my husband still wasn’t satiated; okay I’ll honest I was definitely eating most of our dinner. Nonetheless he decided to order an additional dish – the hokkaido scallops and it was a remarkable bite. Though it was just that – a few bites.
We are the people who typically always opt for dessert and if there was any place that Nightshade did miss the mark for me it was here. While aesthetically pleasing I must say I was not impressed. Choosing the coconut mousse and the silkened tofu, both were cool and light on the palate after a bit of a spicy dinner therefore welcomed. But for the flavors weren’t as exciting as dinner and I could have skipped it altogether. Ice cream at Salt & Straw across the way would suffice.
If you’re looking for a numeric rating I’d give this 4 forks out of 5 on The Hautemommie HAUTE List. I would certainly go again even if just for the shrimp toast and a cocktail. I look forward to seeing what else Chef Mei does and I’ll see her again when the seasons change to check out how Nightshade does winter.
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