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Think beyond Hollywood hot spots and Beverly Hills brunches. Los Angeles serves authentic dishes from across the world. In this episode, you will get to the bottom of what makes L.A. one of the most diverse dining destinations in the country.
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- [Voiceover] I'm Aida Mollingkamp. I'm a chef and writer with a passion for exploration and I'm in search of the best food a city has to offer. Whether it's locals-only favorites or a chef's secret special, join me as I go off-menu in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a sprawling city with so much to discover. From downtown institutions to east-LA hotspots, I'm excited to show off a lesser-known side of my hometown. I'm starting my LA trip at the Grand Central Market, open continuously since 1917, where you can get everything from fruits and veggies to tacos and ribeye steak. I'm meeting up with Joseph Shuldiner, a food visionary who's had a hand in rejuvenating this hundred-year-old downtown institution. - That was totally our intention, was to keep some of the old legacy vendors and then bring in the new guys, have them all intermingle like one big happy family. - [Aida] OK, and it's working out well. - [Joseph] Yeah! - [Voiceover] The market has almost three dozen stalls and it's still growing. Joseph has done a fantastic job of attracting new businesses that compliment vendors who've been here for decades. - We've curated it. We mix them all together. And you can get your pupusas but you can also get like hipster coffee. - Speaking of coffee, I have heard really great things about it so I want you to take me there. - [Joseph] I'm taking you over there. - [Voiceover] G,B Coffee is the brainchild of Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski. It's a place where you can belly up to the bar and stay a while, much like a European cafe. - I am Charles Babinski, the Co-owner and Co-founder of G,B Coffee. We want our menu to reflect just quality and an excitement about the products that we're selling. Everything we do, we spend a lot of time sourcing the best coffees, we spend a lot of time just buying the best ingredients and making things from scratch. The idea is that we're making things, creating things that are interesting and that people haven't tried before. - What is really like your pride and joy? - Something that we do that's special here is we make our own almond-macadamia milk, and it's particularly good as an ice latte. - OK, I think-- - Yes, I was so happy they went that direction 'cause this is what the-- - [Aida] OK, so two of those? Two of those, please. - Two of those? - [Joseph] Yeah. You got it. So they started doing almond milk and they were making their own almond milk and they're mixing the macadamia with the almond so you can taste the coffee better. And then they've got this whole like the tasting and the pour-over, the cocktail shaker, the tease. - It's almost like they have the reverence that ajust would have for a really well-built cocktail. - Right! Coffee is really the next thing to kind of experience that. And they're are the forefront of this. - [Aida] Well, cheers. Yes. - There's also a drink that I'm a big fan of, which is our fizzy-hoppy tea, or our sparkling tea that we put hops with. - [Aida] How did you guys come up with this? - [Charles] Both Kyle and myself are humongous fans of clean hoppy vibrant beers, and we're like: "We love this. "Why can't we have this more?" And the idea to take that and do it with carbonated tea just sort of popped in our minds. It is just such a refreshing clean beverage and I think a representation of flavors that southern California does well. - Oh wow, that's amazing. - There's this sentiment in bars that there really isn't in coffee bars that you can do something other than just the standard one or two drinks. And in most coffee bars people are making espressos, cappuccinos, filter coffee, and it's fun to be able to go further out and do some more exciting adventurous things. - Thank you. - Thank you. - [Voiceover] Next, we're heading to Echo Park, Joseph's old stomping grounds and one of LA's hippest neighborhoods. Echo Park is full of unique boutiques and cafes, including a local favorite: Mohawk Bend. Their restaurant is housed in a retrofitted hundred-year-old vaudeville theater. Amy Yanow uses