It’s like a scene out of LA Confidential. The classic, dark, film-noir ambiance of Historic Los Angeles broods like a viper set to strike. You park, just up the block from…an apartment complex? A loft? Whatever it is, it plays host to dinner.
There’s a code you’re given to privilege entry. The hostess greets you at the door – she knows exactly why you’re here. A freight elevator. A hardwood floor. A doorway – your entrance to an adventure in Filipino food.
Make your way in; grab an introductory cocktail; socialize. An assortment of nuts (I would suspect Honey-glazed) greet you at what may be your seat – it’s free-form, so you’re trusted to not be greedy.
Conversation abounds. Then, once everyone arrives, the meal begins. And by meal, I mean voyage.
You may not like cauliflower. Too bad – that mindset may predispose you to believe you won’t like Kalan’s cauliflower flan. The texture is perfect – smoother than jello, but firm enough to stand up. The flavors are as delicate as the texture. You have to come into this thing with the right mindset – that as you sink your fork into unctuous panna cotta, you sink your soul into socialization.
Let’s rewind for a second – it’s not just cauliflower panna cotta. Hell, the cauliflower isn’t even the best part of the dish – it’s the fatty sweetbreads. I won’t tell you what sweetbreads are – if you don’t know what they are, don’t even look it up, just eat them first. In any case, I can conceive of no greater heaven than a bucket of Kalan’s sweetbreads, a hammock, and a bottle of crisp Pilsner Urquell.
All of this is to simply say: ne’er have better sweetbreads been wrought. (#PopcornSweetbreads)
First course – done. Second course – highly anticipated.
It’s worth the wait. Mungo and Octopus. If you’re not familiar, mungo is a bean (or more often, refers to a type of bean paste) that’s quintessential in Filipino cooking. Creamy, earthy, and savory, the mungo hugs the salinity of the perfectly sautéed octopus. It’s tender and hearty – the dish is just enough to leave you wanting something a smidgen more (but only because you’re stomach is being greedy). Eight tentacles up!
By now, you may start hoping that the remainder of the courses follow a similar small-plate format (boy, that Mungo is But there is no such relief. No, in true Filipino style, they’ve got much, much more than enough – they want to make sure you leave not just satisfied, but stuffed.
In that spirit, here comes the entree – beef belly in the kare-kare curry style. You have to love deep, rich flavors to love this one. I took my knife, cut off a portion, served up some rice from the family-style bowl presented to our table, and dove, scuba style, into the depth of this dish. Rich. Meaty. Spicy. Full.
If food could hug you, then this dish is a bear hug.
I don’t think I could fit any more – a dare that the Cherimoya Granita takes up. It’s refreshing, fruity, herbaceous and satiating. Visually, it’s a whimsical Filipino garden in a bowl.
And it’s the perfect end to an amazing night.
After the banter, after the cocktails, after the back-and-forth, we find our way back down the freight elevator, up the foggy street, and back from whence we came. Like a phantom, Kalan Kitchen has exploded onto the palates of the locals, then disappeared into the night. Don’t worry though: those who seek will find them. #Feastly
For more info about Kalan Kitchen visit https://eatfeastly.com/