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The dreamiest soft serve in L.A. is vegan — and made from peas

A dish of vanilla soft serve with toppings.
The plant-based soft serve sundae from Mother Tongue in Hollywood.
(Angelo Clinton)

Vegan soft serve at Mother Tongue

Michael Mina’s new restaurant lulls you into its sun-drunk, warm cocoon without you even realizing it. Located in the new Heimat social and fitness club complex in Hollywood, Mother Tongue is a floor below a co-working space and a private dining area and above multiple floors of a fitness club and spa where beautiful people run, jump, spin, squat and pull on kinesis machines.

The smartly dressed restaurant servers carry trays of cocktails in covetable glassware. Their custom metallic-gold-sneakered feet whisk by like shooting stars. By the time dessert hits the table, you’ve most likely consumed more superfoods than you can pronounce or knew existed.

The whipped avocado spread is seasoned with algae salt. The Snake River Farms hanger steak tartare is showered in a turmeric and horseradish powder. The shiitake mushroom larb is served as lettuce wraps that incorporate coconut MCT. Spirulina is the star of the cavatelli. My cocktail contained tulsi.

Michael Mina, known for his steakhouses around the country, will open a plant-forward, health-focused restaurant in Hollywood called Mother Tongue.

The dish that made everyone gasp was pastry chefs Vivian Chang and Veronica Arroyo’s soft serve sundae. The base is made from Ripple, a nondairy product fashioned out of yellow peas. It’s shockingly milky, smooth and creamy. Layered around the soft serve are small squares of chia seed cake soaked in lemon syrup. It’s finished with Maldon salt, a drizzle of olive oil and bits of raw honeycomb. If you’re looking for a completely plant-based dessert, ask to omit the honeycomb. This could be the most Los Angeles dessert at the moment.

Matzo ball ramen at Oy Bar

A bowl of ramen with chopsticks lying next to it
The matzo ball ramen at Oy Bar in Studio City.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
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The matzo ball ramen at this bar in Studio City is what I’d do to my grandma’s matzo ball soup if I had the guts to bring condiments to the Passover table (or if I shopped for Seder ingredients at 99 Ranch Market). Chef Jeff Strauss makes a stock with poached chicken wings, ginger and scallions. It’s clean and subtle and tastes like the sort of thing that would shorten a cold. Plopped into the middle is a dense, lumpy matzo ball studded with dill and fattened with schmaltz. This is where the similarities to Grandma’s soup start to blur.

Jeff’s Table is branching out with new fare at Studio City’s Oy Bar.

Crowded in the bowl are roasted maitake mushrooms; a mess of curly, elastic noodles; a slice of char siu; an egg with a gooey middle; a mound of sliced green onions; and a spoonful of Strauss’ version of chile crisp. It’s a dish in the throes of a serious identity crisis, but it works. Twirl the noodles around your chopsticks and break off a bit of pork for the ramen shop experience. Nibble the matzo ball with a sip of broth like you’re at a family Seder.

Strauss isn’t so much making a statement as he is doctoring up a dish he’s been eating since he was a kid. The sentiment is one I’ll be adopting. Next year, I’m bringing a jar of Lao Gan Ma to Passover.

Big Ant’s BBQ

A spread of ribs, coleslaw, cornbread and baked beans
A platter of barbecue from Big Ant’s BBQ in Glassell Park.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

You don’t need utensils, or even teeth, to eat the baby back ribs at Big Ant’s BBQ in Glassell Park. The pork simply slips off the bone like a fine silk dress and collapses in your mouth. The phrase “tender AF” seems appropriate. Only gums and your tongue are required.

This is true of most of the meats at Anthony “Big Ant” Hypolite’s restaurant. The ribs are glazed in a sweet barbecue sauce that’s heavy on the sweet and light on the spice. The brisket is smoky, well marbled with fat and crusted with a deep black peppery bark. The hot links are dense and intensely spiced. The chicken bones slide from the smoked meat without much effort.

Where to find the best brisket, ribs, pulled pork and sides in and around L.A.

If there is pork candy when you go, order it. The chopped belly is deeply smoky and sweet with caramelized fat. I ran through the menu, getting a bit of everything, and built my own platter of smoked meat, baked beans, coleslaw and collard greens.

The best time to arrive is close to 11 a.m., just as the restaurant opens. Stacked on the counter are trays of golden cornbread, and the aroma of smoked meat hangs heavy in the air. And, most importantly, they won’t be out of anything just yet.

Oy Bar, 12446 Moorpark St., Studio City, (818) 761-8686, oybarla.com
Mother Tongue, 960 N. La Brea Ave., 4th Floor, Los Angeles, (213) 319-7850, hellomothertongue.com
Big Ant’s BBQ, 2207 N. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, (323) 987-0029, bigantsbbq.com


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