Culinary L.A. Springs New Life

Now that the days are getting longer and spring has sprung, here are some of the coolest things I've been enjoying around town.

With a new location on Sunset Boulevard across from the director's guild, 9021Pho is branching out again. Chef Kimmy Tang stays involved in each of her joints, ensuring consistency. A liquor license is pending, but one perk of this location is a garden built into a wall.

Chef Kimmy's pho at the Sunset Boulevard location. (Photo by Scott Bridges)

I guess I've been on a Vietnamese bender lately, as another good dining experience was at Crustacean, the Beverly Hills favorite renowned for its koi pond. Chef Helene "Mama" An incorporates her understanding of Eastern medicinal foods into the cooking that takes place in her secret kitchen.

Continuing with the Eastern theme, I've been enjoying tea for the first time. I got quite an education on the subject at American Tea Room, also in Beverly Hills. A new tea-brewing system heats any of their 200 teas in about 30 seconds, and delivers more flavor than I ever expected to taste.

Chef Kevin Meehan's Kali Dining is a cool supper club. (Photo by Scott Bridges)

At The Grove, I learned the art of barbecue sauce making from Wood Ranch's exec chef Alex Benes. His new chocolate-chile sauce really spices up their famed tri-tip and has me ready to get the grill back out.

Formerly, a traditional Scottish gastropub, The Morrison has repurposed into a modern comfort food joint to meet the appetites of its Atwater Village neighborhood. Specializing in gourmet burgers (after all, it's from the team that brought you Stout) and a well-curated craft beer list, the joint also has an incredible bar with an amazing selection of whiskys.

A dumpling from the "secret kitchen" at Crustacean. (Photo by Scott Bridges)

Downtown, I went to a popular supper party called Kali Dining, held in a penthouse loft, where two dozen diners got to know each other over byob wine while enjoying the creative cooking of Chef Kevin Meehan. Among the courses was a razor clam ceviche-style, accented with Poblanos -- used to cure the fish -- and nasturtium leaves personally foraged by the chef. Meehan will no doubt be opening a restaurant soon, and it is exciting to get a preview of things to come.

And speaking of things to come, I met with 19-year-old cookbook author Emily Abrams, whose "Don't Cook the Planet" will be hitting shelves this month (check your local bookstore or find online). With several sustainably minded recipes from noteworthy celebrities, the book should be something of food bible for the Millennial Generation.

Emily Abrams at Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley. (Courtesy of Emily Abrams)

Finally, I was excited to find my delivery basket from The Fare Trade. The just-launched L.A.-based company teams with renowned and up-and-coming chefs, sourcing artisanal food goods from across the country and providing recipes and video demonstrations to subscribers ($65/month). My Drunken Monkey Jam (made with sugar-coated bananas, a splash of rum and squirt of lime juice) was fantastic on my French toast.

Bring on Spring!