Allston Yacht Club

Allston Yacht ClubAllston Yacht Club is one of those hidden restaurants right in my own back yard that I never would have noticed if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me. This someone happened to be an email inviting me to join them on a Thursday night for a tasting menu, drinks and all. Always one to try out a new neighborhood joint, I agreed to go. The free meal helped too.

No, the restaurant isn’t in the marina. It’s tucked away north of Sunset on Echo Park Ave. The owners, Bill and Charlie facetiously named it after a fancy-pants neighborhood in Boston.  Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be ironic. The self-proclaimed hook at Allston Yacht Club is that the dishes are so fairly priced for the economic climate that one could even afford a glass of wine with the meal. Most of the small plates are $9 and under. They also claim they’re unique because they’re a casual place to sit down and grab a drink, but in LA, that type of restaurant is a dime a dozen.

I started off with a cocktail AYC was testing that night. Watermelon, strawberry, ginger ale, and booze makes for a refreshing summer beverage. The drink was so good, I could even drink it without the alcohol.

Allston Yacht ClubOne of the first things to appear on the table was a plate of peanuts and small dried fish. They were salty and had a nice kick to them thanks to the slices of green chili pepper mixed in. One of the owners said it was Thai inspired, which I could see, but as the boyfriend pointed out, it needed something else: kaffir lime leaves. The fragrant leaves would give this tasty beer snack more Thai flavor.

While I was munching on the snacks, Bill stopped by to chat. He talked about how he and his partner Charlie came up with the menu. It contains mostly dishes that they like to eat themselves, which explains why none of the dishes really seem cohesive with each other. It makes AYC a place to stop by for a drink and a few bites to eat, not an entire sit-down dinner.

Allston Yacht Club
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the brandade with roasted tomato. It’s a whipped mixture of pureed potato, salt cod, tomato, cream, and olive oil, put in a bowl, and passed under the broiler. When spread over a crispy crostini, it’s creamy, melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness.

Allston Yacht Club
Next came a sample of three appetizers: shishito peppers, frico, and arancini. The shishito peppers were cooked well and extremely salty, which make them fitting to snack on while drinking a nice cold beer.

The frico, essentially melted and baked parmesan cheese, was tasty, but lacked in presentation. I joked that the frico would be more aesthetic if it were made into a more lace-like pattern and placed sticking up through the arancini.

The arancini, battered and fried risotto balls, were decent but not spectacular. Deep frying anything makes it taste good. What caught my attention was the tomatillo salsa served under the balls. It was a unique but balanced touch because the acidity of the salsa cut down on the rich oiliness of the balls.

Allston Yacht Club
I also sampled the fennel, orange and greens salad, which tasted much like what one would expect. There’s no going wrong with pairing fennel and the sweet acidity of orange. The two make such a strong burst of flavor that the restaurant could even get away with serving a more bitter variety of greens instead of just plain arugula. Don’t get me wrong, the greens this salad was served with were fine, but it could be “kicked up a notch” with a bit of frisée or baby mustard greens.

Allston Yacht Club
The next trio that was brought out was three samples from the main plates. The cedar plank salmon had a decent charred flavor, but was a tad too overdone for my liking. This could be attributed to the sample plate being a smaller portion than usual, thus skewing the cooking time. I’m not a huge fan of the cooked pink-fleshed fish, but I could see people enjoying this. The dish was uninspired, but the restaurant doesn’t claim to break any molds.

The roasted brussel sprouts were a miss for me. They were cooked to the proper done-ness, which was a relief because no one likes undercooked brussel sprouts. What wasn’t good was the flavoring. The menu claimed a balsamic reduction, but as the boyfriend pointed out, it tasted more like sherry wine vinegar. The acidity was too much for this dish and drowned out any sweetness from caramelization. I do have to give AYC props for offering the option of having this with or without bacon, which should please vegetarians.

Barbecue duck confit with beans isn’t a combination I’ve thought of before, but AYC has made me a fan. The duck was flavorful and tender without being too fatty. The barbecue flavor was brought out further by the sweetness of the beans. This is one dish I’d have no qualms recommending to friends. I would be happy with just a big plate of this and a cold beer.

It’s worth noting that AYC has a small but decent wine list which focuses mainly on old world wines. This may seem contrary to its more modern food menu, but the red wine the boyfriend ordered went quite well with what he had.

Speaking of what he had, it was nice of the restaurant to accommodate a vegan diet. While there was some confusion at first about whether or not the dishes could have dairy, it all worked out okay at the end. As the menu is right now, I wouldn’t recommend it to vegetarians with large appetites, but I hope the restaurant adds a couple more filling items for the herbivores among us. It only makes sense considering the restaurant’s location.

I went into Allston Yacht Club with no expectations — a good way to avoid disappoitnment. The sampling of dishes I had was decent, but not amazing. The restaurant is a good choice to have in the neighborhood, but I wouldn’t call it a destination location.

This is supposed to be a restaurant review, but I have to voice my opinion about something related to the restaurant. I appreciated that AYC’s PR contact met us at the door and explained the concept of the restaurant and introduced us to the owners. I appreciated that the owners came by to sit down and chat and I was intrigued with their back-story.

What I didn’t like was being told before each dish came out how amazing it was and how amazing everything that came out of the kitchen was. It sets up high expectations, some of which certainly were not met. While I know it’s up to PR to sell the restaurant, please PR minions, keep your food opinions to yourselves and let the bloggers eat in peace.

Allston Yacht Club
1320 Echo Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 481-0454

Taking the BF’s Cherry with the Quesadilla Lady

I finally took the BF’s Mexican street food cherry. I can’t believe he’s lived so long in LA without eating any street food. It must be hard for a vegan to eat food from a cart on the street that doesn’t contain animal products. Until now!

Quesadilla Lady

The Quesadilla Lady is a lady with a cart, some fast hands, and the tastiest quesadilla I’ve ever had. She sets up her stand on the sidewalk on Echo Park Blvd., just a few steps south of Sunset. When I spotted her, there was already a handful of people crowded around her cart.

For $3, you get a fresh, handmade blue corn quesadilla with your choice of filling. I asked her to fill mine with cheese and huitlacoche, also known as corn smut, also known as corn fungus. It may sound gross, but boy was it tasty. It had a smooth, almost slimy texture, and a sweet, subtle taste not unlike corn itself.

Blue corn quesadilla

In front of the flat grill, there’s also a variety of toppings which can be put on the quesadilla, free of charge. I recommend the pickled cactus, pico de gallo, and red salsa. But use the red salsa sparingly! Even though I was told it was very mild, it actually has a lot of kick to it — a delicious but painful kick.

The best part about the Quesadilla Lady is that she has vegetarian and even vegan (we hope!) options. When I asked if the quesadilla contained lard, the answer was no, just corn oil. The BF, curious to try Mexican street food, asked for a quesadilla filled with huitlacoche and squash blossoms. The squash blossoms gave the quesadilla a nice change of texture. I may have to get some of those next time.

A group of people in front of us, who must be street food pros, brought their own plates and utensils! Considering I live so close and will most likely visit the Quesadilla Lady again, this sounds like something I should be doing too.  Next on my list of fillings to try are the chicharrones and potato filling.