only California ingredients to create her half-vegan half-carnivore elevated pub-food menu. - I'm Amy Yanow, Co-owner of Mohawk Bend. The menu at Mohawk is personal to me because I am vegan and I am extremely neurotic about what I put in my body. So it's really exciting to present flavorful thoughtful food that I enjoy eating in conjunction with well-sourced meat products so my friends and the people who don't necessarily subscribe to my diet can eat as well. We're proud of our menu and we're proud of how many people can come together and eat under the same roof. - So my favorite is buffalo cauliflower. It's like a take on buffalo wings, right? - Yeah, it's our take on buffalo wings. We use house-made tofu blue cheese. And it's our signature dish. It is not a compromise to eat-- - [Aida] I don't need convincing. - You don't? OK, great! - [Joseph] We'll both share that. - [Amy] It's a little spicy. - OK, I'm gonna go big, go with the burgers. OK, and then I saw the pizza oven on the way in-- - Yeah, we gotta do a pizza. And I'm thirsty. - [Voiceover] Like all the ingredients at Mohawk Bend, all 70 microbrews come from California. - OK, really looking forward to the buffalo cauliflower. Oh, speak of it! It's like I commanded it from the heaven. - All right, this is so orange. - Is that a good thing or a bad thing? - I love it; it's all the color. It blows my mind though. - You mean it's so orange in a good way like it's real ingredients. - Yeah, 'cause it's cauliflower, that's orange. It's beautiful. Mm, wow. - Wow, that's like a true buffalo sauce. A nice spiciness. And you can't really tell this is vegan. Whoa, I need some IPA to wash down that spice. - [Joseph] Yeah, it's spicy. - Hi, guys! Here's your Mohawk Burger. Thank you for the wait there. - [Joseph] Mile-high, right? - Your Napa vegan pizza. - [Joseph] Thank you. While you bite into that, I'm gonna toast to you. - [Aida] OK. All right? With the I'm gonna get serious, pull the hair back, OK. - [Joseph] All right, and here we go. Yeah. - [Aida] Mm hmm. And I've got a salad in there, so basically it's really healthy. - It's healthy, yeah. That's what today is all about: health. - Yes, clearly. Somecheese. - A new definition of health. - Uh huh. - Do you have any room left? - I can make that happen, yes. I will motivate. - [Voiceover] Koreatown is roughly three square miles and contains at least 500 bars and restaurants. Tucked away in one of the many strip malls is Saint Martha, a completely unexpected new restaurant serving up some inventive fare. - [Aida] OK, Joseph, where are we? - [Joseph] We're in Koreatown in a strip mall. And here it is. - [Aida] OK. - [Voiceover] Hiding behind the red door, we're transported to a stylish upscale restaurant where Chef Nick Erven is doing incredible things. - My name is Nick Erven, the Executive Chef and Partner of Saint Martha Restaurant in Koreatown. Saint Martha is the patron saint of cooks and servants. It's a name that's pretty fitting for what we're doing here, this sort of mix of Old World service and hospitality. We just had to open Saint Martha in Koreatown. I think it's a neighborhood that's underserved by what we're doing and I love the neighborhood. It's a great mix of cultures and people and it's one of the few places I think in this city that has an urban feel to it and it's really what we wanted to surround ourselves with. - [Aida] Oh my gosh, this place is gorgeous! - [Joseph] It is, and I love sitting at counters. It's like close to the action. Yeah, it's cool. - [Aida] I'm with you. - What's up, guys? How ya doing? - [Joseph] Chef Nick, this is Aida. - Hello. Pleasure to meet ya. - [Aida] Nice to meet you. Thanks for having us. - Thanks for coming in! Welcome to Saint Martha. - I've heard great things. - [Joseph] Cool. You're gonna do a special meal for us, right? - I am. I have a couple treats for you guys. I'm gonna start with our juniper-cured salmon, salmon, smoked goat cheese, everything bagel churro, pickles and dill. - OK, so what's the inspiration behind this dish? - Everything begins with something extremely familiar. - [Aida] OK. - A bagel and salmon, I have it almost every day for breakfast. How can I create that same memory, that same feeling with something completely different in a way that no one's necessarily seen before. - OK, bagel locks. Hey, we're for it. I'm gonna take it and try it out. Thank you. What