You might get the impression that we eat out all the time. While this isn’t exactly true, we have tried a lot of great places in the last few months, especially with the family.
One neighborhood that has pleasantly surprised us lately is Echo Park. Built around a lake wreathed with lotus leaves (Echo Park’s annual Lotus Festival starts this weekend), we tend to think of Echo Park as a neighborhood of bohemians and immigrants: Latino and Asian grocers, mom ‘n pop shops, and the kind of dive bars Charles Bukowski and Elliott Smith used to haunt.
And, of course, there’s the, ahem, bodies that were once dredged up from the bottom of the lake.
But a lot of great new restaurants are setting up shop in Echo Park. And not only do they feature up-and-coming chefs and delicious new concepts, these places aren’t checkbook-busters.
One of these new restaurants is The Park. Dad had been eyeing it for a while, and, one balmy Saturday evening, with no plans and a big appetite, we found ourselves riding down there with him, Mom, and Eric.
The Park is a cute hideaway with an eclectic, casual décor, almost like a coffeehouse (ironically, there’s no coffee: no hot drinks, period!). The floor’s checkered in black and white; the walls are pistachio and decorated with empty picture frames. According to the Times, the stools and fixtures were salvaged from an old train station and a local salvage yard.
The entrees on chef Joshua Siegel’s seasonal menu top out at $15. And to sweeten the deal, the Park doesn’t charge for corkage, either. The bottle of savory Lirac Dad brought along went well with just about everything we ate: our fried calamari starter, served Szechuan-style in a sesame-soy glaze; the grilled polenta in a mushroom-cherry pepper ragout.
Szechuan-style calamari at The Park
Yuri, of course, stayed away from the wine, but had a butter lettuce salad that was so fresh (walnuts, roasted beets, orange-parsley vinaigrette), we could’ve been at a farmer’s market.
We thought The Park was pleasant, unpretentious, and fairly priced. Perfect for a relaxed casual meal with family, friends, or both.
15 is another, relatively new Echo Park eatery. A few weeks ago, to celebrate Alex’s graduation from high school, we feasted there with most of the Takasugi clan, plus Bob and "Jemma" Takata.
Set inconspicuously across from a 7-11 and a supermarket, 15 greets diners with brightly polished wood floors and dark leather seating. It’s sleek and urbane, with a wide bar (topped with a TV: the only design flaw, in our humble opinion, especially since this was the now infamous night when the Lakers blew a 24-point lead to the Celtics).
Alex make us all proud by graduating with style
15 used to have a $15 @ 15 set menu: you choose an appetizer, an entrée, and management chooses a dessert. That menu has gone up to $19 @ 15, though, which still seems like a good deal.
The best part about eating out with the whole family, of course, is sharing food. Eric and Chris swapped foie gras and bacon-wrapped mission figs (little flavor bombs!); Alex dished out her Ahi tuna tartare with white yam chips; Yuri let everyone sample her arugula salad ringed with roasted Bosc pears, which was crowned with a heaping of seared goat cheese.
When the entrees arrived we shared those around too, though it seemed like half of the party had the braised short ribs. We have to say these mouth-wateringly tender slabs of meat easily knockout e3rd’s short ribs. Chaya’s would be pretty close, if it weren’t for 15’s generous bedding of assorted veggies, including roasted baby beets and succulent black figs.
It was especially easy to wash down, of course, with the wine Dad T ordered off 15’s short but inspired list of good NoCal reds. One of them was a bombastic Merlot that you could’ve easily passed for a Cab, or even a Syrah.
Other folks had the Pan Roasted Scallops over seared pancetta and loved them; the seared wild Atlantic salmon was a big hit too. Grandpa met his match with the Kobe beef burger, which was lathered with white Cheddar, aioli & braised onions, and brought half of it home in a bag.
In any case, we loved the place ("Just don’t get the Duck Confit!" says Alex), and it was the perfect place to show Al how proud we all were of her: Congrats agan, Alex!!!
The Takasugi Family, plus Bob & Kathy Takata