Nightshade – Los Angeles, CA
Nightshade is an up-and-coming restaurant by chef Mei Lin. The restaurant is not necessarily a “dressy” environment, but it seems most people dress up a little bit when dining at Nightshade. The food is heavily influenced by Asian flavors, such as Sichuan peppers, soy, five spice, and Tom Yum. The service at Nightshade is great- very attentive and helpful in reading the menu/deciding what to order. One thing to note: the menu is from lightest to heaviest, but there are no sections of “first,” “second,” or “appetizer,” etc.
We started our dining experience with Tom Yum flavored chicharron served with a coconut dip and smoked trout roe. Let me tell you, this was some of the best chicharron I have ever had. The Tom Yum seasoning on them added a very light kick of spice and tang, but also had a slight sweetness. They were extremely light and crispy, and the coconut sauce provided a creamy, cooling effect that was needed. The trout roe burst in my mouth, adding another texture element to the dish.
Next, we ordered the famed lasagna. This is not your traditional lasagna, though! This lasagna is made with very thin layers filled with pork ragu. The ragu was packed with flavor- a touch of heat from peppers, subtle notes of other spices, and very tender, yummy pork. The tofu cream added a creamy texture. The cilantro on top freshened the whole dish up. The lasagna literally melted in my mouth.
This was the final savory dish we tried. The schnitzel itself was very tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. The five spice on the schnitzel was a phenomenal twist on a traditionally Austrian dish. The five spice did not add so much of a peppery, burn-your-mouth heat, as much as a tingly sensation all over your tongue from the Sichuan peppers within the spice mixture. The cucumber-green tomato salad was very refreshing and provided a contrast to the spicy schnitzel-a cooling effect. This was one of the best preparations of schnitzel I’ve tried.
This guava semifreddo was super refreshing after a meal packed with spice. The semifreddo was topped a strawberry crumble, then a white chocolate edible disk. Much like a creme brulee, you first break the chocolate disk and then dig in. The strawberry crumble provided some crunch in the otherwise creamy dish.
This spicy, Asian-influenced meal was a great dining experience in Los Angeles. Every dish was perfectly balanced- spicy, savory, and all served with something to cool you down. The preparation of each plate was executed with perfection, down to the placement of it on the plate. If you’re in LA, I highly recommend trying out this new restaurant for a special, unforgettable dining experience.