Dune — Frank Herbert never ate so good

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I admit to being surprised about Scott Zwiezen’s newly opened restaurant in Atwater Village. The chef that I associate with Elf Cafe is known to be an advocate of raw, vegan and vegetarian cuisine. His new venture is not in Echo Park, is not completely vegetarian nor raw. Instead, it’s middle eastern food in the form of sandwiches and is a lot more casual.

Dune soft-opened on Sunday, January 18th with the bare minimum: three types of sandwiches, two house-made drinks, and a counter to lean against while you eat your sandwich. Tucked between a dance studio and a juice bar, it offers food that’s as easy on the conscience as it is on the palate.

Zwiezen wanted the food at Dune to speak for itself. Gone is the baggage and stereotype that comes with the labels ‘raw’ and ‘vegetarian’, which can intimidate people from trying a restaurant. With the lamb and soon-to-arrive fish on the menu, Zwiezen hopes to attract people who would otherwise shy away from an all vegetarian menu.

Multiple diners in line were overheard ordering the falafel sandwich, which is no surprise, as it’s one of the best falafel sandwiches I’ve had. The deep fried balls of chopped chickpea are held together without flour, which will please the anti-gluten crowd as long as they order it sans pita. Unfortunately, ordering it without the pita also means you will miss out on the cooked-to-order pita bread that’s made in house.

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While the falafel sandwich is a no-brainer, the delicious beet sandwich was unexpected. What sounds on paper like an average beet salad served between two slices of bread was actually a playful combinations of flavors and textures. The earthiness of the beets was tamed by the briny pickle and onions, and further balanced with the rich yolk of the medium-boiled eggs. The tangy garlic sauce added a nice pungency to each sweet, savory, and tangy bite. I would say that this sandwich is easy to customize as vegan if certain elements were left out, but that would be ruining the combination that makes this a winner.

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To wash down the sandwiches, there’s also house-made root soda, which has dandelion, lapsang souchong, and a few other ingredients. It’s just sweet enough, with a slightly herbal fragrance. Fair warning though, no beverage in the restaurant will help your garlic breath afterward, so bring some breath mints if you care.

To those bookworms: yes the restaurant’s name was inspired by Frank Herbert’s magnum opus.


Dune
3143 Glendale Blvd.
Atwater Village

Not Your Mama’s Liang’s Kitchen

The last time I had dined at Liang’s Kitchen in Monterey Park, years ago, it was still full of KMT memorabilia and served Taiwanese comfort food. This recent time I paid it a visit, it was definitely changed. The menu resembles that of Shaanxi Gourmet instead of just another Taiwanese noodle joint.

Mama Liang

I saw there was a poster on the wall advertising some sort of offal on a stick, in a cauldron. Sounded like a safe bet, right? When it came, it was everything that was advertised: soft, chewy offal twisted around a skewer and boiled in a fragrant broth. By itself, it was fairly bland, but dipped in the plate of chili oil that also came, it was fantastic.

Mama Liang

It was a chilly night, so I wanted to warm up with a warm bowl of noodles. I ordered the lamb noodle soup with wide noodles. The soup and chewy noodles hit the spot. I couldn’t resist adding a splash of vinegar to the broth, which elevated it to another level.

Mama Liang

My mother ordered the dry beef tendon noodles, also with wide noodles, and was extremely pleased. The garlicky sauce and beef coated the noodles nicely and the touch of sweetness tied the whole dish together.

The old menu at Liang’s was alright, but it wasn’t something that called to us. With the discovery of this new changed menu, I think my family has a new place to add to the list of favorites nearby.

Liang’s Kitchen
788 S Atlantic Blvd
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 282-8238

The Cortado @ Dinosaur Coffee

#dailycortado @dinosaur_coffee and a new book!
I was sipping a cortado at newly opened Dinosaur Coffee on Sunset a few days ago when I noticed something different in the popular drink served in a gibraltar glass.  It was slightly sweet.  Not as sweet as a drink from Starbucks — it was more like a sweet aftertaste.

At first, I thought they had sweetened the milk because the foam tasted sweet.  When I asked the woman behind the counter what was different, it turned out that the regular cortado at Dinosaur Coffee is more like cortadito.  They add a pinch of turbinado sugar to the ground espresso beans so that when they’re brewed, the coffee that’s extracted also has some of the sugar.

I was not expecting the sweetness, but it was a pleasant surprise. It’s also possible to get just a regular cortado without the sugar, as long as you remember to ask for it.

On the other side of the spectrum, Dinosaur also offers a bitter cortado, doctored up with their house-made coffee bitters.  The only difference from a regular (non-sweetened) cortado I could taste was the more fragrant aroma.

 

Dinosaur Coffee
4334 Sunset Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90029