Night Market’s Chef, Kris Yenbamroong gets a ton of press for the ‘restaurant within a restaurant.’ I’ve been familiar with this format for a while now, as it almost mirrors Mission Street Chinese in San Francisco. I’ve wanted to try this place for a long time, urging friends to come with me. Almost everyone I know has already been there at least once, and has great things to say about it. I mean EVERYONE from J. Gold to Francis Ford Coppola. Let me be the first to argue the contrary and say the emperor has no clothes.
Even for a restaurant busy opening a second location I would imagine that they have time to at least print out a special card, rather than write it in poor illegible handwriting. I read recently that Chef Kris admitted that Night Market was always supposed to be in Silverlake in the first place. This makes complete sense, given the utterly hipster dining experience we had.
What is the Chef trying to say when he won’t take the time to print a specials sheet? Am I to assume you are spending all your time developing your food, and simply don’t have the time to attend to these trivial details? Authentic for authenticity sake, or are the details simply neglected altogether?
Details like serving dishes on thin enamel plates which virtually ensured that everything was lukewarm or cold within an unacceptable period of time. Serving sausages, chewy under seasoned pork belly, and sauce-less chicken satay, but there are no knives at the table, only chopsticks. A fork on the setting, why not include a knife?
The service was neither engaging nor helpful. I was greeted with a blank look, then a “do you want drinks?” The difference between the special wings and the wings on the menu is that, “The special wings are cooked in sauce.”
Normally when I order 9 dishes, I expect them to be coursed appropriately if I am asked to order everything at once. Why else get the whole order if everything is just order fire? I’ve done plenty of pop-ups and dinners where one would be required to separate dishes in upwards of 7 courses (Ludobites, Amalur Project, Supper Liberation Front, NightShade, etc). It just requires a pencil, lines, and communication.
Night Market could learn a thing from Jitlada or Ruen Pair (or most of Koreatown for that matter), where the dishes come out piping hot, and remain that way throughout the meal. Getting 5 dishes at the same time makes you feel rushed, almost like you have to eat faster and are being overloaded. It utterly ruins a dining experience. [In all fairness, Ruen Pair, Jitlada, Chengdu Taste, all feature the exact same delivery, but I am not asked to order everything at once, and the food comes on plates that stay warm]
The garnishes were unappetizing and exhibiting poor knife work; often a hard chunk of carrot or a square of cabbage. Not much elaboration to be done on the dishes, as virtually nothing was explained and barely announced. The dishes came to the table in rapid fire, piling on top of each other. Chicken wings came after the noodle dish.
After starting with great beer I was recommended a $15 glass of wine because it is, “really good.” I deal with wine quite a bit, so I’m not opposed to drinking good wine at any price, but I would love to know why. “Oh, we have a new wine list other than that one” I was told. My dear friends at DomaineLA provide some of the interesting selection on Night Market’s list, but I thought the organization of the list was schizophrenic, with irregular spacing, margins, use of bold text, etc.
After our group lost the ability to eat anymore cold noodles our table was cleared about 50% and then our half eaten plates sat on the table, by now the fat and oil congealing from extended room temperature for a good 10 extra minutes. Did we just get an off night?
I am often reminded, haunted actually, but the words of one of my mentors – Chef’s Ludo Lefevbre one afternoon in a pre-shift discussion of his menu. “We don’t serve pork belly here.” He would say, “Anyone can take pork belly and braise it for hours and serve it, what we do here requires finesse.” (Josiah Citron, after searing off one of the most utterly brilliant cuts of dry aged beef I have ever seen also told me basically the same thing, when expressing his disdain for the overuse of Sous Vide). This for me was cooking without finesse, covered up by extensive heat (spice) on the palate, and the fact that it was relatively inexpensive. Though I enjoyed the pad pak kanaa (Chinese broccoli sautéed w/ garlic and chili), this menu was woefully lacking in vegetables. I did love the fermented pork sausage and the pig tails.
Now I understand that this is ‘Street Food’, it says that on the window at the front door. Unfortunately it isn’t street food when you are serving it on Sunset Blvd, even if it’s in a Silver lake setting adorned with pictures of Pete Sampras and Thailand. Chef Kris has a degree in Film, and no formal culinary training, and unfortunately for me (because I REALLY wanted to love this restaurant) it showed in the food and the experience.