Sunday, January 24, 2010
Someday, I used to think to myself, I'll be friends with someone who owns a restaurant. Maybe there, I'd imagine, I'd finally feel comfortable enough to send directions to the chef, "Make me whatever you feel like making tonight."
Someday is now.
I've known James Doell since we were both twelve. Actually, I knew him, then didn't know him for a while, then thanks to the Internet, I know him again. As we were reaquainting a couple years ago, he told me that he had just sold his business and was opening a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. This fall, Soi 7 opened, and after a couple months of me trying to get there, last week I finally visited. Almost immediately upon entering, even before tasting the food, I had to tell James how proud I was of him. The place is beautiful: a blood red glass chandelier hangs over the back hallway, Thai wood carvings dress the walls, in a giant urn flocked leafless magnolia branches surprisingly begin to unfurl pink undergarments. It's funky and warm and has just the right amount of offbeat beauty to feel sexy and comfortable at the same time. James collected every piece and put the atmosphere together himself. He is owner, designer, host extraordinaire.
Here is my friendly fellow taster.
Our waiter, the charming Takashi, greeted us warmly, made sure we had what we wanted to drink, answered all of our questions, and made us feel as welcome and happy as if we were in our own home. We had a starter, calamari, and watched lovely dishes go by. We read the menu and talked about our options, but for me, there was really only one option.
Years of anticipation funneling through my tongue, I asked Takashi to tell the chef that we wanted what he felt like making for us.
And what he made us was beautiful, simple, and perfectly executed: glass noodles with snap peas and carrots that were so fresh, they could have come from my back yard, shrimp, pork, cabbage, and scallions. All the produce organic, some of it is even local. The food the chef put together did not show off; instead, on a rainy, cold day, it hugged us. It was the food he not only wanted to make that night, but also what he wanted to eat.
Lucky, lucky me.