I'm really appreciating is that you'd normally do smoked salmon on a bagel, and so now you have the smoked cheese instead of the smoked salmon. And any time a churro is involved, I'm there, so let's do it. - Yeah, churros make everything better. - And that salmon is beautifully mi-cuit. - Oh my god, it's like the subtlest locks. It's fantastic. - I could just have this salmon on its own and be perfectly happy, but the way he put it all together-- - [Joseph] Yeah. - Well-played, Nick, well played. - And this is just our first course. - [Nick] Our next dish is our pecan-smoked brisket. Chili hoisin sauce, tiny lettuce, and shaved root vegetables. You've got carrots and watermelon radishes today. - [Aida] That's beautiful. I love watermelon radishes. - Yeah, they're so pretty, that red color. - This is definitely our nod to the neighborhood. - Can you talk about how you picked this location and why? - What I like about this is that it's a hidden gem. To see people, their reactions when they open that door, there's confusion, there's awe, and there's excitement. All those in one facial expression. - My dear, here you go. - OK. - What do you think? - Wow, it's really good. The hoisin is nice; it's not too sweet. Got good spice in there. And the smokiness coming through on the brisket. And yet, it's still California-fresh with all the veggies. - [Joseph] There ya go. - [Voiceover] Just like everything else about Saint Martha, the wine list of over 50 bottles is off the beaten path. - OK, I have a little taste of a very small production Bobal. - OK. - It's a Spanish grape. But you never see it because you know of reohas and temperneos and cornasha. But this is actually the third-most-grown grape in all of Spain; but it just never gets out. That's more than we need to know. Tell me if you like it. - That's great. - [Joseph] Oh my god, it's Spain in your nose. - Yep, I appreciate that and I think that the acid's gonna play really well with this brisket. - [Nick] Ouni totaki that's bruleed very lightly, avocado mousse, shaved hearts of palm, Serrano chiles, and these are our seaweed Doritos. I recommend scooping up a bunch of the mousse, the ouni, the chile, and the hearts of palm and just eating it like a chip. This is my favorite dish on the menu. - OK, it begs to be asked: Why Dorito? - 'Cause Doritos are delicious! - [Aida] No, I mean-- - It has the texture of Doritos. - OK, gotcha. So texture of Doritos. Basically got the swankiest-- - Plus it sounds awesome! - Yes, it does. - Well, enjoy, guys. - [Aida] Thank you. - [Joseph] My god, look at that. That is so amazing. I mean just that alone is an abstract painting. - You're like: "It's the Rothko of guacamole." - Oh my god, I'm just like... Oh, oh my god. - And you're good on it? OK. - [Joseph] It's like a mash-up of a sushi bar and like a Mexican dive and I don't even know what else. - That is good. You've got that really good brininess of the ouni going on and everything else is just really subtle. I can totally see why that's his signature dish. - [Joseph] Uh huh. - Saint Martha's winning me over. - [Joseph] Nick. - [Aida] Nick, what we're dying to know: What's the deal with the hipster neon above the kitchen? - Have you seen me? - Yes. So is that you embracing being a hipster? - Yeah, absolutely! - OK! How do we tread on this delicately? It's all been excellent. - Awesome. I can't let you guys leave without having dessert. Here's your carrot camot flower cake with avocado marshmallow, roasted carrot sorbet. The white is a creme fraiche cremo, which is like a creme fraiche creme. These three things here are jerk-spice coconut lour and pumpkin-seed brittle. - [Aida] Sounds good to me. I love that there's that kind of like pound cake texture going on there. - Mm hmm, and look at that. It's translucent. - Avocado marshmallow? - Avocado! - Come on,, all the way. You haven't had the avocado marshmallow before? - [Joseph] Oh my god. - Yeah, I like it. OK, we did our best to save one bite for Saint Martha, but that was showing a lot of restraint 'cause that is really really good. - It's fun, right? - [Aida] Yeah, really well done. Saint Martha and you have treated us very well. - Fantastic. Thank you guys. - Thanks for having us. - Thanks so much, Nick. - [Aida] This whole day has been fabulous! You show me so much of LA that I didn't know. Kind of embarrassed to admit it. I mean, jeez, who knew?