Carrot, Tangerine, Citrus, Ancho Grenadine, Pineapple Mousse
Tom Yum Chicharron, Coconut Dip, Smoked Trout Roe
Koshihikari Rice Congee, XO Sauce, Crispy Shallots, Pork Floss
Roasted Potatoes, Strawberry Mole, Seeded Granola
Tamarind Glazed Baby Carrots, Toasted Coconut, Carrot Top Emulsion
Pork Schnitzel, Five Spice, Tomatoes, Persian Cucumbers, Gwaimei Dressing
Brentwood Corn Agnolotti, Shrimp, Lobster Sauce, Black Vinegar
Shrimp Toast, Cantonese Curry
Lasagna, Pork Ragu, Tofu Cream, Prickly Ash
Almond Sorbet, Mandarin Ice
Cherry Sorbet, Cola, Soft & Crispy Meringue
Silkened Tofu, Harry’s Berries, Shiso Oil, Chia Seeds
Coconut Mousse, Pineapple, Coconut Lime Granita, Nata de Coco
Guava, Cream Cheese, White Chocolate
Having never seen a single episode of Top Chef the name Mei Lin meant little when making reservations at Nightshade, a lack of familiarity with the Chef or her televised persona thereby allowing all of Sunday night’s focus to fall on the elegant Arts District space and diversity of flavors presented by well-educated servers.
Now a part of Downtown Los Angeles since the start of 2019, a period long enough to iron out wrinkles while remaining white hot, it was after locating the entrance on East 3rd Street that five guests were offered kitchen-side seats, Chef Lin already hard at work before doors even opened as light from outside illuminated hardwood floors, plants and beige fabrics.
Relying on no single culture while building a menu from California’s bounty, Mole listed above Curry and Schnitzel served with an entirely new Condiment called “Gwaimei,” it was after perusing Drinks listed by number that a Mocktail of Carrots, Citrus and Ancho Bitters was selected, subtle heat mellowed by Pineapple Froth that paired well to Pork Rinds dusted in Lemon Grass and Chili which found their balance in Coconut Dip with Trout Roe.
Frequently changing the menu since day one, Crab Porridge replaced by Congee intended to be mixed by guests with spicy XO Sauce on the side, it was concluding course one that two Vegetarian options impressed, crinkly Potatoes with smoky Strawberries a textural masterpiece thanks to Seeds and Grains while various types of Carrots shined thanks to Tamarind and Coconut in the shape of a Pie wedge.
Moving onward to Meat and Pasta, a $32 plate of Corn-filled Dumpling questionably priced in terms of quality and quantity, guests looking to share would be well-advised to order the aforementioned fried Pork, easily twelve ounces pounded thin and brightened by Five Spice while Salad served on its side mixes savory and sweet with something creamy to cleanse the palate between bites.
Unable to pass on Mei’s Instagram-famous Lasagna, the flavor of Mapo Tofu faithfully recreated but not so hot as to dissuade two diners who typically avoid Sichuan Cuisine, it was following Shrimp Paste on Toast in fragrant yellow Curry that Desserts took center stage, Pastry Chef Max Boonthanakit’s “Almond Sorbet, Mandarin Ice” offering stunning visuals and a flavor reminiscent of Creamsicles but tilted more towards Citrus.
Told that Boonthanakit will soon be departing Nightshade, and thus creating an impetus to go all-in, it was on the heels of a frozen Soufflé that housemade Tofu reminisced of both Panna Cotta and Chia Pudding, his Coconut Mousse highlighting tropical flavors without a lot of Sugar while monochromatic “Guava, Cream Cheese, White Chocolate” earns all the praise it has received thanks to variable consistency from layer-to-layer with no two bites the same.