Almost imperceptibly, downtown’s always demure Q has managed to turn one year old this month. The slim, wood-lined eatery garnered a nod from Bon Appetit as one of America’s 50 best new restaurants, and is considered the standard bearer for quality Edo-style sushi, but chef Hiroyuki Naruke remains as soft-spoken as ever.
Sitting in his quiet, well-lit Financial District restaurant before another night of coursing out $165 omakase meals to waiting diners, Hiro-san talked with Eater about his newfound appreciation for Los Angeles, and why serving only what he wants is so important.
Even to locals, the transformation of Downtown Los Angeles is hard to believe. Less than a decade ago, there were really two Downtowns: the high rises and upscale lunch spots of the Financial District and… everything else. Cheap eats ruled the day, taco carts crawled the late night streets, and the occasional ramen joint or yakitori spot could be found among the warehouses and shuttered storefronts. But for the most part Downtown was dead.
These days, revitalization is so rampant that it’s hard to recognize the same boulevards that used to be near-empty ten years ago. Young, urban crowds flock to bars, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues nightly, and it’s no longer a surprise to see someone on the streets at all hours of the night. Of course, with the influx of people and money comes competition, and Downtown is quickly becoming one of the most contested core neighborhoods for food and drink in this otherwise decentralized city.
December 24, 2013
For nearly a century, downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market has been a place for locals to buy everything from fresh produce and quality meats to takeaway snacks and big bottles of liquor. Untold numbers of stalls have come and gone since then, felled by sinking economies or turned into newer, shinier fronts during prosperous times. Now, after years of slow decline at the once-vaunted downtown open market, things are turning over and looking up once again.
Everyone loves the rooster. Emblazoned on the front of those iconic plastic squirt bottles with the bright green cap, the Sriracha rooster is as emblematic of a specific flavor as the Lucky Charms leprechaun.
On Sunday, Josh Lurie of Food GPS and Randy Clemens, author of The Sriracha Cookbook, joined forces with LOT 613 downtown to merge that vinegary Thai-inspired hot sauce with a few of the best chefs in Los Angeles. The event, dubbed simply the L.A. Sriracha Festival, brought together Wes Avila from Guerrilla Tacos; Neal Fraser from BLD, Vibiana, Fritzi Dog and elsewhere; Eric Greenspan (of grilled cheese and Foundry fame); and Ernesto Uchimura of Plan Check, who paired up with L.A.’s most celebrated cocktail hound Matt Biancaniello for drinks as well.
Each chef outpost offered a taste of their signature dish, with a touch of Sriracha to liven things up. Greenspan, of course, opted for a straightforward grilled cheese, and the Guerrilla Tacos crew slung signature tacos with a thick and fiery Sriracha-laced salsa. Fraser, working under the Fritzi Dog moniker, pushed out hundreds of mini hot dogs with the rooster sauce as a condiment. That is, until he ran out of buns.
With outposts in Oakland, San Francisco, Miami and New York City, it’s easy to forget that Umami Burger is still actually opening locations here in the Southland. After expanding into the old Papoo’s Hot Dog Show space in Burbank, the unstoppable Adam Fleischman/SBE/Fortress Investment Group joint venture looks to continue their world-dominating ways with a new Umami Burger Arts District location, open for lunch as of Monday, Sept. 23.
Beyond the classics, Umami Arts District will continue the tradition of offering one signature burger unique to each location. In this case, the East 3rd Street site is really planning on porking up the place, with a retooled version of their already popular Manly Burger.
You don’t have to be Cedd Moses to know that drinking in downtown is all the way back. While places like the now-revamped King Eddy’s Saloon have been pouring pints for generations, newer operations like the up and running Angel City Brewery have helped to revitalize a downtown that was once nearly devoid of quality booze. We as a city have several places to thank for the slow transformation that has made downtown a drinker’s paradise, not least of which is BUZZ Wine Beer Shop.
The Spring Street marketplace is owned and operated by Scott Kamalski and David Bakhshi, two friends with prior restaurant experience who found great bottles of beer and wine to be in short supply downtown, even after revitalization had begun to take hold. So in June of 2011 the two men opened the doors to their glass-lined corner market, complete with taps and tables in the back for occasional tasting nights. The idea was simple: bring quality, under-served drinks to a downtown that was bursting with new apartment dwellers looking to stock their fridges and maybe step out for a drink or two when they felt like it.
Have you driven down Alameda lately, as it skirts Little Tokyo and dips into Arts District territory? Then surely you must have noticed the hulking brick building at the corner of Alameda and Traction, a mere stone’s throw from Wurstküche and Far Bar, two well-respected craft beer locations in their own right. Or, perhaps you once tasted the malted hops yourself at this corner lot, early last year or sometime in 2011, when the loading dock doors were open, walls were stacked high with street art and the taps flowed freely with Angel City beer. If so, you’re probably thinking to yourself about now: What the hell happened to Angel City Brewery?
In short: a lot.