One of the most beautiful restaurants and cafes of Los Angeles; This restaurant is a drama queen: You’ll first be struck by the romance of the hanging plants and the sultry lighting, but that’s nothing compared to the theatrics and beauty of Mei Lin’s nouveau-Chinese cuisine.
Her mapo-tofu–inspired lasagna and her shrimp toast over Cantonese curry have quickly become the year’s must-try dishes, and the Szechuan hot quail, stacked atop white bread with house pickles, packs enough heat that it could end Nashville hot chicken’s rule of the roost. There’s command and nuance in every bite, and we’ve got a feeling the “Top Chef” winner is just getting started. Ditto her chef de cuisine, Max Boonthanakit, whose delicate, sculptural desserts are already some of the best in the city.
WHERE TO SIT
The light and airy 60-capacity dining room doesn’t offer poor seating options, and given the raging success of the restaurant, you should probably just sit where they tell you and be grateful about it. That being said, if you’re offered a table at the kitchen counter, take it so you can see the chefs in action.
WHAT TO EAT
Recommending dishes at Nightshade is based more on your stomach capacity than on the quality of the cooking. With the exception of one or two small flaws, all of the dishes are pretty much aces. Don’t miss the Hokkaido scallops to begin, and while the mapo-tofu lasagna is deservedly the signature, the Szechuan hot quail gives it a very close run for its money. Max Boonthanakit’s desserts are a beautifully crafted way to end the meal, but if it were me, I’d just order another dish of scallops.
WHAT TO DRINK
The wine and beer list at Nightshade is small but it has—among the more standard selections—some choices that complement the food nicely: A Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona rosé ($48) stood up surprisingly well against the spice of most dishes. The real joys are the non-alcoholic options, which include a range of teas and some of the best non-alcoholic cocktails I’ve ever sampled; I particularly liked the concoction made with carrot, tangerine, citrus, an ancho grenadine and a pineapple mousse ($10).
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