Odd name, odd location, interesting ideas

Left: The patio at Goop Kitchen ( aka The Works Food Hall) is a quiet place for dinner. They don’t sell wine, so bring your own. Right: Goop Kitchen mushroom pizza, roasted Japanese eggplant, eggplant soup, and roast chicken. Photos by Richard Foss

Goop Kitchen is a star’s side project that shows good taste

When I first saw an article about Goop Kitchen, I thought there was a typo in the name. Could it be that it was supposed to be “Good Kitchen,” but the letter “d” was upside down? They can’t have deliberately given the place a name that means “a viscous or sticky substance,” could they?

They could, or rather, Gwyneth Paltrow, who started the place, could. Gwyneth took her initials and stuck a pair of o’s between them, apparently because she had been advised that names with repeated letters are memorable. Voila, she had a name for a cafe concept. It was, as she intended, memorable, and I have to admit that just hearing the name made me look the place up online. The menu is slick. Though weirdly organized, there were enough interesting items that I had to try it.

First, though, I had to find the local Goop Kitchen. Their address is at the rear corner of Plaza El Segundo. But when I went there, I was greeted by a huge sign that says “Works Food Hall.” Once you get to the door you can see the small sign that says Goop Kitchen, which is the only tenant of the Works Food Hall. Most of their business is packed to go, but they have a small and pleasant patio, and on one visit we dined there.

The menu is divided into three categories with some items listed multiple times, so it takes a little while of paging between lists of Italian-themed, rotisserie chicken and sides, and a catch-all of things that don’t fit either of those categories. Almost everything is gluten-free and most is plant-based, so those on a restricted diet have an abundance of choices. The traditional designations of small plates or appetizers aren’t used, but the pictures give you a reasonable idea of the portion size.

On our first visit we tried a mushroom pizza, a half rotisserie chicken, and both the Japanese sweet potato soup and the garlic-roasted Japanese sweet potatoes. We ordered both sweet potato items because we were curious about how that flavor would be used,and how they’d compare with the usual French fries, or other sides. The ones that had been roasted with garlic, sesame, and herbs had a concentrated flavor and agreeable texture that was similar to regular potatoes, and the cashew vinaigrette that they were served with was an excellent complement. The vinaigrette had a body and flavor that reminded me of miso, so would have been the appropriate traditional flavor partner. The soup hit the spot too, with mushrooms and roasted brussels sprouts adding variety to the flavors. Based on these two examples, I expect to use Japanese sweet potatoes a lot more in my home cooking.

The roast chicken was medium sized and very tender, with a soft skin coated with a somewhat sweet Asian-style glaze. It’s moist and juicy, not bad but not exceptional. The pizza was something else again, easily the best gluten-free crust pizza I’ve had. The mix of almond flour and cauliflower had been fermented to give it some lightness, and while it didn’t have the rise and lightness of a traditional crust, it had an agreeable flavor and wasn’t the cardboard that is the usual standard. Atop this was a variety of mushrooms, a scattering of grilled red onions and herbs, and a mix of fontina and flor di latte cheese. I hadn’t heard of flor do latte, an Australian mozzarella variant, and since it was mixed with fontina I don’t know the exact character, but it melted together wonderfully. This was a gluten-free pizza that a traditionalist can respect, if not adore.

For our return visit we ordered curry chicken summer rolls, spaghetti with tomato and basil, a side of herb-roasted salmon, and a piece of soccata, a garbanzo flour quickbread that is traditional in Provence. I first tried soccata in Nice, where they’re made in huge wood burning ovens, pizza style. Goop’s was thicker and included kale and feta cheese, which lent interesting flavors and gave it the texture of a biscuit. I was happy to find this on a local menu, because until now the only way I could get it was making it at home.

The spaghetti with tomato and basil was the classic well-executed, the sauce fruity and a little spicy thanks to a hint of chili. The summer rolls were more to my taste, a pair of Vietnamese-style rice crepes rolled around mild radishes and a mild curry chicken salad. I’d have preferred a more assertive curry, but it was still a very good flavor mix with a little vegetable sharpness offset by warm spices.

We tried two desserts, a dark chocolate, and sea salt brownie that didn’t go overboard on the salt, and their coconut chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are dairy free and very successful, a nice balance of mild sweet nuttiness, toasted coconut, and chocolate. I haven’t been wild about gluten-free baking in the past, but both of these showed that chefs are getting more adept at making it luscious.

Goop Kitchen is more expensive than many other take out only options, with each of our meals running just over $50 dollars before tip, but it’s worth it. If you’re looking for a health-conscious meal with intriguing ideas, it’s a must visit in the South Bay.

Goop Kitchen/The Works Food Hall is at 710 Allied Way in El Segundo. Open daily 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Parking lot, patio dining or take-out. No alcohol served. Phone 310-954-1286, menu and online ordering at goopkitchen.com. ER



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