Rustic Canyon

Last night, Will and I finally made it to the west side for dinner. We’d been meaning to try out Rustic Canyon ever since we found out Jeremy Fox was now cooking there. It seemed like a good idea, since he’s been known to cook creative vegetable-heavy dishes and it wouldn’t be a stretch for Rustic Canyon to do some vegan dishes.


We started off with the marinated olives and marcona almonds.  The almonds flavored with sugar and lavender are said to be one of Fox’s signature dishes and it’s no wonder why. What at first smelled like a bowl of potpourri turned out to be a bowl of addictive, strangely spiced almonds.  The olives marinated with fennel, orange, and garlic were also a nice surprise. Everywhere in LA has a bowl of marinated olives now, so we were expecting more of the same, but something made these olives taste really bright and different.

DSCF1511 The beets and berries, as suggested by our server, was a slightly different take on the ubiquitous beet salad.  The dressing was overly acidic for my taste, and I like pretty sour stuff. It could have been balanced out had there been more avocado in the salad.  The addition of mint gave it an unexpected pop which I liked.

DSCF1514I also had the squid ceviche: a quirky combination of squid and melon that actually worked.  The squid was gently poached in salted water, so not a traditional ceviche.  Each piece was perfectly tender, and the entire dish was dressed well with a good balance of acid and richness from the sauce below the squid. I also liked the slightly sweet pickled slices of chili pepper.

DSCF1509We also had the focaccia with burrata and eggplant caponata. While good as a plate of bread and cheese, it wasn’t as successful as focaccia.  The top of the focaccia didn’t seem done enough and the bread was denser in the middle than I expected.  It seemed like the dough wasn’t given enough time to rise, or something.  I’m not usually one to complain about a dish to the restaurant, as long as it’s edible, but since the server asked how the bread was, I told him the truth. He assured me that this was a different “style” of focaccia, since focaccia differs from region to region and that it was meant to be rustic.  Fine. We’ve had focaccia up and down the west coast of Italy and this was not like any of the different focaccia in any region we visited.

Not pictured was a chickpea stew with tomato sauce which was really good, vegan, and tasted amazingly like meatballs with red sauce.



We also had a bread stew with tomato sauce, which tasted similar to the chickpea stew. This would have been a safe dish if not for the basil kimchi on top.  It was really spicy and unexpected, and gave what would have been a boring dish a little zing.

One of the hardest decisions of the night was picking between the Tcho chocolate cake or a scoop of sweet corn ice cream. The sweet corn ice cream won out and it was so good I don’t regret it at all.  The slightly salty, creamy, corn taste was exactly what I had pictured when I read it on the menu.  It was so good, I didn’t want to waste any time taking a photo of it.

My feeling about Rustic Canyon is a little mixed. I over heard the staff say that Fox wasn’t in the kitchen that night, so it might have been attributed to that, but I thought some of the dishes didn’t seem that balanced and leaned toward the too much acid side.  And while most of the dishes were good, nothing really blew my socks off.  I couldn’t help feeling that this was a case of a good chef and a good restaurant but neither being a good fit with each other.

Rustic Canyon
1119 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Hui Tou Xiang Part 2: The Self-Titled Dumpling

Part 1 of Hui Tou Xiang can be found here

I went back to Hui Tou Xiang for lunch today to try their self-titled dumpling. You could say that I hui tou-ed before even trying their hui tou dumpling. Was it worth the return trip? Yes, yes it was.


These pan fried rectangular pork dumplings, known as hui tou zhu rou, came out innocently, not steaming, not sizzling, and with no hint of the inferno inside.  Yes boys and girls, the filling is hot. It’s hot and juicy and will likely squirt an oily broth down your shirt.  Better double-up that napkin bib.  The filling was tender and flavorful with a savory pork taste complimented by a slight crunch of onion. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but the filling tastes like a refined version of a White Castle hamburger with its grilled onions cooked directly in the patty.


My fearless (unless in the face of meat) dining companion ordered a special that was advertised in a plastic stand on the table: cold sesame noodles.  Cold sesame noodles never excite me, but these were pretty good.  The noodles were the flat wheat noodle kind and cooked perfectly.  The sauce came out separately: a dish of soy sauce, a dish of soy & garlic sauce, and a dish of sesame paste.  You were free to mix them in any ratio you wanted. The lao ban niang even offered white vinegar to make the dish more vinegary if you so choose.

While I was eating lunch, I mentally laughed at the line of people outside waiting for a table at Luscious Dumplings.  Then I felt bad because here I was eating dumplings that were just as good, if not better, and these poor ignorant people didn’t know any better. I saw a few potential customers looking at the menu pasted outside, but none came in.  Oh well, their loss.


Hui Tou Xiang Noodle House
704 W Las Tunas Dr
Ste 5
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 281-9888

Sweethome Grill

If the name didn’t tip you off already, the smokey smell of cumin-covered grilled meat that greets you at the door will let you know that this is the type of restaurant where you order things impaled on skewers.


For an appetizer, I got the bamboo tofu cold dish. It’s chewy tofu-skin dressed with chili oil.  It was a little under-salted and bland for me, but maybe it was because I was already anticipating the spicy assault of grilled meat to come.


I ordered a squid skewer and a chili pepper skewer.  The waitress warned me that the peppers were really spicy, but that’s why I ordered them. Who wants chili peppers that aren’t spicy?  The peppers that came weren’t the level of spicy I was expecting after the ample warning, but they were sweet, juicy, and had a little bit of kick.  The squid was tender, full of cumin, sweet, and also had a kick.


I also ordered the barbecue fish which was surprisingly delicious.  It had the same cumin, chili pepper seasoning the other grilled things had, but instead of it being skewered, it was butterflied and grilled to perfection on both sides.  The skin of the fish was tender and smokey while the delicate meat was tender and juicy. Not overdone at all, which was what I’m usually scared of with grilled fish.

Sweethome Grill, despite having a couple of vegetarian skewers and dishes on their menu is a place where I wouldn’t mind going with a few meat eaters, ordering a beer, and sitting around, sliding grilled things off skewers.

Sweethome Grill
402 E Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-0099