Come Eat Off The Street

 Street Paani Puri

An eclectic restaurant review.

By Kevin RR Williams

DINING When my wife and I walked into the restaurant called Street[1] some familiar faces were sighted. Top Chef Masters Susan Feniger and Chef Kajsa Alger were mingling with guests alongside actress, model and regular Street fixture Tara Jayn.

The vegan-friendly menu at Street (that also features meaty options) can intimidate first-timers. Being a world traveler is helpful but not required. Servers gladly demystify the various entrées. Though most dishes have Asian or Indian influences, the international flavors are not limited to any continent. It was kindly explained that with the exception of burgers and pizza, most items are small plates that are best shared. So don't expect to see a large dinner plate divided among five food groups. To be satiated, it is recommended that two people select five or six items.

Update: Under the same owners, Street has been renamed The Mud Hen Tavern. French fries are no longer on the menu.

As a vegetarian, I acclimate myself to new restaurants by sampling a popular food item like a veggie burger or pizza along with a signature dish. We ordered both from the chalkboard specials and the regular menu. Here are our selections:

  • Zucchini Pizza
  • Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burger
  • Berbere Spiced French Fries
  • Roman Broccoli and White Beans
  • Paani Puri

Everything was seasoned to perfection. Salt and pepper shakers were conspicuously absent from dining tables and completely unnecessary. They would just take up space better used for more entrées. If I had to critique something (and I wouldn't be me if I didn't), I might hand out two demerits. Likely not indicative of all servings, my broccoli was undercooked, hence a bit tough. The thin pizza crust could not compare with that of Olio Pizzeria & Café but the toppings piled on it were fresh bliss.

I may have French kissed the fries.

My Tongue Fell In Love

I'm not sure what came over me. But I make no excuses. Right there, before God and my wife, I may have French kissed the fries. On second thought, it wasn't a wet kiss since no ketchup was required but for a while, there was some hot and steamy contact. The moment the slender tuber passed my lips and reached the tip of my tongue, Street snatched the Tierra from former femme fatale, Café Livre. Exquisite seasoning and generous portions elevates Street's Berbere Spiced French Fries to my new rhizome mistress.

The champion black bean veggie burger that won the smackdown at Mohawk Bend lived up to its flavorful reputation but my wife said next time she would prefer a brioche rather than sourdough bread. Asked how it compared with veggie burgers from her favorites at HoustonsTruxtons and 26 Beach, she replied Street is as good. Based on my sampling, I would place it in the top three with an extra nod for the fries.

My tastebuds have been humbled by the culinary eclecticism at Street.

If French kissing the fries didn't break up my marriage, surely my tryst with the Paani Puri should have been unforgivable. Just who is this temptress? With variable spelling, golgappa or panipuri is a bite-size street snack served in India. A round, hollow puri, is fried crisp and filled with delectable ingredients. [2] Street describes its Paani Puri this way: "semolina puffs, spiced potato, yogurt, sprouted beans, cilantro mint water."

Drizzle a bit of cilantro mint water into a light, flakey puri and bring lips together for the climax. Afterwards, I lit up Twitter and billowed out one my highest compliments.

Next time I will try to make it a point to have more than one round of Paani Puri unless dining solo. Likely this will become my standing order. So under ideal circumstances, the server will have a batch ready for me the moment I am seated.

With this fine dining experience, Street has been added to my short list of top Los Angeles restaurants. Chef Kajsa Alger cares enough about the presentation of each entrée to photograph them as they leave the kitchen. [4] Street opens at 5:00 PM for dinner. If you are in town, stop by for a gastronomical affair to remember and share your adventure below. If you are not in the area, have you ever had panipuri? What was inside and what was your reaction?

My rating: 4.5 stars

4.5 of 5

Tags: celebrity chefs, food on the street, foodies, gastronomy, panni puri

References
  1. Street The Mud Hen Tavern, 742 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038, @mudhentavern ^
  2. Panipuri en.wikipedia.org ^
  3. Your cilantro love – or hate – may be genetic nbcnews.com ^
  4. Paani Puri photo by Chef Kajsa Alger ^