Don’t miss these essential pop-up restaurants
Adda the Hangout
For his monthly pop-ups that operate out of Crafted Kitchen in the Arts District, Pranav Sinha keeps the menu to four or five dishes culled from the cuisines of India. Punjabi-style murgh makhana (a.k.a. butter chicken), attuned so that the ginger and spices chime through the creamed tomato gravy, might headline, though so can an equally stellar goat curry — and the rotation always includes vegetarian options. instagram.com/adda_thehangout
For his pizzas, Brandon Gray stretches dough to a thinness that yields a crust that’s cracker-y in places and puffed in others. Gray imagines creations such as the Californication: lamb shoulder, chickpeas, thick salsa borracha, Oaxacan cheese and pickled red onion. Pickups are in Mid-City, available 4 to 8 p.m. every day except Wednesday. brandoni-pepperoni.com
After years on the line at restaurants such as Botanica, the Exchange at the Freehand L.A. and Rustic Canyon, Rashida Holmes is focusing on the flavors of her Bajan heritage with her Arts District-based pop-up. Her specialty is flaky roti, filled with her mom’s recipe for chicken curry, a vegan-friendly tumble of seasonal vegetables or, best of all, soft, ropy hunks of goat meat she buys from Jimenez Family Farms. Note that on Sundays she makes pillowy doubles filled with chana curry and chutneys. bridgetownroti.com
The demand is real for the bungkus — Balinese-style meals bundled in banana leaves — made by sisters Celene and Tara Carrara. Online orders usually go live on Mondays at 6 p.m.; set an alert or you’ll likely miss out for the week. Rice, cooked in coconut milk and perfumed with lemongrass and pandan leaves, anchors the bungkus, which also includes chicken curry, long beans, egg and tempeh cake. instagram.com/bungkusbagusla
The menus of Danielle Bell and Pablo Osorio, which change weekly and are available for delivery, mingle the specialties of Osorio’s native Peru with desserts and baking that hearkens to Bell’s Kentucky upbringing. A recent May menu summarizes their synergies: seco de pato (duck stewed in Andean corn beer with chickpea pepian), solterito (spring vegetables and fried quinoa with feta and herbs), cheddar-chive biscuits, Parisian gnocchi with mushrooms and asparagus, strawberry-rhubarb cobbler and Bell’s sensational ice creams, in flavors of black walnut and rhubarb. de-porres.com/de-porres-delivers
Deciphering the order form from this Jefferson Park-based pop-up can feel like following a scavenger hunt, but the prize is some of the finest Detroit-style pizza (rectangular, properly charred edges, not too doughy despite the name) being made in Los Angeles. Cocktails are also available; I vouch for the punchy Mai Tais. instagram.com/doughdaddyla
Golden Rice Co.
Saffron, as golden in color as it is in flavor, saturates Farah Parsa’s variation on the traditional Iranian dish tahchin — cumulus-light from the addition of yogurt and with a dome of tahdig, the crisp layer of rice formed on the bottom of the pot, and surrounded with optional eggplant, chicken or salmon. Complete the meal (available for pickup or limited delivery on Sundays) with mast-o-khiar, hummus, chopped salad and perhaps baklava or homemade orange blossom ice cream for dessert. Persian restaurants tend to be kebab houses; it’s rare to experience food that tastes like Iranian home cooking out in the world. This is your chance. instagram.com/goldenriceco
Quarter Sheets/House of Gluten
Aaron Lindell, a Michigan native, labels his rectangular pan pies as “Glendale’s #1 least authentic Detroit style pizza.” Its lightness resembles sfincione, the Sicilian variation on focaccia that Motor City’s pizza tradition is sometimes theorized to have derived from. The Red Top pie brings the baseline goodness; the cheese that is bordering the pie has caramelized into the crust but isn’t cooked to carbon. There are also delicious heresies like Roni’s House Special No. 2, crowned with pineapple, guanciale, jalapeño, red sauce, and provolone and mozzarella. instagram.com/quartersheets
Instagram-based bakeries are their own separate and important subgenre, but it’s worth mentioning here that Hannah Ziskin, Lindell’s partner, runs her House of Gluten bakery out of their home in Glendale. She is a cake savant, and she makes three-tiered slices of what she calls “slab cake” as the dessert option for Quarter Sheets. Think duets like blood orange and strawberry. Think greatness. instagram.com/hannahziskin
The pandemic changed L.A.'s pop-up restaurant scene, and its future is uncertain.
Phert Em, previously general manager of Bar Amá, originally called her pop-ups “L.A. Cambodian food,” adapting Khmer dishes she learned from her family to her own taste and experience. Em has continued to push herself to conceive weekly menus — maybe lort cha (short rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables) or oxtail stew scented with Thai basil and sweet spices, or maybe a first-of-the-season stone fruit salad with fermented black crab vinaigrette. In addition to coursed menus for delivery, check Khemla’s Instagram page for her pop-up collaborations around town. instagram.com/khemla
The combinations of roasted chicken, fried pork belly stacked in neat rectangles, jumbles of prawns in crab sauce, garlic rice and noodles that Lord Maynard Llera prepares for weekend pickups in La Cañada Flintridge come arrayed on trays that channel the spirit of kamayan, the communal meals spread on banana leaves and eaten by hand. This is food of power and finesse and profound delight. instagram.com/kuyalord_la
Khachapuri, the Georgian cheese breads that come in many forms but most famously shaped like a tapered boat with a molten hull, are a sustaining gift to humanity. Emily Efraimov bakes and delivers beautiful versions: a classic filled with feta, mozzarella and egg; a heady mix of wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, parmesan and herbs; and a particularly amazing riff of textures and flavors that combines spiced lamb, smooth labneh and green chile pickle. You want an order of the little gem herb salad on the side for lightness and contrast. Efraimov takes pre-orders two days in advance and delivers from within five miles of her Westside base. Scarf the khachapuri for lunch and have her pork shoulder pelmeni (which come frozen and are effortless to boil) for dinner. instagram.com/littledacha
Jihee Kim has a mission: expanding many people’s notion of banchan, the procession of small dishes that accompanies Korean meals. In her hands, banchan is a seasonal event: Spring’s sugar snap peas, paired with apple seasoned with yuzu doenjang dressing, yield to summer squash ignited with garlic-chile oil and charred okra steeped in soy and vinegar. Her dozen or so options typically include meat-based banchan as well: chicken marinated in doenjang (fermented soybean paste), say, or thinly sliced beef soaking up gently spicy gochujang. Each banchan is remarkably light and distinct. Don’t forget a side of steamed rice. perillala.com
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