Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nickel Diner - Downtown Los Angeles

Stuffed Artichoke

Stuffed Artichoke

Frim Fram Sauce with Ausen Fay and Sha Fa Fa

Not the best picture, but this is the inside, to give you an idea.

Turn up the Louis Armstrong and pour yourself a scotch on the rocks, its time to travel back to the 1940’s. Todd and I had quite the trip in to the past at the Nickel Diner in downtown Los Angeles. After I saw it featured on the Food Network’s, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, I had to venture into the heart of downtown to try this place out. On a chilly November night, the cozy 1940’s themed, diner nouveau, was just what was in order. Now, I must warn that this place does come with a sprinkle of controversy. Located on skid row, we took normal safety precautions for our 10 minute journey, removing valuables from the car, making sure to lock the doors, etc. I read a Los Angeles Times article that shared a view about the insensitivity of the restaurant. The Nickel is not only just the name of the diner but also a nickname for the skid row area at 5th street in downtown  (the diner sits at Main and 5th). This, along with several drug references on the menu (thanks to my school girl naivety, they all went right over my head) were seen as flippant nuances towards the misfortunes that currently and have in the past,  plagued skid row.  Another interesting bit about the the location is that it was once in fact a diner in the exact location in the 1940's called the "Big Nickel." Ruffled feathers and geography aside, I will focus on the most important elements: the food and the experience. From chef Monica May, the food was nothing short of amazing, I literally have not stopped thinking about my phenomenal dinner. I ordered the  Frim Fram Sauce with Ausen Fay with Sha Fa Fa on the side, translation: classic chicken and dumplings in an amazing broth with lemon cream and fresh herbs on the side. This very dish warmed my soul. The chicken was moist, juicy and flavorful, the dumplings were like eating little delicious pillows of fluffy gooey goodness, the broth was savory and robust, made even better with the lemon zest infused cream, and the herbs? Fresh dill stirred in, what a delight. We were lucky enough to look so indecisive over the menu that one of the owners and head designer, Kristen Trattner kindly came over to offer suggestions. She told us the it is legend that Louis Armstrong was sitting in a diner listening to jazz eating a similar dish as I had ordered while he wrote one of his famous songs, which one, I'm not sure because Frim Fram Sauce was written by Redd Evans but did become famous through Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Nonetheless, it perfectly set the tone to lose ourselves in the environ and the food of the 40's. Todd ordered the Buttermilk Brind Pork Chop Served with My Neighbors Jam, another party of flavors in our mouths. The pork chop was juicy, the succotash in the jalapeno jam was phenomenal and the sweet potato tater tots were really something that had to be tried, delicious. As Kristen Trattner said while Todd was ordering, "other restaurants call them croquettes, here on Skid Row we call them tater tots," we did have chuckle at that one.The chop came with a side of this sweet and sour, apple and vinegary dipping sauce that really enhanced all the flavors wonderfully.  We shared the double stuffed artichoke which was heaven, an artichoke stuffed with mashed potatoes, herbs, capers and parmesan cheese in a delicious lemon sauce. We took desert to go, with pastry chef Koa Duncan, who took over in 2010 from predecessor Sharlena Fong (Bouchon) we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try the sweets. Nickel diner is famous for homemade bacon maple donuts, ding dongs and pop tarts. I neglectfully failed to note the names of our deserts but we had a secret cupcake, which all we were told was that it was inspired by Cher, we couldn't resist the curiosity of not knowing what we were getting only knowing whatever it was, was Cher inspired, pretty awesome. The cupcake was a perfect butter cream (not too buttery or creamy) dipped in dark chocolate sprinkled with pop rocks. The cake was a chocolate cake which I swear I tasted a hint of orange and peanut butter cake on the bottom. As fabulous as Cher, the most fun was eating desert while pop rocks explode in your mouth. Our other desert was a slice of cake, layers of chocolate cake, the same delicious butter cream and a filling of sweet peanut butter (think the inside of a Reese's cup) with get this: crumbled POTATO CHIPS. Salty sweet, peanut butter, chocolate and butter cream, the slice did not stand a chance of sitting around for long. Overall, both of your reviewers (Todd and I) seriously loved the Nickel diner. We cant wait to try their much touted about breakfast.
Oh, and one last thing, if you go, make sure to look at the window display of mannequin heads with hair made of real, edible meringue.

Famous Deserts

Amazing Cher Inspired Cupcake

Donut Display Case


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