Richard Foss

Second chance for Second, vegan Grain, Michelin honors, stealth tax, and other dining news

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A LA Carte column for 06 June 2019

They’re toward the rear of a development, but new restaurant Soom Soom is hard to miss. Photo by Richard Foss

A Second Chapter: Serve on Second had a rocky first year, with inconsistent food in an environment that was often chaotic. Their stated ambition to be an everyday family place serving the neighborhood was laudable, but the execution was never up to the challenge. The original owner recently sold the business, and they are scheduled to become a “chef driven concept.” The restaurant remains open with the present menu and will transition over the course of this month – watch for a new menu and style by July…

Long Awaited: The remodel of the Century Club into Sugarfish has taken an improbably long time, but finally seems to be complete. The sushi bar on a side street across from the Bank of America is supposed to open this week. I’ve visited other Sugarfish locations and found them to be very good for their relatively modest price point. Given that there are three other sushi spots within two blocks of this location, we may have reached Peak Sushi for downtown MB (304 12th St., MB).  

New and Noteworthy: The Grain Cafe just opened in Redondo after a minor remodel of the former Nuna’s Kitchen. They have an impressively large menu that is 100 percent vegan, including a substantial selection of Mexican food. Those who eschew eating animals, and the veggie-curious, will want to stop in to this little corner of King Harbor Plaza (715 N. PCH, RB)… Vegans will also have some choices at Soom Soom, the new Mediterranean quick service place that opened up near Whole Foods in El Segundo. In case you’re wondering about the name, it’s the Arabic word for “Sesame,” the oilseed that shows up in tahini, sprinkled over hummus, and in various other combinations. Specialties include kebabs, hummus with various toppings, and shakshuka, eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. The little shopping center is somewhat hidden, but this place looks worth a visit (700 Allied Way Ste. A, ES)…

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Event Alerts: And my, there are a lot of them in June. First off is a dinner with Daou Vineyards at Shade Hotel on June 9. Daou is headquartered near Paso Robles and makes Bordeaux-style wines, which chef Graham Norton will complement with a four course feast. Price is $125 plus tax and tip. Menu and ticket information on Eventbrite… On June, 12 Brewport in El Segundo will be offering a wine tasting with Niven Vineyards founder John Niven. $10 gets a sampling with the winemaker, and the wines will be available on draft or in the can (and yes, you read that correctly). No need to reserve, just stroll in between 5 and 9 p.m…. On June 13, Chef Melba’s Bistro in Hermosa will host one of their rare wine dinners, this time with winemaker Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars. Four courses including osso bucco with a wild mushroom mascarpone risotto will be $98 inclusive. Call 310-376-2084 for reservations…

And We’re Not Done Yet… That was just the first half of the month. Chez Melange is offering a five-course, pink wine dinner hosted by master sommelier Michael Jordan. $85 plus tax and tip. The menu is at chezmelange.com, and reservations are available at (310) 540-1222… On June 19 there’s a pairing dinner at Sea Level at Shade Redondo featuring Avión tequilas and handcrafted tequila cocktails. $95 inclusive. Menu and tickets on Eventbrite… If you enjoy French food and California wines you’re in luck. Dominique’s Kitchen is having a dinner with Calluna Vineyards of Sonoma on June 25. Five courses with wines is $99 plus T&T. Menu at dominiqueskitchen.com. Reservations at (424) 247-9054… And last but not least, Fleming’s on Rosecrans will pair five Duckhorn wines with four courses, including steak of course. $100 plus T&T. Menu at flemingssteakhouse.com, reservations at 310-643-6911…

And If Brew Is Your Thing: LA Beer Week is June 15-23, and many of our local breweries are getting in on the fun with special releases for the occasion. Coincidentally, Chez Melange just introduced a new beer that is so local it’s made in the bottom of their elevator shaft. It’s called Shaft Brew, of course, and their first release is a rosemary IPA. At this point the only place you can try this beer by brewmaster Jeff Ginsburg is at the Chez, but that will change with time…

Awards Arrive: Some local restaurants have won an award you probably haven’t heard of. The famed Michelin Guide has been giving out “Bib Gourmand” awards in Europe since 1997, and recently released their first list for greater Los Angeles. The criteria is exceptional food at good value. There are 55 winners in Los Angeles county, of which two are in the South Bay. Congratulations to Baran’s 2239 and MB Post, which richly deserve the honor…

Buried in the Fine Print: Multiple readers have written to complain that some local restaurants have started adding a “service” or “labor” charge without notice – you don’t find out about it until the bill arrives. The amount is usually between 3 and 5 percent, so it doesn’t break the bank for most diners, but it amounts to a stealth price increase. Servers report customers have been tipping less, or not at all, because they think this money goes to the people who actually served their meal. It doesn’t. It’s restaurateurs’ way of protesting the new California minimum wage by making customers think of part of servers’ wages as an extra expense rather than a cost of doing business. Restaurateurs, we get that your costs have just gone up, but tacking on a random amount that your customers only find out about at the end of the meal is not the way to deal with it. Your customers don’t like this practice, so be honest and tell them what they’ll really have to pay…

And In Conclusion: Your tips help me keep up with what’s happening around the neighborhood. Any openings I missed, any events, any other places serving unexpectedly good canned wine? Please send an email to Richard@RichardFoss.com. ER

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