One of my favorite meals so far this year was at Nightshade in Los Angeles. The first solo restaurant by Top Chef winner Mei Lin has been named one of the best new restaurants in America by multiple publications.
The restaurant space is small and intimate, with an open kitchen so you can see the chefs hard at work. We dined here with a few of our friends and managed to try most of the menu.
tom yum onion, coconut dip
This is a play on the blooming onion. The onion was light and crunchy, lightly seasoned with tom yum spices, but the highlight was the creamy coconut avocado dip.
green jade tomatoes, persian cucumbers, gwaimei dressing
This was one of our favorite dishes. The green tomatoes were crisp and tart and the dressing enhanced the subtle sweetness of the tomatoes.
beef tartare, sesame, egg yolk jam, kochukaru
The tartare was creamy and not overly seasoned. We enjoyed eating it with the giant cracker.
tamarind glazed carrots, toasted coconut, carrot top emulsion
The tarmind glazed carrots were sweet and we enjoyed the unique flavors coming from the tamrind and coconut.
koshihikari rice congee, xo, crispy shallots, pork floss
This dish is one of Chef Mei Lin’s most famous dishes. She served it during her time on Top Chef and the judges couldn’t stop raving about it. I remember really wanting to taste the dish, so I was really thrilled that she put it on her menu.
This was an explosion of flavors and textures. Congee is something I grew up eating and it’s usually a little plain, but not this version. We really enjoyed all the layers of flavors. This is a dish I plan on replicating at home.
squid ink bucatini, cuttlefish bolognese, gochujang
We enjoyed the fresh pasta dishes as well, like this squid ink bucatini. I loved the briny sea flavors and the addition of Asian flavors to the Italian pasta.
nori spaccatelli, seaweed-dashi butter, nekombu, agretti
I felt like the seaweed flavor was too strong in this one. However, some of my friends quite enjoyed it.
lasagna, pork ragu, tofu cream, prickly ash
This is one of the most creative dishes offered on her menu and the one that is most often shared in reviews and photos. The dish is made to look like lasagna, but it’s really mapo tofu. I loved the creativity but did find the flavors a little underwhelming compared to some of her other dishes. I think I just expected more because of all the hype the dish got.
shrimp toast, cantonese curry
This was my favorite dish of the night. The toast was wonderfully crunchy but not over-fried or oily. The curry broth paired well with shrimp and was a wonderful addition to the traditional dish.
szechuan hot quail, japanese milk bread, house pickles
We enjoyed Chef Lin’s take on hot chicken, using the more delicate quail meat, served on fluffy Japanese milk bread.
almond sorbet, mandarin ice
Of course, we had to try all the desserts. This was almost too pretty to eat. The bowls are actually made of chocolate and underneath was a bed of sorbet.
coconut mousse, lime coconut granita, pineapple, nata de coco
This was light, refreshing and tropical. We enjoyed this one as well.
green apple, chamomile creme, vanilla oil
We loved the presentation of this one. It came out looking like a marble mortar and pestle set. We were then instructed to break the top (made of chocolate) to get to the dessert underneath.
silkened tofu, blackberry, black currants, thai basil oil
This was the only dessert that didn’t quite work for me. I felt the thai basil oil was too strong and the currant sauce too tart.
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Nightshade. I loved the creativity and Chef Lin’s incorporation of Asian ingredients and flavors into the dishes. It was really fun watching her in the kitchen overseeing everything. The staff was very friendly and made sure our meal was perfectly paced.
Tip: The restaurant space is small so plan on making a reservation well in advance.
923 E 3rd St #109, Los Angeles, CA 90013